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Open Letter to World Bank President on Disbandment of ATI Unit

Gilbert Sendugwa |

We, the undersigned organisations and campaigners working on freedom of information issues, are concerned by news that the World Bank has significantly downgraded its capacity to pursue a global right to information agenda at a time when the World Bank’s role in this area is needed more than ever before. We are concerned that both the decision itself and the diminished capacity of the Bank to engage on this critically important issue will send the unfortunate message to governments of developing countries around the world that the issue of transparency and, in particular, access to information, is no longer important or a donor priority. 

The full letter is transcribed below and is available in the original PDF here.

Dear President Kim,

RE: Downgrading Freedom of Information Programme at the World Bank
African Platform on Access to Information (APAI)
Campaign Secretariat Private Bag 13386 Windhoek, Namibia Tel: +264 61 232975 Fax: +264 61 248016
www.africanplatform.org

June 6, 2016

We, the undersigned organisations and campaigners working on freedom of information issues, are concerned by news that the World Bank has significantly downgraded its capacity to pursue a global right to information agenda at a time when the World Bank’s role in this area is needed more than ever before. We are concerned that both the decision itself and the diminished capacity of the Bank to engage on this critically important issue will send the unfortunate message to governments of developing countries around the world that the issue of transparency and, in particular, access to information, is no longer important or a donor priority.

We are also concerned about this development for the following reasons:

1. Reversal of Progress

The World Bank, through its Access to Information Programme, has played a key role in the passage and implementation of access to information laws around the world. In Africa, where the process was slow, the active support of the World Bank to governments and civil society organisations has resulted in the fast tracking of adoption of access to information laws from five countries in the 2010 to 18 in 2016. Closure of the World Bank’s Access to Information Programme will not only hinder adoption and implementation of access to information laws but could also engender a reversal of progress.

2. Threat to Sustainable Development Goals

In support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Bank and other development partners will be providing developing countries with loans and grants. In his review of challenges to the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Secretary General Ban Ki Moon noted the role that failed commitments and lack of transparency had played. It is for this reason that civil society organisations from around the world vigorously and successfully campaigned for inclusion of citizens’ access to information in the Sustainable Development Goals. The need for citizens to access information on development financing and locally generated revenue is vital for the attainment of the SDGs. The World Bank’s decision sends a negative signal in this regard.

3. Escalate Burden of Corruption on Ordinary People

In the absence of access to information and participation in programmes funded by governments and development partners, including the World Bank, the levels of corruption in Africa and other developing countries will undoubtedly escalate. We have noted that, by accessing public information and monitoring development projects, citizens are able to hold governments accountable and to contribute to the realisation of development outcomes. These efforts require the support of the World Bank’s technical expertise and influence to create maximum impact. The World Bank cannot abandon citizens at this time.

4. Nothing about us without us

Over the past few years, multilateral institutions have moved towards being more inclusive of citizens through initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals, Global Partnership for Social Accountability, Open Government Partnership and Open Contracting, African Union Agenda 2063 among others. Through various consultations, civil society organisations and citizens have contributed to the formulation and shaping of the character of these initiatives. It is unfortunate that in taking away this critical support the World Bank has not consulted civil society. This violates a principle aptly outlined by African citizens at the recently concluded Open Government Partnership Regional Meeting in South Africa, in the phrase: “nothing about us without us”.

5. Wasting Important Work

The access to information implementation guidelines, which the World Bank is developing and on which it has had extensive consultations with civil society, are critical to strengthening both the adoption and implementation of access to information laws. How will the World Bank promote the use of these guidelines without dedicated or expert staff? Through the Open Government Partnership citizens have negotiated key access to information commitments in respective National Action Plans. How will the World Bank support their realisation without a Unit focusing on this important agenda?

The World Bank’s role in standard setting on key transparency and integrity initiatives in development programmes has been unparalleled. At a time when discussions on SDG indicators on access to information as set out in Goal 16 target 10 are high on the global agenda, the World Bank’s leadership and expertise is needed. Indeed the World Bank has already been actively engaged in the development of indicators for measuring Goal 16 target 10 on access to information which is crucial for success. Where does this disbandment leave the process?

