World Bank Board to Decide On Releasing 1971 Document

5 October 2016

The World Bank Board may soon decide whether to release the full transcript of a 1971 meeting.

Five pages on an unknown topic were blacked out from the 18-page, 45-year-old document requested by FreedomInfo.org. The transcript is of the 1971 meeting of the Bank Executive Directors. There were about agenda items, including one about an education loan to The Congo, according to the partial transcript. No explanation for the deletions has been provided.

FreedomInfo.org first asked for the document on Jan. 4, 2016, then filed an appeal Feb. 22, and learned from the Bank April 6 that the matter was being reconsidered.

The handling of the initial request has been complicated. FreedomInfo.org was informed April 6 that the Bank would ask the Archives Unit to reprocess a request for the document and that a decision would be made soon.

The reprocessing was ordered by the Bank’s Access to Information Committee after FreedomInfo.org appealed the release of the substantially redacted document.

The Committee did not address FreedomInfo.org’s contention that the redactions violated the Bank disclosure policy. Instead, it determined that the Bank staff had taken literally FreedomInfo.org’s Jan. 4, 2016, request for a document referenced by number (the partial transcript) and provided it without having considered whether the full document should be disclosed.

The Committee said it lacked authority to make a decision on release of the full document and so asked the Archives Unit to examine the document again “for processing as a request for public access to the Full Transcript.”

That review now has exceeded the prescribed period for responding to requesters and staff members have indicated that the Board must determine the outcome. The matter will be on the Board agenda soon, a Bank official said recently.

Other Board Decision Unclear

The Board in August acted on two requests for other documents (not filed by FreedomInfo.org), but what the Board decided is being shielded by view.

The minutes for the Aug. 4 Board meeting indicate that the Board approved staff recommendations concerning two requested documents. However, the minutes do not summarize the recommendations. Bank staff told FreedomInfo.org that the staff recommendations can not be disclosed. She said they are exempt from release under the Bank Access to Information policy because they are predecisional.

The minutes state:

  1. The Executive Directors recorded their approval on August 4, 2016 of a document entitled “Public Access Requests for Board Records and/or Board Papers that are either RESTRICTED or NOT ELIGIBLE for Immediate Declassification and Disclosure: Batch 2016 – 3 (Case Nos. AI2777 and AI3791) – Recommendation to the Board” (R2016 – 0156[IDA/R2016-0199], dated July 25, 2016).

A staff person wrote FreedomInfo.org:

… such documents normally contain deliberative information and are not yet eligible for declassification.  As you are aware, the Deliberative Information exception allows the Bank “the space to consider and debate, away from public scrutiny.”  Depending on the content of the specific document, additional AI Policy exceptions may be applicable.

FreedomInfo.org has asked whether the two requesters, whose names are not known, have been informed of the outcome and been shown the staff recommendations. Freedominfo.org has formally requested the documents, too.

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