Fear of openly confronting politics can come in the way of achieving economic development goals. To help address this problem, the Development Research Group of the World Bank prepared a report synthesizing the vanguard of economics research on the functioning of political markets to understand the implications. It yields insights for strengthening existing transparency and citizen engagement policies with potentially powerful consequences for economic development everywhere, in poor and rich countries alike.
Access to Information
June 9 is International Archives Day, and I would like to mark this day by reflecting on the contribution of the World Bank Group Archives to the “memory” of the development community. As such, I am talking with Giovanni Zanalda, director of the Duke University Center for International Studies/Global Areas. Giovanni is a faculty member in the Departments of Economics and History at Duke and specializes in financial history, history of development, and emerging markets. He has been a user of the WBG Archives in different phases of his career and with different focuses, and we have asked him to share his user perspective.
An active player in the transparency space, the World Bank just released its fifth Access to Information (AI) Annual Report. The report presents the evolution and progress of the Policy on Access to Information (the Policy) since it was launched on July 1, 2010, provides a variety of statistics, and highlights a range of transparency activities carried out in fiscal 2015. Since 2010, the Bank has pushed the frontiers to disclose more information and twice revised the Policy to keep abreast of evolving public demand—in 2013 to clarify declassification of certain Board transcripts, and in 2015 to align the treatment of the documents and records of the Board of Governors with the treatment of those of the Executive Directors. The following are select highlights from the past five years.
Enhanced information access. The Policy has provided the public with access to a broad range of historical and current information on operations, research, corporate matters, and Board decisions. The Bank has also received and responded to more than 3,000 access to information requests. The number of requests declined from 700 in 2010 to 474 in 2015, due to the Bank’s proactive and systematic efforts to disclose information online. The main entry points to the Bank’s wealth of information are the Projects and Operations portal, which provides detailed information on lending operations, and the Documents and Reports repository, which contains more than 200,000 documents that are freely accessible to the public. Further, the Archives Holdings website offers a growing collection of digitized records dating to the 1940s.
Governance structure and appeals. The Policy has established two robust bodies to manage the appeals process—the AI Committee and the external AI Appeals Board. A new chair of the AI Committee was appointed last fall, Stefan Koeberle, Bank director of strategy, results and risk. In 2015, the membership of the AI Appeals Board was renewed with the selection of a new member and the re-appointment of two previous members. The number of appeals submitted to these bodies has been low, possibly indicating that proactive disclosure and the system for responding to requests are working well. The appeals mechanism ensures that the Bank implements the Policy effectively.
Image from the 2016 Aid Transparency Index
On April 13, 2016, Publish What You Fund (PWYF) launched the 2016 Aid Transparency Index (ATI), a broadly recognized measure of donors’ aid transparency. We were pleased to see that for the second consecutive year the World Bank (IDA) is in the top (“very good”) category— this year as number 6 on the list, with a score of 86. So, we are among the only 10 donors that, according to PWYF, have lived up to the Busan commitment on aid transparency.
Of course, we are proud of our standing. At the same time, it is worth noting that the ATI to a very high degree measures the publication of machine-readable data in compliance with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard, while other aspects of transparency have hardly any weight in the index.
Transparency is a priority for the World Bank. Since the launch of our Access to Information Policy in 2010 we have not looked back; the just-released World Bank Group Access to Information Annual Report and 5-Year Retrospective makes this clear. The World Bank joined IATI when it was launched in 2008, and we published our first IATI data in 2011, but publication of IATI data is just a small part of our efforts to be an open institution. Detailed information on Bank supported projects, including procurement data, is available from the projects and operations database; we were among the first to map projects; details on financial transactions are available at the portal for open financial data; and the open data platform gives access to thousands of development indicators.
How do you think the challenges faced by the World Bank’s urban transport teams have changed since the sector emerged in the 1970s? Did they become more or less complex? And what factors influenced the sector’s evolution? Recent research by Slobodan Mitric on the early years of the Bank’s urban transport sector gave Bank staff a unique opportunity to glimpse into the past, find some answers to these questions, and uncover the knowledge hidden in the historical records of the World Bank Group Archives.
