In this article, Chad Dobson argues that the current financial crisis highlights the need for transparency and accountability, stressing that a “dearth of lucidity and public information (and the accompanying corruption that breeds in dark corners) is, in part, what led the sheep to the slaughterhouse”.
He reflects on the impact of the G20 summit in London on the structure of the global financial system, welcoming the call for "full-fledged governance reform in the World Bank Group in order to increase voice and representation of emerging markets and developing economies", but stressing that the issues of access to information and transparency in “the public storehouse and the producers of knowledge” was neglected.
Dobson sees Obama as a leader in this area, “publicly acknowledg[ing] the inextricable link between information disclosure and civil society participation and voice” through his memorandum stating that his administration would "take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use." He calls for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to follow suit, pointing to ‘Structural Adjustment Loans’ as an example of the dangers of isolating civil society from policy.
The beginning of the year-long review of the Bank’s existing information disclosure policy is seen as a key opportunity for civil society to lobby for a policy which adopts a presumption of disclosure for documents and studies, with exemptions meeting the criteria of a "harm test," as in, would the release of a certain document cause demonstrable harm and would this perceived harm outweigh the public interest in the information? Secondly, is stressed that draft documents need to be made publicly available, so civil society have the opportunity to provide input. Thirdly, an independent appeals mechanism is advocated, to ensure requests for information are not unduly denied.