In April 2022, the Board of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a proposal for the development of a new Access to Information Policy (AIP). In August, the IDB started a public consultation process with stakeholders to receive input and feedback on the policy. Bank Information Center (BIC) and several members of the IDB Working Group, a group of multiple regional and international organizations focusing on advocacy targeting the IDB, have engaged in this review process and developed recommendations to strengthen the AIP. Along with specific recommendations on the draft policy, the IDB Working Group has also called for the IDB to consult with civil society in their development of Implementation Guidelines for the AIP, and to develop a strong Implementation Plan that lays out the allocation of financial, human, and technical resources necessary for effective implementation of the AIP. We hope the IDB Board and management will consider these recommendations.
- Add a commitment to access to information as a fundamental human right, and strengthen the commitment to maximum disclosure. The right to transparent information is key to accessing other fundamental rights, such as consultation, participation, and engagement of project-affected people in decisions that affect their livelihoods. We recommend specifying that all information held by the Bank is presumed to be public and accessible, and that it can only be subject to a limited regime of exceptions.
- Avoid language ambiguity. The AIP contains a lot of ambiguous language with vague and elusive commitments with excess conditionalities. The ambiguity of the language opens the door to different interpretations, particularly around the scope and definition of what types of documents are included in exceptions. Likewise, it prevents establishing clear requirements for Borrowers and the responsibilities of the Bank itself concerning the AIP.
- Specify what information should be published proactively, including disclosure times, formats, channels, and timeframes. The AIP should clarify what type of information will be included in the standard disclosure package for each project, the timing of this disclosure of information, and at what point in the project cycle it will be available for affected communities.
- Allow anonymous requests for information and maintain confidentiality in all cases, not only upon request. Establish procedures, measures, and sanctions that prevent leakage of requestor information, in order to guarantee the protection of environmental defenders and in accordance with the guidelines of the Escazú Agreement. This is particularly sensitive for reprisal prevention management.
- Clarify that the ultimate decision in the management of information resides with the Bank. While we welcome the removal of the “Country Specific Information Exception” from the 2011 AIP, we are concerned that the section in the draft policy on “Nature of Information: Proprietary country or client information” undermines the principle of maximum disclosure and openness that the elimination intends to accomplish.
- Develop and specify clear criteria and metrics for the application of the harm test. We welcome the inclusion of a harm test for the application of exceptions. However, clear criteria and metrics should be developed to define its application. We recommend incorporating the criterion of public interest in the harm test, as a counterbalance to the harm, and to make the results of the harm test public in each specific case.
- Improve accessibility and usability of the information. The information that is disclosed and published should be useful for those who request it, especially for communities affected by IDB projects. Accessible formatting, simple language, and the generation of open data are related to the usability of information. We recommend that the IDB address the issue of accessible formats, simple language, and open data in a more detailed manner throughout the AIP.
- Expand the role of the Access to Information Committee and the External Review Panel. We recommend that the appeal power of information requests for the Access to Information Committee and the External Review Panel, which is limited to cases where access to information requests have been denied, be expanded to cover other policy implementation issues.
- Develop a system of indicators for transparency and effectiveness regarding the use of information, and a platform to publish the status and results of information requests. The IDB should implement a system to track levels of transparency over time, and should create a platform to track and publish information requests. This is necessary to facilitate the implementation of the Policy and effectively increase disclosure and accessibility of information produced by the Bank.
Civil society will continue to engage in the IDB’s revision of its AIP. We believe it is in the interest of the IDB, and its Borrowers, for the institution to move towards the highest possible standards for development and incorporate these suggestions and recommendations. Observations are based both on the technical expertise of CSOs in this field and on lessons learned from projects that resulted in MICI complaints.
Read the full recommendations from the IDB Working Group on IDB's draft AIP: