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IAP recommends disclosure of information to enhance stakeholder engagement in GCF activities

Songdo,
If you had a right to receive information and to be consulted on the development and design of a Green Climate Fund (GCF) project, would it not make more sense for that information to be provided early on, so that you can engage meaningfully? This question had to be considered in a recent decision of the Information Appeals Panel (IAP) of the GCF.

In May 2020, the CSO Active Observer team submitted a request for information to the GCF. The request was for limited information about funding proposals that may come up for consideration at the 26th and 27th meetings of the GCF Board. The CSO Active Observer team had stated that they were anticipating that this list would at least include the current funding proposal title, country/ies involved in the proposal, the accredited entity, the email address of the contact person at the accredited entity as well as the GCF, and the anticipated Board meeting (B.26 & B.27) at which the funding proposal would be considered.

The GCF Secretariat denied access to this request for information for several reasons. While the Information Disclosure Policy (IDP) promotes transparency, it does set out a list of limited scenarios where information cannot be shared. These are referred to as “exceptions”. In denying access to the information requested, the GCF Secretariat relied on a number of these exceptions. The GCF Secretariat said that the information was still being discussed as part of internal GCF processes and was therefore covered by the “deliberative information” exception. The GCF Secretariat also said that the information was part of a Board document, and therefore covered by the “Board proceedings exception”, and that the information was provided “in confidence” and is confidential. The GCF Secretariat also made the argument that since the IDP already sets out how and when environmental and social information relating to funding proposals will be disclosed before Board meetings, earlier access cannot be given.The IDP sets out that if the GCF refuses to give access to information that is requested, then an appeal can be submitted to the Information Appeals Panel (IAP) of the GCF. The IAP is made up of the Heads of the three independent units at the GCF – the Independent Redress Mechanism, the Independent Integrity Unit, and the Independent Evaluation Unit. The IAP considers appeals and makes recommendations. The final decision as to whether or not to disclose the information requires the approval of the Ethics and Audit Committee for Board documents, the head of the relevant Accountability Unit for documents relating to such unit, and of the Executive Director for all other documents.

The CSO Active Observer team submitted an appeal to the IAP in August 2020 against the refusal of the GCF Secretariat to provide the limited information about funding proposals they had requested. The IAP considered the appeal carefully, providing both the GCF Secretariat and the CSO Active Observer team an opportunity to present their arguments. The IAP concluded that the IDP exceptions referred to by the GCF Secretariat do not apply to the limited, basic information requested. The IDP sets out how and when environmental and social information will be disclosed before Board meetings, but the IAP reasoned that this obligation should not be seen as a restriction on providing earlier access to that information. The IAP also concluded that an interpretation of the IDP that restricts access to the information requested would defeat the GCF’s policy goals of early stakeholder engagement in GCF activities, including the development of measures to mitigate, manage and monitor environmental and social risks and impacts. The IAP reasoned that the earlier stakeholders know about a project, the earlier they can get involved and participate in shaping the project. The IAP decision stated that early stakeholder engagement will also allow stakeholders, if adversely affected by the funding proposal, to access the IRM for early problem solving and, if need be, compliance review.

For these and other more detailed reasons set out in the IAP decision, the IAP decided to recommend to the Executive Director that the information requested should be provided to the CSO requester by the GCF Secretariat.  The IAP also recommended that the categories of information requested should be routinely and proactively made available by the GCF Secretariat at the earliest stage possible for all funding proposals to enable early stakeholder and community engagement.

The Executive Director gave his final decision on the appeal on 30 October 2020. The Executive Director disagreed with the IAP’s recommendation and maintained the GCF Secretariat’s decision to deny access to the information requested.