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briefing

Right to information at the IMF

How to improve the Fund’s transparency policy

This brief shows that the IMF fails to meet five of the nine principles in the GTI Charter and only partially meets the other four. On top of the demand for recognizing the right to information, this brief recommends 11 specific changes to document and information access across a range of document types, including policy papers, archives and board documents.
Upon a critical analysis of these issues, the IMF’s practices on information disclosure falls far short of the best practice standards outlined in the Global Transparency Initiative’s Transparency Charter for IFIs. The transparency policy of the IMF contains no recognition of the right of access to information, a basic requirement for effective and accountable governance of an institution. Additionally it is limited in coverage and badly integrated with the archives policy. The IMF has no clear rules or decision-making system around documents classified as confidential and strictly confidential. Though more than half of IMF executive directors have freedom of information legislation in place in their home countries, they have not moved to put such standards in place at the Fund.

The GTI Charter elaborates the standards upon which access to information policies of international financial institutions should be based. It takes a rights-based premised on Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right of citizens to seek information from public bodies, both national and international. This brief shows that the IMF fails to meet five of the nine principles in the GTI Charter and only partially meets the other four. The IMF fares significantly worse than the World Bank in meeting these principles.

The IMF should use the upcoming transparency policy review, scheduled for 2009, to make a bold move towards recognizing the right to information. The policy review, which has already been delayed by more than 1 year, is a key opportunity for the IMF to begin to implement some of the recommendations of the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) report on internal governance. However civil society feels that some of the IEO recommendations were too timid and that a bolder move towards international best practices in transparency needs to be made.

Recognizing the right to information and establishing a formal system for information requests will require political will from IMF member states and the executive directors. If the IMF chooses to stop short of fulfilling the requirements of Article 19 in this policy review, it can still make significant progress by liberalizing access to information rules and mechanisms to ensure the participation of external stakeholders. On top of the demand for recognizing the right to information, this brief recommends 11 specific changes to document and information access across a range of document types, including policy papers, archives and board documents.

details
Published 8th October 2008 by GTI
target institution
IMF
topic
IFI Policy
region focus
International