The GTI 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;
§launching 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 they provide to the Bank. The draft policy also provides nearly absolute protection to internal information through a “deliberative process” exception, viewed as 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, 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 congratulates the Bank for making some very important strides forward in the new proposed policy," said Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Advisor, ARTICLE 19. "However, the very wide exceptions being proposed could really undermine the policy. The Bank should make a strong commitment to openness, as many of its members have in their national right to information laws."
Bruce Jenkins, a consultant with the Bank Information Center, noted that while the revised policy is an improvement from previous iterations, it is not without significant weaknesses. He stated that"the Bank has taken major steps forward, including expanded routine disclosure and a first-of-its kind independent appeals body. However, it then partially claws back these gains through heavy-handed limitations, such as the withholding of draft information that would undermine more participatory decision-making processes."
The GTI calls on the World Bank to revise the draft Policy so that it is better aligned with the standards set out in the GTI Transparency Charter. It is ready to offer any assistance to the Bank to achieve this goal.
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