The controversy involves a three-year $51 million grant to the government of Yemen designed to support non-oil growth and to strengthen governance and public financial management. The Bank’s initial disclosure concerning the effort has been standard and minimal.
On January 16, 2008, a group of civil society organizations submitted a formal request for the project document for the Institutional Policy Reform Development grant to be translated into Arabic. The manager of the Yemeni World Bank office replied on January 20th thanking these organizations for their interest and “high level of awareness” of the development process in their country and summarily stated that “like all other project documents – it is available only in English, since this is the official language to be used in all the transactions and contracts between the Government of the Republic of Yemen and the World Bank.” He apologized for not being able to translate the document due to other commitments, though he hoped that the civil society groups could translate it themselves.
On January 31 of 2008, civil society leaders again submitted a request to the Yemen country manager to revisit his translation policy, with 25 local organizations signing on in support. The civil society groups specifically stated that:
“Civil society organizations understand quite well the importance and the volume of the role the World Bank is playing in the economic reform and integrated and sustainable development processes, including the projects posted on its website in the field of education, port cities, irrigation, energy, public works, and localities. However, we stress that posting those projects only in English limit excessively our ability to participate effectively and actively.
While civil society organizations understand what you mentioned in your previous letter regarding the difficulties you face in translating projects and documents into Arabic, we still hope that you would kindly apply the measures that ensure the transparency and accessibility to those program documents, especially by providing us with the Institutional Reform Program in Arabic…This will definitely reinforce the partnership between us in sharing the responsibility and performing our expected role towards the present causes and future challenges facing our country.”
As of April 9, 2009, the civil society organizations have yet to receive a reply.