New Delhi (Indrajit Bose) — The Green Climate Fund’s Board adopted a comprehensive Information Disclosure Policy at the 12th Board meeting in Songdo, South Korea, held from 8-10 March.
This included the decision to webcast live the Board’s meetings until the end of 2017.
The Information Disclosure Policy of the Fund which was adopted is based on the following principles: “maximising access to information, limited exceptions, simple and broad access to information, and explanation of decisions and right to review.”
In the Policy, while the GCF reaffirmed its commitment to transparency in all of its activities, any exceptions to disclosure would be “predicated upon the possibility, narrowly and clearly defined, that the potential harm to interests, entities or parties arising from the disclosure of information would outweigh the benefits, that the GCF is legally obligated to non-disclosure or has received information from third parties clearly marked as confidential.”
The Information Disclosure Policy also has a listing where information would not be disclosed.
These include: personal information; legal, disciplinary or investigative matters; communications involving members and alternate members of the Board and advisers; information that compromises safety and security; information provided in confidence; deliberative information exchanged, prepared for or derived from the exchanges between the GCF and its accredited entities or third parties as well as information pertaining to the GCF’s own internal deliberative processes; certain financial information; board proceedings, including, pre-meeting documents, that are deemed confidential; information relating to committees, panels and groups and accountability units; trust fund reports; and under accreditation, the “name and country of any entity applying for accreditation will be made public on submission of an accreditation recommendation of such an entity to the Board, unless the entity has a reason to keep such information confidential, in which case such information shall be made available once such recommendation has been approved by the Board”.
The Policy outlines that information can be accessed from the GCF website. Information on project and programme funding proposals would be disclosed simultaneously with “submission to the Board, subject to the redaction of any information which may not be disclosed pursuant to this Policy”.
The Policy also details out how the environment and social reports will be disclosed:
“With respect to project and programme funding proposals that have an environmental or social impact, the Accredited Entities (AE’s) shall disclose and announce to the public and, via the Secretariat, to the Board and Active Observers:
(a) in case of Category A projects, the Environmental and Social Impacts Assessment (ESIA) and an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) at least 120 days in advance of the AE’s or GCF’s Board decision, whichever is earlier;”
(Category A comprises activities with potential significant adverse environmental and/or social risks and/or impacts that are diverse, irreversible or unprecedented.)
“(b) In the case of Category I-1 programmes, the Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) at least 120 days in advance of the AE’s or GCF’s Board decision, whichever is earlier:”
(Category I-1 is high level of intermediation when an intermediary’s existing or proposed portfolio includes, or is expected to include, substantial financial exposure to activities with potential significant adverse environmental and/or social risks and/or impacts that are diverse, irreversible, or unprecedented).
(c) In the case of Category B projects, the ESIA and an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) at least 30 days in advance of the AE’s or GCF’s Board decision, whichever is earlier.”
(Cateogry B involves activities with potential mild adverse environmental and/or social risks and/or impacts that are few in number, generally site-specific, largely reversible, and readily addressed through mitigation measures); and
(d) In the case of Category I-2 programmes, the ESMS at least 30 days in advance of the AE’s or GCF’s Board decision, whichever is earlier.”
(Category I-2 is medium level of intermediation when an intermediary’s existing or proposed portfolio includes, or is expected to include, substantial financial exposure to activities with potential limited adverse environmental or social risks and/or impacts that are few in number, generally-site specific, largely reversible, and readily addressed through mitigation measures; or includes a very limited number of activities with potential significant adverse environmental and/or social risks and/or impacts that are diverse, irreversible, or unprecedented.)
The policy also stated that the Board “shall continue its practice of soliciting public input for certain policies and strategies under discussion by the Board for at least 30 days through the Fund’s website”.
The policy also talks about an appeals mechanism under which the Board would establish an “Information Appeals Panel (IAP) to consider appeals under this Policy”.
The Board in its decision also decided that “pending the constitution of the information appeals panel (IAP), under the Policy, the Ethics and Audit Committee will fulfil such role on a temporary basis until the IAP shall have become operational”.
It was also agreed that the Policy will be reviewed every three years.
