A Step Forward for Communities’ Rights to Access Information

EBRD Adopts Civil Society Recommendations to Strengthen Transparency and Improve Disclosure

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAY 09, 2019 — Today, at its Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) unveiled its recently approved Access to Information Policy. Following a concerted civil society effort to improve transparency and disclosure practices, the revised policy recognizes access to information as a right and moves towards a more people-centered, instead of client-oriented, approach.

The International Accountability Project (IAP) welcomes the release of the EBRD’s new Access to Information Policy, recognizing that the right to access information goes far beyond information disclosure — it paves the way for communities to be equipped with the necessary information they need to freely engage and lead in the development processes that affect their lives.

“Having early access to information can mean the difference between a community learning about a project when the bulldozers arrive, and a community engaging with investors to co-design a project that avoids harm and creates real benefits” said Ishita Petkar, Policy and Community Engagement Coordinator at the International Accountability Project. “The EBRD’s revised Policy moves the Bank further towards development that respects human rights.”

The adoption of the new Policy comes after a brief consultation process with civil society, beginning in February 2019, on the revision of three policies central to the environmental and social governance of EBRD projects: the Access to Information Policy, Environmental and Social Policy, and Project Accountability Policy. A detailed submission on the EBRD’s proposed Access to Information Policy, prepared by the International Accountability Project and CEE Bankwatch, and co-signed by 24 civil society organizations, revealed that the Bank’s original draft Policy failed to align with international best practices and norms, and overlooked the priorities of key stakeholders — most notably, the very communities affected by the Bank’s projects.

“We welcome the policy’s grounding in the rights of communities to seek and receive information, as a first step. However, more needs to be done to meaningfully fulfill communities’ right to safe, timely and accessible information.” said Jocelyn Medallo, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Accountability Project.We remain concerned by the absence of clear timelines for the disclosure of project information for key Bank documents, and overly broad or ambiguous exceptions.”

IAP’s analysis of the EBRD’s disclosure practices using data from the Early Warning System, revealed that the information being disclosed by the Bank falls considerably short of fulfilling communities’ right to access information. Provisions in the Directive, the Bank’s internal document governing how information will be disclosed, still do not provide for the release of environmental and social information for projects that are considered medium risk. The new Directive can be further strengthened to center the needs and priorities of those affected. Moreover, as the EBRD operates in countries where communities face ongoing threats to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, more proactive measures are needed to overcome barriers to accessing information.

As IAP and partners continue to monitor the activities of the EBRD and the implementation of the new Access to Information Policy, we urge the EBRD to continue to improve on its commitments to transparency and access to information, so individuals and communities may participate and co-design the development they wish to pursue.

For more information, please contact:

Ishita Petkar, ishita [at] accountabilityproject.org

Jocelyn Medallo, jocelyn [at] accountabilityproject.org

Correction: An earlier version of this release stated that consultation timeframes for Bank documents were reduced. A previous draft of the Access to Information Policy provided for reduced consultation periods. However, the final policy retains the original consultation timeframes, as recommended by civil society.

International Accountability Project works to defend the rights, land and livelihoods of people threatened by destructive development projects.

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