World Bank Records Diminishing Requests

19 May 2016

The number of requests filed through the World Bank’s Policy on Access to Information declined from 700 in 2010 to 474 in 2015, “due to the Bank’s proactive and systematic efforts to disclose information online,” according to the Bank’s fifth Access to Information Annual Report and a blog post about it by Hannah George.

More than 200,000 documents are available on the Bank website, according to the report.

In FY 2015, the Bank disclosed 81 documents before Board discussion.

“Of the 326 AI requests in FY 2015 that were properly addressed to the World Bank and had adequate information to enable the institution to respond, 93 percent (304 cases) were fulfilled in whole or in part,” according to the report.

Although requesters are not required to identify themselves by affiliation, available data indicates that more that two-thirds are from the academic world.

The Bank makes available monthly summaries of requests. More information about the policy is on the Access to Information home page.

NGOs Make Recommendations

“Without accessible and comprehensible information, stakeholders cannot meaningfully engage in development,” according to post by a Washington-based nongovernmental organization, the Bank Information Center (also available in Arabic). BIC and other groups organized a session during the World Bank Spring Meetings Civil Society Policy Forum titled “Breaking Down Barriers to Accessing Development Information.”

The summary says:

The panelists presented case studies and anecdotal evidence from Egypt, Mexico and Yemen to depict the challenges faced by civil society and affected communities when accessing information on development programs and projects financed by the World Bank Group.

The following list of recommendations to ensure that stakeholders can more easily access such information were discussed in this session:

  1. Regional departments should adopt a translation policy that best addresses their constituencies’ needs, similar to the Middle East North Africa department’s 57-Enhanced Action Plan – Status and Way Forward (English) for the Yemen Institutional Reform Development Policy Grant (IRDPG) in 2009.
  2. Attend to language barriers that are “easy fixes” on the Bank’s website and portals. The following two examples of such barriers were mentioned: i) the instructions to create an account to submit an information request on the Bank’s online portal are only in English, ii) regional department, such as the Middle East North Africa department, routinely posts documents in Arabic that are hidden behind a menu in English. Such barriers are hindering affected constituencies from accessing information readily available in their native languages.
  3. The Bank has a plethora of highly useful information readily available on its website. Therefore, it should share this with communities and CSOs by conducting in-country trainings on how to access information on its website.
  4. Implement a policy on disseminating a flier in communities affected by its development projects in the local language. This flier should have information that discloses that the Bank is funding a project in their area, list their basic rights according to the Safeguards and contain links for more information.
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Filed under: 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).
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