The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Human Rights
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The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Human Rights

Developing Standards of Transparency, Participation and Accountability

Sanae Fujita

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are two of the world’s major institutions conducting development projects. Both banks recognize the importance of transparency, participation and accountability. Responding to criticisms and calls for reform, they have developed policies that are designed to protect these values for people affected by their projects. This original and timely book examines these policies, including those recently revised, through the prism of human rights, and makes suggestions for further improvement. It also analyzes the development of the Banks’ stance to human rights in general.
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Chapter 2: Human rights critique of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank’s information disclosure policy

Developing Standards of Transparency, Participation and Accountability

Sanae Fujita


In 1946, during its first session, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 59(1). This resolution states: “Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and … the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the UN is consecrated.” Since human rights are interrelated and interdependent, and because freedom of information is “the touchstone” of other freedoms, when this right is ignored, other categories of rights and freedoms cannot be realised. For example, as Amartya Sen points out, “Famine has never afflicted any country that is independent, that goes to elections regularly, that has opposition parties to voice criticisms, that permits newspapers to report freely and to question the wisdom of government policies without extensive censorship.” In addition, the essential role played by allowing access to information in realising the MDGs was recently discussed and confirmed by academics, UN officers, media and human rights activists and development field. People’s right to access information is fundamental for sound development and all freedoms. A better understanding of the right to access information is yet to be achieved, but the right to information is becoming more concerned with participation and accountability through a democratic framework, and demand for this right comes out of the need for democratic control of power and the use of power by influential organisations. IFIs also have a great deal of authority, and their influence over people’s lives is considerable. Accordingly, there is demand from a variety of actors who are leading the movement toward IFIs’ transparency. The civil society movement for democratic control of power is a crucial factor underlying the development of this right.

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