6. Retrospective impact to existing loans and other facilities

Should the World Bank decide not to alter its course, we are concerned about the retrospective impact this may have for existing loans and other facilities that incorporate ATI as a trigger, or at the very least a condition of the loan. Will the decision to downgrade the Freedom of Information Programme have the retrospective effect of negating the ATI element of those deals going forward? Or will those countries still be obliged to report on their progress in ATI? Further who will monitor the progress as the ATI unit is to be disbanded?

Mr. President, the fight against poverty is about people. This fight cannot be won without people being able to access information. We strongly recommend that, rather than downgrading the Access to Information Unit, the World Bank should strengthen it so as to be able to continue the important work that the World Bank has been doing in this area.

Signed:

  1. Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Kampala, Uganda
  2. African Platform on Access to Information, Windhoek, Namibia
  3. Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresio´n e Informacio´n, Chile
  4. Federation of African Journalists, Dakar, Senegal
  5. Media Institute of Southern Africa, Windhoek, Namibia
  6. Africa Freedom of Expression Exchange, Accra, Ghana
  7. The Access Initiative (TAI), Washington, DC
  8. Media Rights Agenda, Lagos, Nigeria
  9. Open Democracy Advice Centre, Cape Town South Africa
  10. Tanzania Citizens Information Bureau, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  11. Never Again Rwanda, Kigali, Rwanda
  12. Namibia Media Trust, Windhoek, Namibia
  13. Public and Private Development Centre, Abuja, Nigeria
  14. Human Rights Network for Journalists, Kampala, Uganda
  15. Centre for Media Freedom, Casablanca, Morocco
  16. Human Rights Network Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
  17. Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui a` la Responsabilite´ Sociale et Environnementale, Democratic
    Republic of Congo
  18. Centre for Law and Democracy, Halifax, Canada
  19. Article 19, London, United Kingdom
  20. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi, India
  21. Media Foundation for West Africa, Accra Ghana
  22. Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation, Lilongwe, Malawi
  23. Tanzania Constitutional Forum, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  24. Uganda Road Sector Support Initiative, Kampala Uganda
  25. Burundi Journalists Union, Bujumbura, Burundi
  26. The Leadership Forum, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  27. Social Economic Research and Development Centre, Abuja Nigeria
  28. Tanzania Coalition on Debt and Development (TCDD), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  29. Africa Centre for Integrity and Anti-corruption Studies, Kampala, Uganda
  30. Rural Women Development Initiative (RUWODI), Bagamoyo – Tanzania
  31. Youth First Initiative, Iloilo City, The Philippines
  32. Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, Port Vila, Republic of Vanuatu, South West Pacific.
  33. Ikeoha Foundation, Enugu Nigeria
  34. Sahkar Social Welfare Association Pakistan
  35. Integrating Livelihoods thru Communication Information Technology for Africa, Kampala, Uganda
  36. Global Integrity, Washington, DC
  37. International Trust, London, United Kingdom
  38. Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, Hisar, India
  39. National NGO Forum, Kampala, Uganda
  40. OpenTheGovernment.org, Washington, DC
  41. Collectif 24, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
  42. CODHOD, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
  43. OPELE Radio and Te´le´vision Labari, Niamey, Niger
  44. Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, Monrovia, Liberia
  45. Access Info Europe, Madrid, Spain
  46. Access to Information Programme, Bulgaria
  47. Anticorruption Coalition Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
  48. Transparency International Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
  49. HakiTaarifa, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  50. Jordan Transparency Centre, Amman, Jordan
  51. Transparency International, Ukraine
  52. Open Knowledge, Ireland
  53. Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), Georgia
  54. Democracy Education Centre (DEMO) Mongolia
  55. Kosovo Center for Transparency, Accountability and Anti-Corruption – KUND 16, Kosovo
  56. Anticorruption Trust of Southern Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe
  57. Ghana Anticorruption Coalition, Accra Ghana
  58. Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Monrovia, Liberia