The issue of whether to webcast live or not the GCF Board meetings was a key point of contention among Board members, with the US initially opposing the live webstreaming.
The final decision adopted came with the caveat that the Secretariat would undertake a “qualitative and quantitative review of the webcasting service”, including the costs involved, the views of those who have accessed it, and “other information that would be useful to assess the service”. The modalities for the review will be decided upon by the 16th Board meeting and data collection would begin with the first webcast. The Board also decided that they will consider the review of webcasting service by March 2018.
Speaking on behalf of the Ethics and Audit Committee, Leonardo Martinez-Diaz (US) said that the Committee had engaged in a dozen calls and meetings, and that the information disclosure policy started with the presumption of transparency. Transparency is the default standard, he said. Martinez-Diaz also said that there was a list of exceptions to transparency for cases where it was legit for the Fund to hold back information. He also informed the Board that one of the items, regarding live webcasting, was in brackets in the policy (signaling lack of consensus among members). Explaining the reason for the brackets, Martinez-Diaz said there are those who believe that the live webcasting will improve transparency, but there are others who believe that this would make the work more difficult.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Belize, Maldives, Sweden and Denmark were in favour of live webcast. The United Kingdom was concerned about protecting confidential information.
Omar El Arini (Egypt) said the issue of webcasting had been with the Board from the very beginning. The major concern then was the cost and the Secretariat did an analysis. “Many of us were surprised when we did not have continuation of webcasting which we enjoyed in the Transitional Committee (formed under the UNFCCC to design the GCF) and I had benefitted greatly from webcasting as I received lots of advice from the Government (due to the webcast). With modern communication in place, the public have the right to know where there money is going and whether their money is being wasted or not. I am 100 per cent in support of webcasting,” said Arini. He added that he did not see this as a breach of confidentiality or that they would feel pressured.
Ayman Shashly (Saudi Arabia) said that “the matter had been discussed to death.” He said that webcasting had become a political issue rather than a technical issue. “Do we want the world watching us as we speak? Do we need to be transparent?…Most of the meetings in the UNFCCC have webcasting. We should be willing to work under the scrutiny of the international community,” said Shashly.
Tosi Mpanu Mpanu (DRC) said that he saw a lot of value in proactive disclosure. Mpanu added that South Korea has state of the art technology and if webcasting technology is available, they should make use of it. Having webcast can help colleagues back home make better informed decisions, he said, pushing for live webcast.
Colin Young (Belize) also spoke in favour of webcasting.
Richard Muyungi (Tanzania) said while he understood the challenge in terms of being effective and keeping track of confidential maters, broader engagement with needy communities was important and live webcast would be extremely useful.
Amjad Abdulla (Maldives) said the Secretariat was well aware of matters of confidentiality and the Board members would not divulge confidential information. “We are not trying to introduce anything new here. It (webcast) is done it in other constituted bodies/funds. Why are we afraid of webcasting? Nothing confidential will be webcast. This is a very useful way of communicating,” he said.
Anders Wallberg (Sweden) said there is a need to be transparent and was in favour of having webcast.
Karsten Sach (Germany) also supported webcasting and said it would be important to get information on how big an interest there was for live webcast.
Kate Hughes (UK) said they would like to think further about webcasting and on how to protect and deliver confidential information during live webcast. If all information is disclosed too early, it might constrain discussions.
Leonardo Diaz-Martinez (USA) said that one of the challenges is balancing between transparency and operating effectively as a Board. The Board is extremely transparent and has video recordings of the proceedings of the meetings. Live webcast has two issues: it makes things more difficult to take positions and to be flexible in certain matters. It is also unfair that any one time, a section of the public will not be able to access it live because they will be sleeping.
Following these exchanges, the Board adopted the decision to allow for live webcast. Arini (Egypt) thanked the US for its flexibility on the matter and said that the US came a very long way to accommodate others’ views.
Besides webcasting, the Board requested the Ethics and Audit Committee to review the relevant disclosure requirements under the Policy and make appropriate recommendations to the Board once the Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) was developed.
Edited by Meena Raman – Third World Network