Kim Dodges Question About World Bank ATI Capacity

5 October 2016

By Toby McIntosh

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Oct. 5 dodged a question about why the Bank decimated its staff capacity to work on access to information issues.

The president sidestepped the inquiry at a public meeting with civil society organization by saying the Bank never had “an access to information unit” and so could not have disbanded it.

While bureaucratically accurate – the three people who worked on ATI policy issues were never a formal “unit” – Kim’s answer ignored the obvious meaning of the question – about the elimination of the three positions made earlier this year.

The three veteran staffers who worked to encourage the creation and implementation of national ATI laws left Bank following a reorganization in which their ATI roles were eliminated. (See report.)

The decimation of the Bank’s capacity on ATI prompted objections in June from 130 civil society organizations. (See report.) The Bank’s response was considered inadequate by the NGOs, who sent a follow-up letter that was never answered. (See report.)

The topic is the subject of session Oct. 7 during the Civil Society Policy Forum that precede the Bank’s annual fall meeting. Kim appeared at a packed session to answer questions from CSO representatives (video).

The question to Kim on ATI was posed by Edetaen Ojo, Director, Media Rights Agenda in Nigeria (who will appear on the Oct. 7 panel along with this reporter and a World Bank official.) Ojo asked about the elimination of the Bank staff devoted to ATI and whether it sent the wrong signal. (24:19 on the video.)

Ojo asked:

Given the centrality of citizen participation, transparency and accountability to the success of the Bank’s projects with client countries. I would like to know what informed the Bank’s decision to close down its access to information unit. And also, given that this unit has been instrumental to the adoption and implement of laws; ATI laws in a number of countries, don’t you think this sends the wrong message; that the Bank not longer places a premium on access to information? And what steps is the Bank taking to mitigate the likely negative impact of this decision?

Kim, after looking at a note passed by Bank staffer seated behind him, responded (37:46):

Access to information, we are completely committed to it. I don’t think, nobody in my team knows about an access to information unit, so it’s hard to close down something you don’t have. So please go tell all your friends and your family that what you said is actually not true. All right? There was not a unit that we closed down. And access to information is extremely important.

Kim went on to mention the Bank’s interest in open data. He concluded:

We have specific projects in Africa amounting to $540 million focused specifically on access to information with another $170 million in the pipeline, so we are not backing off.

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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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