Published on Voices

Civil society supports a more ‘open’ Bank

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Photo by Simone McCourtie

The World Bank is becoming more open, and civil society organizations (CSOs), which have been the biggest advocates for this change, are vocal in their support.

The agenda for the Civil Society Policy Forum at the World Bank/IMF meetings reflected this reality. This year, one of the biggest demands from forum participants was for a session that provided hands-on training in accessing information made available through the Bank’s breakthrough Access to Information Policy, which went into effect in July of this year. The policy makes the Bank the first multilateral organization to disclose all documents that are not on a clear list of exceptions.

“I can see the change, I can see that there is a will to be more open,” said Amy Ekdawi, of Bank Information Center, who has been closely involved with the implementation of the Access to Information policy.

One hundred days after the policy went into effect, CSOs reflected on their experience with the implementation. There was agreement that the new information empowers communities, arming them with the same information as policymakers, and ensuring they are able to contribute more meaningfully to those discussions.

 The Access to Information policy, coupled with the Bank’s Open Development agenda, creates tremendous opportunities for collaboration with CSOs.

 “One reason we are so excited about the Open Development agenda is that it gives new tools to local communities. Citizen participation can improve development outcomes dramatically,” said Caroline Anstey, Vice President for External Affairs at the World Bank.

Development CSOs and the World Bank are natural partners, with a shared ambition of improving the lives of the world’s poorest. On the heels of the global financial crisis, CSOs this year face increased needs in beneficiary communities and tighter budget environments.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick recounted what the Bank is doing to mobilize support. He said he had recent conversations with foundations to encourage funding for CSOs, especially around issues such as food security. He added that the Bank respects the independence of civil society groups, but views them as key partners in development.

The discussions at the policy forum this year have only just kicked off, but the enormous potential and opportunities for collaboration are obvious, and exciting.  


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