Multilateral Development Banks:

Public Consultation on Environmental Assessments

NSIAD-98-192: Published: Sep 8, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed certain aspects of the environmental assessment and information disclosure policies and practices of the multilateral development banks, focusing on the: (1) steps the banks have taken to ensure meaningful public consultation on the environmental implications of proposed projects and timely public access to relevant project documents; (2) quality of consultation that occurs on bank-supported projects and the documentation on the consultation that is provided to executive directors; and (3) extent to which the banks provide broad, timely public access to project information, including environmental assessment reports.

GAO noted that: (1) the multilateral development banks, led by the World Bank, have taken significant steps to ensure that meaningful public consultation takes place on the environmental implications of the projects they fund; (2) GAO believes, however, that the banks can take further steps to build on the progress that has been achieved by ensuring that executive directors receive complete and accurate documentation about the consultation practices that have been employed in developing proposed projects, and by more consistently providing the public with timely access to environmental information on these projects; (3) the banks have adopted guidelines that require sponsors to consult with the public in developing projects, and created systems to provide worldwide public access to information about these projects--including information on their environmental implications; (4) generally, public consultation on the projects that GAO reviewed was adequate or better, and bank intervention improved sponsor practices on nearly every project; (5) several factors contributed to the quality of consultation; (6) for example, good consultation was associated with projects employing community-based approaches to project development, as well as those having a high profile because of recent adverse publicity on similar projects; (7) also, in general, World Bank-supported projects received higher ratings than the projects supported by the other banks GAO reviewed; (8) nevertheless, consultation on 25 percent (11 of 44) of the projects, primarily projects supported by the International Finance Corporation or sponsored by the government of China, was less than adequate; (9) also, documentation given to the executive directors provided incomplete or inaccurate information about the consultation measures employed on many of the projects; and (10) the banks' Internet home pages were inconsistent in meeting their own guidelines for providing public information concerning project profiles and environmental assessment reports.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Treasury instructed the executive directors to ensure that the banks provide all executive directors with complete information about consultation with the public on proposed bank projects. As of September 2001, the banks provide all executive directors with complete information on public consultation within 30 days of a consultation report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at the Banks to work with other Executive Directors and bank management to seek improvements that will result in executive directors being provided with a complete and accurate record of public consultation on all proposed projects with significant environmental implications.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, the executive directors pressured the World Bank and it improved its Internet access so as to provide timely information to the public about its projects. The complete environmental assessment reports and project profiles are now available on the Bank's website within one month of completion.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at the Banks to work with other Executive Directors and bank management to have the banks improve compliance with their guidelines on providing timely public access to project profiles and environmental assessment reports through their Internet home pages.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

 

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