What is the main difference between the Bank's new Access to Information Policy and the previous Disclosure policy?
The new Policy moves the Bank from an approach that spelled out what information is disclosed to one that allows the Bank to disclose any information in its possession that is not on a list of exceptions set out in the Policy.
- Under the new Policy, significantly more information on Bank operations and Board proceeding will be available.
- The new Policy permits public release of some documents (e.g., Country Assistance Strategy, Project Appraisal Document, Program Document) prior to discussion by the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors.
- Certain restricted information will be eligible for declassification after 5, 10, or 20 years.
- The new Policy establishes an appeal mechanism that provides public recourse, should the Bank violate its own policy by improperly or unreasonably restricting access to information.
Why is the policy change important?
Transparency and openness are critical in fulfilling the World Bank's many roles in achieving its mission to alleviate poverty. The World Bank Policy on Access to Information enhances good governance, accountability, and development effectiveness by:
- Increasing public awareness of the Bank's development role and mission and building and maintaining public dialogue;
- Promoting inclusiveness and strengthening participation in the design of project and policies; and
- Facilitating public oversight of Bank-supported operations during their preparation and implementation and providing opportunity to better monitor use of public funds. This also helps expose potential wrongdoing and corruption and enhances the possibility that problems will be identified and addressed early on.
Is the policy retroactive?
Yes. The Policy applies to all information in the Bank's possession that is not covered by one of the 10 exception
Was the policy discussed with member countries?
Public consultations on the policy proposal were held in 2009 with various stakeholder groups in 33 countries as well as on the Bank's external website. The final Policy reflects the input of member countries, civil society organizations, academics, parliamentarians, media, the private sector, other international organizations and donor agencies. Click here for more information.
What are the exceptions to disclosing information?
The Policy explicitly sets out 10 categories of information that are considered to be exceptions and not eligible for declassification:
- Personal information
- Communications of Executive Directors'offices
- Proceedings of Ethics Committee for Board Officials
- Information subject to attorney-client privilege
- Security and safety information
- Information under separate disclosure regimes and other investigative information
- Information provided by member countries or third parties in confidence
- Corporate administrative matters
- Deliberative information such as emails, notes, memoranda, draft reports, statistical analyses that inform the Bank's internal decision-making processes and individual audit reports.
- Financial Information such as banking or billing information of World Bank Group entities, member countries, clients, donors, recipients, or vendors, including consultants
Why does the policy restrict some types of information from disclosure?
The Policy represents a balance between the Bank's interest in providing the maximum amount of information to the public and its obligations to protect the confidentiality of information pertaining to shareholders, clients, staff and other parties, and to protect the deliberative process. The restricted information on the list of exceptions reflect information whose disclosure could cause harm to well defined interests.
What are some of the new documents disclosed under the new Access to Information Policy?
- Minutes of Board Committee meetings
- Chairman's summaries of Board meetings and Committee of the Whole meetings
- Summaries of Discussion
- Annual Reports of Board Committees
- Country Portfolio Performance Reviews
- Concept notes and consultation plans for policy reviews that are subject to external consultations
- Consultation plans for Country Assistance Strategies
- Key decisions at the end of supervision missions and project midterm review
When do project documents become available?
The Bank routinely discloses a wide range of documents, through its external website as soon as the documents are finalized after key process milestones.
When do Board papers and Board records become available?
Board papers and Board records that are routinely available from the Bank are posted on the Bank's external website at specific Board milestones. Some Board discussions may deal with issues that fall under the exceptions of the policy. In such cases, the related Board records are classified as "Official Use Only", "Confidential"and "Strictly Confidential"and are not disclosed unless they become eligible for declassification. The Bank also makes available to the public the final documents that it prepares jointly with partners after reaching agreement on such disclosure with the partner concerned. Board papers and Board records are available in this link after disclosure.
What can be disclosed under the Access to Information Policy?
The Bank can disclose any information in its possession, provided that the information does not fall under one or more of the exceptions set out in the Access to Information Policy or the Bank has decided, on an exceptional basis, to restrict access to the information.
What is the process to file an appeal? One of the guiding principles of the World Bank Policy on Access to Information (the "Policy" is recognizing the right to an appeals process when a request for information is denied. A requester whose request for information has been denied can file an appeal if the requester can:
- show that the World Bank has violated its Policy by improperly or unreasonably restricted access to information that it would normally disclose under the Policy; and/or
- make a public interest case to override certain exceptions of the Policy, if the information being requested falls under the corporate administrative matters, deliberative information, or financial information (other than banking and billing) restrictions.
What if the Bank restricts something it's supposed to release when requested?
If you believe that the Bank has improperly or unreasonably denied access to information, you can file an appeal.
What does it cost to get information from the Bank's
Most operational information is routinely posted on the Bank's external website and can be downloaded free of charge. For any request for information that is not routinely posted, the Bank may charge reasonable fees for providing digital or hard copies, particularly for requests that are complex or time-consuming. Publications, some specialized databases, and other knowledge products (including subscription-based services) may be purchased through the Bank's Office of the Publisher. The full text of books published by the Office of the Publisher may be viewed and downloaded free of charge on the World Bank website or viewed on Google Books. The core statistical databases may be accessed free of charge on the World Bank website.
Can I contact a Bank staff directly for Bank's information?
Publicly available information may be accessed through the World Bank's website at www.worldbank.org/documents. For information that is not readily available in the World Bank's website submit your request through the online system at www.worldbank.org/wbaccess. Requests may also be made in person at the InfoShop in Washington, DC and the PICs in member countries.