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GTI analyses draft World Bank information disclosure policy

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 3 November 2009 - The Global Transparency Initiative (GTI), of which ARTICLE 19 is a founding member, today released its analysis of the new World Bank's draft disclosure policy, "Toward Greater Transparency Through Access to Information: The World Bank's Disclosure Policy". The analysis concludes that while the new policy will bring greater transparency to the Bank, it still falls well short of the standards set out in the GTI's Transparency Charter for International Financial Institutions, as well as its Model World Bank Policy on Disclosure of Information.

The analysis, provided in advance of an anticipated 17 November 2009 meeting of the Bank's Executive Board to consider the draft policy, recognises a number of important advances in the Bank's proposals. The Bank is poised to take a major conceptual step by accepting the principle that all Bank information should be available to the public unless it falls within the scope of the regime of exceptions. Other positive commitments include:

- disseminating more materials in advance of Board meetings;
- releasing the summaries of Board meetings;
- putting in place a proper system for processing requests for information; and
- establishing an independent appeals body.

Unfortunately, the proposed exceptions to the presumption of disclosure threaten to severely undermine these positive developments. Governments and third parties, such as Bank contractors, would be able to veto the release of almost any information provided by them to the Bank. The draft policy also provides nearly absolute protection to internal information through a "deliberative process" exception, seen as being so central that it is posited as an independent principle in the policy, instead of being included as an ordinary exception.

The GTI recognises that certain interests need to be protected through exceptions, for example to protect personal information and health and safety. However, it recommends more nuanced and precise harm-based tests to protect legitimate interests such as relations with other States, the commercial interests of third parties, and the free and frank provision of internal advice.

Also troubling is the proposal's assertion that the Bank's disclosure policy trumps national right to information laws. Among other things, this would restrict access to the statements made by country representatives such as the Executive Directors in official World Bank meetings.

The GTI calls on the World Bank to revise the draft Policy to bring it more fully into line with the standards set out in the Charter. It is ready to offer any assistance to the Bank to achieve this goal.

The GTI is an independent network of organisations that works around the world to promote access to information held by international financial institutions.

Read the analysis (365 KB)

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