The panel was made up of:
- Chair: Simon Burall (Overseas Development Institute)
- Panel: Monica Blagescu (One World Trust)
- Jeff Powell (Bretton Woods Project)
- Sophie Redmond (Article 19)
- Daniel Simons (Article 19)
- Stephanie Aiyagari (Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative CHRI)
- Martin Powell (World Development Movement WDM)
Opening remarks from the panel
MB: provided the context for the initiative explaining that national Freedom of Information (FOI) Acts could be very effective in holding power to account but multilateral institutions and IFIs were not clearly covered by national laws. Many of their decision making processes are confidential even though they affect many individuals and communities around the world.
JP: outlined how the GTI was conceived at a meeting of International Finance Institutions (IFIs) and FOI experts. He explained the key activities to date had been a systematic investigation of disclosure of information across countries; advocacy missions to exert influence on officials; small grants had been awarded for FOI activities; transparency scorecards to rate IFIs had been created; and the transparency charter.
SR: characterised the principles in the charter into three groups that of the universal foundation right to information; the procedural processes required for the disclosure of information; and the procedural safeguards that should be in place to facilitate the disclosure of information.
SA: gave two examples from India where communities had benefited from FOI training and the principles in the charter. She also outlined the nature of the pressure that had been brought to bear on the Commonwealth Secretariat with respect to implementing the principles of the charter among member state governments.
MP: outlined a UK example where contradictions have arisen over commitments and actions with respect to the disclosure of information. WDM has been blocked from obtaining WB board minutes, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) policy briefs to the UK representative on the board, and information on HMG lending conditions.
Questions and comments included:
- What type of meetings should we expect automatic disclosure of information from? and was the GTI advocating one overriding independent appeals body or one for each IFI?
- Has the charter already been launched? How was it received by CSOs and IFIs?
- Is there an institution best practice example?
- What judicial authorities might IFIs be accountable to?
- Nigel Carter of the EBRD agreed to pros of dialogue with civil society and explained that the EBRD was trying to strengthen its disclosure mechanisms.
- Should there be a focus on influencing governments instead of the institutions to make progress as policy is ultimately decided by the shareholders (i.e. national governments)?
- Have case study examples been published?
- Does the charter discuss translation policy?