World Bank Announces Landmark Policy on Access to Information

November 17, 2009

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2009 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved the Bank’s new policy on access to information which positions the Bank as a transparency leader among international institutions. The policy was informed by extensive external and internal consultations held in 33 countries and through the Bank’s external website. It reflects the views of member countries, civil society organizations, academia, parliamentarians, media, the private sector, international organizations, donor agencies, and Bank staff.

The new policy represents a fundamental shift in the Bank’s approach to disclosure of information – moving from an approach that spells out what documents it can disclose to one under which the Bank will disclose any information in its possession that is not on a list of exceptions.  The policy statement will be finalized in December 2009 and become effective on July 1, 2010. A progress report will be presented to the Board by the end of 2011.

This paradigm shift underscores the Bank’s commitment to transparency and accountability and recognizes their fundamental importance to development and to achieving the Bank’s mission of overcoming poverty and improving development effectiveness,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick.

I am personally grateful to all of the civil society organizations, government officials, and citizens of our member countries who contributed their ideas and perspectives as we developed this new policy through a global consultation process. We have collectively come up with a policy that is in line with international best practice and opens up the development process by fostering public ownership, partnership, and participation in World Bank-supported operations from a wide range of stakeholders,” he added.

The policy on access to information provides for the disclosure of more information than ever before – on projects under preparation, projects under implementation, analytic and advisory activities (AAA), and Board proceedings. This information will be easily accessible on the World Bank’s external website and available through the InfoShop, public information centers, and the World Bank Group Archives.  

At the same time, the policy strikes a balance between maximum access to information and respect for the confidentiality of information pertaining to its clients, shareholders, employees, and other parties.

Recognizing that the sensitivity of some information declines over time, the policy provides for the eventual declassification and disclosure of restricted information over a period of five, 10 or 20 years, depending upon information type.

Openness promotes inclusiveness, engagement with stakeholders and public oversight of Bank-supported operations,” said Jeff Gutman, Vice President, Operations Policy and Country Services Vice Presidency. “This in turn will strengthen participation in the design and implementation of projects and policies and improve development outcomes,” he added.

The new policy includes clear procedures for responding to requests for information, as well as an appeals mechanism for requesters who believe that the Bank has unreasonably denied access to information that should be publicly available. This appeals mechanism includes review by an independent body consisting of international experts.

Over the next several months, the Bank will put in place measures that will enable effective and efficient implementation of the new access to information policy.  Such measures include staff training; improving information management and technology systems; developing an effective document tracking system; strengthening the Archives Unit, the InfoShop, and the public information function in country offices; and establishing associated service standards.

The final policy statement incorporating comments from the Board will be issued in December 2009.


Over the past 15 years, the Bank’s policy on information disclosure has evolved in response to changes in the Bank’s business, the growing expectations of stakeholders, and the Bank’s continued commitment to enhancing transparency about its operations. The Executive Directors and Bank Management have periodically reviewed the policy and expanded its scope: for example, in 1993, 2001, and 2005. 

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