  59. Open Mind, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  60. Federation of Environmental and Ecological Diversity for Agricultural Revampment and Human Rights, Cameroon
  61. Paralegal Association, Zambia
  62. Transparency International Zambia
  63. Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, Islamabad, Pakistan
  64. Children’s Rights Education, Dr. Salua Nassabay. Germany
  65. Programa Juventud Siglo XXI, Eduardo Vergara. Mexico
  66. Triumphant Hand of Mercy Initiative, THOMI AFRICA, South Africa
  67. Mongolian Women’s Employment Supporting Federation, Mongolia
  68. New Haven Cooperative Society, Benin, Nigeria
  69. Youth Vision Sound, Arusha, Tanzania
  70. Transparencia por Colombia
  71. Fundacio´n Ciudadani´a y Desarrollo, Ecuador
  72. Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy in Liberia
  73. Centro de Estudios Ambientales y Sociales (CEAMSO), Paraguay
  74. United Earth of Men, Democratic Republic of Congo
  75. Federation of Environmental and Ecological Diversity for Agricultural Revampment and Human Rights, Kumba, Cameroon The Governance, Cape Town, South Africa
  76. Leadership Initiative for Youth Empowerment, Nigeria
  77. Terra 1530, Moldova
  78. Local Empowerment for Good Governance, Mombasa, Kenya
  79. Socio-Economic Empowerment for Good Governance, Mombasa, Kenya
  80. Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Liberia
  81. AfroLeadership, Yaounde´, Cameroon
  82. Ghana Right to Information Coalition
  83. FIDA Kenya
  84. Fundacipon Gobierno Abierto Colombia
  85. Asociacio´n Centro Ciudadano de Estudios para una Sociedad Abierta (ACCESA), Costa Rica
  86. Youth Vision Sound of Tanzania
  87. Twaweza East Africa, Tanzania
  88. Code for Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
  89. African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), Kenya
  90. National Union of Somali Journalists, Mogadishu, Somalia
  91. POS Foundation, Accra Ghana
  92. Policy Alert, Nigeria
  93. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Africa Office, Ghana
  94. Sonora Ciudadana AC
  95. Liberia Freedom of Information Coalition, Monrovia
  96. Gobierno Abierto Centro de Pensamiento
  97. Fundacio´n Pro Acceso, Chile
  98. Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresio´n (IPLEX), Costa Rica
  99. Espacio Pu´blico, Venezuela
  100. Fundacio´n Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (FVBCH), Nicaragua
  101. Asociacio´n Nacional de la Prensa (ANP), Bolivia
  102. Asociacio´n por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), Argentina
  103. Arti´culo 19, Brasil
  104. Accio´n Ciudadana, Guatemala
  105. Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Informacio´n Pu´blica (CAinfo), Uruguay 
  106. Fundamedios, Ecuador
  107. Fundar – Centro de Ana´lisis e Investigacio´n, Me´xico
  108. Instituto de Derecho y Economi´a Ambiental (IDEA), Paraguay
  109. Crea Think, Mexico
  110. Causa Natura A.C. Mexico
  111. South Africa History Archive (SAHA), Johannesburg South Africa
  112. Construyendo Organizaciones Civiles Transparentes A.C. Mexico
  113. The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms Secretariat
  114. Institute for Public Policy Research, Windhoek, Namibia
  115. Namibia Women’s Health Network, Windhoek, Namibia
  116. Sister Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia
  117. Citizens for an Accountable and Transparent Society (CATS)
  118. Insight Magazine, Windhoek, Namibia
  119. Legal Assistance Centre, Windhoek, Namibia
  120. Access To Information In Namibia (ACTION) Coalition, Windhoek, Namibia
  121. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chapter, Lusaka, Zambia
  122. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Namibia Chapter, Windhoek, Namibia
  123. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho Chapter, Maseru, Lesotho
  124. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Chapter, Harare, Zimbabwe
  125. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter, Windhoek, Namibia
  126. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana Chapter, Gaborone, Botswana
  127. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Angola Chapter, Luanda, Angola
  128. Benin Sante´ et Survie du Consommateur, Benin
  129. Transparency International Sierra Leone
  130. Frederico Links, Namibia
  131. Zoe Titus, Namibia
  132. Hilya Nekwaya, Namibia

Contact:

Gilbert Sendugwa
Coordinator and Head of Secretariat Africa Freedom of Information Centre Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256 414 533554
Fax: +256 414 533554
Email: gilbert@africafoicentre.org

CC: Mr. Diop Makhtar, Vice President, Africa
CC: Dr Deborah Wetzel, Senior Director for the Governance Global Practice