World Bank Official Says Bank Committed to ATI Work

20 June 2016

The World Bank “remains fully committed to the implementation of access to information in client countries, notwithstanding internal organizational changes that you refer to,” a top Bank official said June 18.

The commitment came in a reply to a June 6 letter from more than 130 nongovernmental organizations that expressed concern that the Bank has eliminated a trio of Bank staffers who advocated for access to information. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report on the Bank staff reduction and story on the subsequent international protest letter.)

The June 18  letter from Jan Walliser, the Bank’s Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance & Institutions was sent to Gilbert Sendugua, the organizer of the civil society letter and Coordinator & Head of Secretariat of the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC).

In an initial comment, Sendugua said “it is good news that the World Bank is still committed to advancing citizens access to information.” He continued:

However, without details of the World Bank’s new ATI strategy on why, how, who, when and where, it is difficult to assess and predict whether its new strategy will deliver this commitment. While serious worries remain, APAIWG’s recommendation would be:

a) World Bank sharing details of the new ATI strategy

b) World Bank consultation with civil society on the new ATI strategy 

Bank Pledges Country Activity

Walliser said that “over the past months” the Bank has “reviewed the arrangements for the implementation of ATI work programs.”

Walliser wrote, “Regional units (as compared to central units) now have greater responsibility for supporting country-level reforms including fiscal transparency and ATI.”

He continued: “At least 80 staff in the Governance Global Practice, with varying levels of specialization in ATI and fiscal transparency, support operations. Some of these staff, and additional colleagues, also work to advance citizen engagement and open government, assisted by consultants and external expertise where needed.

“Access to information,” Walliser said, “is part of our portfolio of loans, technical assistance and analytical work.”

In Africa, he said, the Bank is implementing 20 active operations worth over $540 million “that include components or subcomponents that focus on ATI, as well as varied analytical work and technical assistance.” He said similar projects totaling over $170 million are in the pipeline. The letter did not provide the list of 20 projects.

FreedomInfo.org has asked the Bank for information about the 20 operations cited and for details on the policy review, but has not received a reply.

Bank Transparency Efforts Cited

Concerning the Bank’s own transparency record, Walliser said, “Citizens’ access to information and participation in projects funded by government and donors is crucial.”

The World Bank is doing its part to contribute to this on two fronts, he said.

First, he pointed out that the Bank has a policy to disclose its own documents.

Second, he said that the Bank’s 2014 “Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement in World Bank Group Operations” calls for “the inclusion of citizen engagement across all WBG supported operations in order to improve their development results.”

OGP, Grants 

Walliser said “we remain actively engaged in global programs that promote ATI and citizen engagements,” citing the Bank’s participation in the Open Government Partnership.

The Bank also hosts the Global Partnership for Social Accountability, Walliser said. The GPSA provides 3-5 year grants to civil society organizations of $500,000 to $1 million to undertake social accountability activities.

The 23 ongoing GPSA projects in 17 countries focus on accountability and to some extent on transparency within specific contexts, but none appear to directly concern access to information laws or ATI administration.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under: IFTI Watch

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
1-(703) 276-7748