The EBRD: a decade of misinformation and secrecy

The EBRD: a decade of misinformation and secrecy

The EBRD needs to become transparent and publicly accountable

This article criticises the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for its activities over the last 10 years. The EBRD's goal is to foster the development of democracy and sustainable development in the regions of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). However, the article indicates that over the last 10 years it has not only failed in promoting democracy and sustainable development, but has used tactics of misinformation, secrecy and denial of public involvement to advance its own agenda. This paper examines how the EBRD has failed to protect the interests of the people and the natural environment of these regions and the shortcomings of the Public Information Policy (PIP). The PIP defines what information and documentation the EBRD will make available to the public and how it will be made available.

There are however several problems with PIP. These include:

  • the number of documents that have been made publicly available and open to comment has indeed increased. However, there is little evidence that they are now significantly more accountable to the public than they were before. The EBRD continues to see public access to information as a privilege rather than a right
  • the Bank has not made any kind of attempt to ask the public for comments on their experiences with the Policy or for their input into the reviews
  • policy documents are rarely translated into the languages of the 26 countries of the operation. Citizens of operating countries are often not able to access information about projects and policies that are affecting them, their communities, their economy and their natural environment. EBRD are thus helping to perpetuate systems that do not support transparency, public accountability or active citizenship
  • the Policy emphasizes the EBRD’s intent to always protect commercial confidentiality. Commercial confidentiality is not clearly defined in the Policy, yet it is given as a reason for withholding from public release parts or all of Project Summary Documents and information on projects prior to lending approval by the Board of Directors, and, even the waivering of public consultation requirements for projects
  • there are many documents that contain important project and policy information that are not publicly available and not mentioned in the Policy
  • The EBRD has yet to establish an independent body that the public can approach with appeals and grievances, including those related to access to information

The article makes the following recommendations:

  • the Policy should be changed to guarantee that a greater number of documents are made available in the local languages of the 26 countries of operation. At a minimum, documents relating to policies and projects that are affecting or will affect people in a particular country should be made available in the language of that country
  • business confidentiality should be defined in the Policy and the inclusion of a statement that it will not be used as a reason for projects not having to meet all environmental procedures including public consultation requirements. All Project Summary Documents, in full, should therefore be made publicly available on the website. To ensure that people who do not have access to the Internet are also guaranteed information, it is recommended that the Resident Offices distribute information in English and in local languages in their country of operation
  • establish a body which public can approach with appeals and grievances against the EBRD

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