A new informal network of civil society organisations has begun working together to overcome the secrecy surrounding the operations of International Financial and Trade Institutions. In February a group of 23 activists from five continents held a conference to discuss access to information at the IFIs. About half of the participants came from civil society organisations that work on IFI-related issues. The other half represented groups focusing on freedom of information at the national level, such as freedominfo.org, Article 19, the Open Democracy Advice Center in South Africa and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
The participants identified a range of issues around which coordinated action can be developed to support the struggles of different civil society groups. Freedom of information specialists may be able to use their expertise and clout to persuade governments and/or institutions to make available information that they would normally prefer to bury. Examples of such documents are Power Purchase Agreements, something that the Bank currently refuses to make available. Also, the positions of member governments on the Boards of the IFIs which are rarely made public.