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Civil society groups have long been concerned about the negative impacts of Inter-American Development Bank operations on the environment and on indigenous peoples, as well as on the prospects for genuine economic and democratic reform in Latin America.
As a public, “regionally owned” development Bank, the IDB regularly issues statements about its commitment to liberalization, expressed in economic terms but also in terms of how its financial and technical assistance complements political liberalization. However, IDB officials and project managers continue to negotiate, plan, and implement operations without the informed participation of affected people and their advocate organizations, and even without the knowledge of elected officials in borrowing countries.
As part of the region’s deepening democratization, it is urgent that democratic processes such as communication, negotiation, oversight, and accountability be promoted in order to build skills and trust among citizens and the officials authorized to represent them. The presence of a financier which operates with minimal transparency, negotiating deals without public input or oversight, serves to weaken the region’s ongoing democratic consolidation rather than strengthen it.
Democratic reformers throughout LAC including citizens, parliamentarians, and advocates for human rights and the environment monitor the IDB in an effort to open the Bank to the light of public scrutiny. The Bank Information Center (BIC), in collaboration with its partners, works toward democratizing the IDB to ensure “mainstreaming” of social and environmental considerations in the Banks’ decision making processes and operations.
The most pressing focal areas for IDB watchers include:
- Timely access to information on IDB operations. Citizens want to be informed about projects and policies prior to approval and/or financing by the IDB’s Board of Executive Directors. Members of the region’s parliaments also need to know about IDB operations and be involved in shaping them in order to fulfill their budgetary oversight role;
- Public participation in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of IDB projects;
- Prevention and mitigation of adverse social and environmental impacts of IDB operations, and strengthened accountability in the IDB for any social and environmental harm that results from the activities it supports.
Of similar importance are the changes that both the IDB and civil society actors have been trying to effect in the Bank’s main vehicle for operational accountability, the Independent Consultation and Inspection Mechanism (ICIM). The ICIM was created as the Independent Inspection Mechanism (IIM) in 1994 to allow people who have been negatively affected by IDB-sponsored projects to seek formal redress from the Bank. However, the mechanism’s current design is still weaker than that of analogous bodies at the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
Civil society organizations have long expressed concerns that the IDB’s policies are not exclusive, in that they do not state operations the IDB will not finance. They tend to be vaguely worded, with such general provisions that that it is extremely difficult to prove non-compliance with policies. The strategies and strategic frameworks are not binding and can be changed by Bank management, without a vote by the Board. Because of this there are serious civil society concerns about how to ensure that important points are permanently embedded in the binding policies and safeguards that guide Bank operations.
Concerned citizens can access information about the Inter-American Development Bank through several sources: the IDB itself, their government, and civil society organizations.
IDB webpages:Bank Staff Directory – searchable directory for names, office, title and telephone of Bank staff. Project pages The Projects Database links visitors to information thousands of IDB documents on projects, including relevant project documents. The new documents webpage lists newly released operational documents.
Public Information Contacts
The IDB has a Public Information Contact in almost every borrowing country, where the public has access to information about IDB operations.
PICs should provide the following:
- Direction on how to acquire information on Bank activities and Bank documents in local languages
- Publicly available Bank documents and publications, including those regarding projects in that country
- Adequate and accessible facilities with at least one computer with internet access
- Many PICs also provide a reference library with government and NGO publications on economic, statistical, and development topics, and conduct outreach programs to raise awareness about Bank operations and to disseminate information locally.
If you have trouble locating or accessing your country’s PIC, contact the Bank’s disclosure team, the Country Director or your Executive Director.
The IDB’s main Public Information Center is located in Washington, DC. Any information not available through the IDB website can be requested through the DC PIC by email, fax, telephone or mail, at the addresses listed below.
- Tel: (202) 623-2096
- Fax: (202) 623-1928
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips on making a request:
- Be specific
- Start local. Contact the Bank office in your country first.
- Put your request for information in writing.
- If your request is denied, ask for a written explanation.
- Be persistent.
To request information that’s more than 10 years old, contact the IDB archives department.
The Board of Governors of the IDB hold an Annual Meeting of their member governments in the Spring o feach year. The meetings are held in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the U.S., usually two of every three years they are hosted by a borrowing member country.