Mitric, who has spent his entire professional life working on the subject of transport in cities and retired from the Bank in 2003 as a lead urban transport specialist, presented the findings of his research in the Archives at a panel discussion on the “World Bank’s Engagement with Transport in Cities: The Early Years 1972-1982” last month. The panel was organized by the World Bank Group Archives jointly with the History, Urban & Water, and Transportation Thematic Groups of the 1818 Society.
The consultation period deadline has been extended to February 29th 2016 at midnight EST. Thank you for your time and valuable input.
For too long, there has been a dearth of literature and guidance on policy and practice in public-private partnership (PPP) disclosure and a wide gap in understanding the mechanics of disclosure by practitioners within governments and the private sector. The just-released Framework for Disclosure in Public-Private Partnership Projects, a systematic structure for proactively disclosing information, fills this gap. Two additional documents, Jurisdictional Studies and Good Practice Cases, provide relevant background and resources, complementing the goals of the Framework.
Your input and PPP experience (locally, regionally and globally) are imperative to help us get this framework right. While the documents have been drafted, we are eager to incorporate feedback that will make them better. Please take a few minutes to read the documents and provide us with your input on this page to further refine this work.
In my last post on the Bank’s Open Archives program , I wrote about how the Archives of the World Bank Group (WBG) is striving to make information easily accessible to the public, and maximizing the impact of the WBG’s open initiatives. By enabling access to the oldest and only multiregional development archives, we reveal the experience of generations of development practitioners and their counterparts to help inform the decisions of today's development community.
In light of the UN summit in New York, BBC Media Action’s Director of Policy and Learning argues for a stronger focus on the provision of information, as well as resources.
"This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity." So begins the outcome document which forms the basis of the agreement for a new set of "global goals" which are expected to be signed by 215 world leaders this week. It is a statement that encapsulates both their ambition and weakness.
Anyone who comments on the post-2015 goals does so from a particular standpoint. Let me set out mine. The new development goals that replace the MDGs provide a welcome and clear agenda, but they do not and cannot provide a comprehensive plan for poverty alleviation and human development in the 21st century.
Planning the planet to prosperity is neither feasible nor desirable. Development over the next decades will depend as much on how societies and economies adapt to the challenges they face, as on the 17 goals and 169 targets that make up the new development goals. How societies adapt in the future is - as it has been in the past - likely to depend on the trustworthiness and usefulness of information available to them.
As someone who works to support media and other strategies that lead to more informed societies, that perspective shapes my view of the goals. Government, development agencies and other development actors will be central to translating the goals from words to actions. But ultimately progress will also depend on how societies and people act and adapt. That will depend on many factors, but a central one will centre around issues of information and communication.
This is an important week: it marks both International Right to Know Week and the week of the United Nations’ summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.
At this meeting, The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are expected to be adopted. Among these goals is Goal 16, Target 10 – to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
Inclusion of this target recognizes that incredible progress has been made on the right to know--over one hundred countries worldwide already have made significant progress towards achieving this target and other countries are actively discussing the passage of access to information laws--and that there is still more work to be done.
Until recently, archives users — including academics, development partners, and other researchers — had to travel miles, sometimes even across continents, to be able to access records kept in the World Bank Group Archives. But now, users will no longer have to be in Washington, D.C. to look at declassified materials.
In April 2015, as part of its commitment to transparency and openness, the World Bank Group launched its Archives Holdings website. This is a state-of-the-art platform, which maximizes the public’s online access to a vast amount of original primary source material in the custody of the Archives.
Created using the Access to Memory open source software, the website facilitates a faster, more efficient, and personalized online service delivery model. The software serves as a catalog that provides basic information about the resources of the Archives, and it is equipped with user-friendly finding aids compliant with the International Standard for Archival Description. The website delivers an increasing quantity of digitized records from the early 1940s onward, making them available for the first time to public users who cannot come to the Archives reading room in Washington, D.C.