UNEP to Establish Pilot Information Disclosure Policy

13 June 2014

The United Nations Environmental Programme is about to create a one-year “pilot” informational disclosure policy.

An official announcement is expected soon. An advance copy of the eight-page policy, dated June 6, was obtained by FreedomInfo.org. 

A preamble says that the goal for setting up a permanent policy is June 2015. During that time, internal and external consultations will be held, according to the preamble.

The UNEP Governing Council in February of 2003 asked for a disclosure policy to be established by 2014. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) That goal was not met. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) A decision was made this year to have a pilot project. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

The policy lists a number of documents that will be disclosed, including three kinds of “draft” documents:

– Draft environmental and social impact assessments;

– Documentation of the consultation process;?

– Draft mitigation plan.

The new policy says there is a presumption favoring disclosure, but that confidentiality my also be required, and lays out a series of exemptions.

These begin with an exemption for material “received from or sent to third parties, under an expectation of confidentiality.” The policy continues:

“UNEP does not provide access to financial, business, proprietary, or other non-public information that it receives in, or with the expectation that it will be treated in, confidence. UNEP does not grant access to information provided to it by a Member State or a third party, on the understanding of confidentiality, without the express permission of that Member State or third party.

Also exempt from release is information that would jeopardize the safety of UNEP staff or their personal information. Information on ongoing enforcement operations also could be excluded.

The pilot policy also includes an exemption to limit disclosure about “UNEP’s own internal deliberations, communications and UNEP deliberations with Member States or other entities with which UNEP cooperates.”

It says:

UNEP does not provide access to information whose disclosure would, or would likely frustrate the success of a policy or deliberative process; seriously prejudice the work of UNEP; undermine the integrity of UNEP’s decision-making process; or inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views. This includes, among others, internal inter-office or intra-office documents, emails, drafts and other relevant correspondence if the record contains:

(a) An opinion, advice, report or recommendation;

(b) An account of a consultation, discussion or deliberation that has occurred, including, but not limited to, e-mails, notes, letters, memoranda, and draft documents or any other document prepared during the course of its own internal deliberations and deliberations with Member States or other entities with which UNEP cooperates.

The policy further insulates disclosures about discussion among UNEP members, saying:

UNEP does not provide access to any documents, memoranda, or other communications which are exchanged with Member States, with other organizations and agencies, where these relate to the exchange of ideas between these groups, or to the deliberative or decision-making process of UNEP, its Member States, or other organizations, agencies or entities with whom it cooperates.

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ABOUT IFTI WATCH

In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
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