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.
Benefits of “open.” The World Bank has set a high global benchmark for transparency and remains committed to raising the bar. The Policy provided the enabling framework and catalyst for other World Bank transparency initiatives. The Bank has successfully applied the AI principles to initiatives such as Open Data, Open Knowledge Repository, Open Operations, Open Finances, and Open Contracting among others, and demand for Bank information, data, and knowledge has grown. These initiatives are intended to eclipse bureaucratic barriers, provide civil society with better information to hold governments accountable, and allow citizens to become engaged stakeholders in the development process.
Culture of transparency. Transparency matters both at the macro and micro level. This fundamental principle was clear when the AI Policy was launched, clearer when the Open Agenda was developed, and remains at the core of the Bank’s efforts today to build a culture of transparency, accountability, and civic participation. This principle is invaluable in our consultations with stakeholders and in our efforts to spur citizen engagement to improve outcomes. For more information, visit the Consultations Hub and the strategic framework to mainstream Citizen Engagement.
All previous annual reports, decision on appeals, and much more information is available on the AI website.
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