Transparency and Financial Institutions

Transparency is often considered a prerequisite for democratic accountability, and can be conceptualized as “the extent to which individuals who may be significantly affected by a decision are able to learn about the decision-making process, including its existence, subject matter, structure and current status” (Dingwerth, 2007: 30). [1] Many global institutions offer online information for their members and interested stakeholders. This post discusses online access to information in some finance institutions. This analysis will enable to determine if marginalized actors, including civil society and LDCs, have gained additional capacity thanks to take part in global governance arrangements.

The international financial institutions examined here comprise of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF); the Financial Stability Board (FSB); the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS); The International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO); the Joint Forum (JT); the Bank for International Settlements (BIS); the International Monetary Fund (IMF); The World Bank (WB), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB); International Federation of Accountants (IFAC); The World Economic Forum (WEF); Multi-stakeholder Consultations on Financing for Development (MSC);  and The G20.

All institutions examined here offer a broad access to information for their members and interested stakeholders. This means that marginalized actors have access to five types of information: (1) information about the organization, its governance structure, mission, and main activities; (2) a newsroom with various levels of complexity and media proposed; (3) a publication section with various search functionalities; (4) information to prepare and attend future meetings; and (5) information on the latest decisions and outcomes (meeting decisions, standards, grant decisions for instance). Some organizations offer more in depth, detailed information than others. Also, some institutions have an open-data policy and open their data to interested audiences. This is a minority among all organizations though. As follows, some specific examples to illustrate the use of ICTs to provide access to information by financial institutions. As stated previously, all organizations offer access to these five types of information. The examples cited below aim to represent the most iconic illustration of the access provided online, and therefore the increased capacity it implies for marginalized actors.

In terms of publications, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offers an extensive range of products: Books, Annual Report, Finance and Development, World Economic Outlook, Global Financial Stability Report, Fiscal Monitor, Regional Economic Reports, Policy Papers, Staff Discussion Notes, Spillover Notes, and How-To Notes. [2] All documents and publications can be searched online by title, author, date, keyword, series and language. [3] IMF website also contains its own bookstore where publications can be purchased. [4] Print versions of these publications for recent years are available through the IMF’s online Bookstore. Electronic versions are available through the IMF’s eLibrary. Indeed, IMF offers as well an eLibrary where visitors can find electronic versions of Books and Analytical Papers, Statistics, Periodicals and Reports. [5]

IMF’s Annual Report on Exchange Arrangements and Exchange Restrictions (AREAER) tracks the exchange rate and trade regimes of all members of the International Monetary Fund (currently 188 countries) and three territories (Aruba, Hong Kong SAR, and Curaçao and Sint Maarten—formerly the Netherlands Antilles). The IMF has published the AREAER annually since 1950, in accordance with the provisions of Article XIV, Section 3, of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement. AREAER Online provides direct access to the data used to create the yearly reports beginning in 1999.[6] IMF offers as well the possibility to access a series of datasets online via its data portal where visitors can find macroeconomic and financial data. Data covers specific regions or topics (for instance Asia and Pacific Regional Economic Outlook, Consumer Price Index, Coverage of Fiscal Reporting, and Fiscal Soundness Indicators).[7]

The World Bank is the largest single source of development knowledge. The World Bank Open Knowledge Repository (OKR) is The World Bank’s official open access repository for its research outputs and knowledge products. [8] Through the OKR, The World Bank collects, disseminates, and permanently preserves its intellectual output in digital form. The OKR also increases the range of people who can discover and access Bank content—from governments and civil society organizations (CSOs), to students and the general public. By extending and improving access to World Bank research, the World Bank aims to encourage innovation and allow anyone in the world to use Bank knowledge to help improve the lives of those living in poverty. Since its launch in 2012, millions of publications have been downloaded from the OKR, and nearly half of its users are in developing countries.

World Bank’s website also offers access to its most recent and past research online. It contains key reports, IT tools including ADePT (Software platform for automated economic analysis), iSimulate (Platform for performing macroeconomic simulations), PovCalNet (Poverty Analysis Tool assess global poverty incidence figures), PovMap (Provides computational solutions to poverty mapping activities) and CAPI (Software for conducting complex surveys with dynamic structures using tablet devices). It also includes journals and digest, blog posts, a collection of World Bank indicators, events, featured experts, and working papers. The Development Economics Vice Presidency (DEC) is the research and data arm of the World Bank. It seeks to increase understanding of development policies and programs by providing intellectual leadership and analytical services to the Bank and the development community. [9]

The World Bank has also created a specific website entitled “Development Gateway” is to empower practitioners, governments, and citizens with the knowledge they need to improve live. Because capable individuals with open, accessible, and complete information have the power to demand accountability, increase policy effectiveness, and build a better world.[10] DataBank is an analysis and visualisation tool that contains collections of time series data on a variety of topics. It enables user to create their own queries; generate tables, charts, and maps; and share them.[11] One of the most effective ways to display development indicators is through graphs and charts. A visual display of data makes comparisons easier and promotes a better understanding of trends. [12] World Bank also offers you the possibility to register and then submit a question or request of information that you would not have found on the website. [13]

In terms of data, OECD has developed a specific section to allow visitors to find, compare and share the latest OECD data: charts, maps, tables and related publications. It provides access to OECD data warehouse (OECD.Stat), Statistical tools and OECD methodologies and OECD’s application programming interface (API) for accessing data.[14] OECDE provides also direct access to OECD related websites. OECD Better Life Index allows visitors to compare well-being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.[15] The OECD Observer magazine presents concise, up-to-date and authoritative analysis of world economic, social and environmental issues. Since 1962 it has been keeping policymakers, business people, NGOs, researchers and journalists ahead of the policy debate. It is a catalyst for new discussion and ideas, and a source of key data.[16]

The OECD’s Committee Information Service (OLIS) is today used by over 18,000 government officials. The service provides secure Internet access to the full range of OECD Committee information: work-in-progress, event details, official documents archive, publications and statistics. As one of the world’s largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistical, economic and social data, there are few areas of government activity that are not addressed in some way by one of the OECD’s Committees. The success the Committee Information Service has achieved is reflected in the results of a recent survey of national officials who reported: “OLIS is useful for my work” (98% of responses) and “It facilitates my interaction with the OECD” (90% of responses).[17]

As discussed in this post, ICTs allow some international financial institutions to provide a broad access to information. All organizations offer access to five types of information and the examples cited above illustrate how marginalized actors gained new access to information that was once restricted to western diplomacies and most powerful states.

[1] Dingwerth, K. (2014). Global democracy and the democratic minimum: Why a procedural account alone is insufficient. European Journal of International Relations, 20(4), 1124–1147. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066113509116, p.10

[2] IMF website: http://www.imf.org/external/publications/index.htm

[3] IMF website: http://www.imf.org/external/publications/pubindadv.htm

[4] IMF website: https://www.bookstore.imf.org

[5] IMF website: http://www.elibrary.imf.org/page/Collections/collections

[6] IMF website: http://www.elibrary-areaer.imf.org/Pages/Home.aspx

[7] IMF website: http://data.imf.org/

[8] WB website: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org

[9] WB website: http://www.worldbank.org/en/research

[10] WB website: http://www.developmentgateway.org

[11] WB website: http://databank.worldbank.org/data/home.aspx

[12] WB website: http://databank.worldbank.org/data/home.aspx

[13] WB website: https://selfservice.worldbank.org/web/portal/application.html?id=CQNVKB

[14] OECD website: https://data.oecd.org

[15] OECD website: http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/

[16] OECD website: http://oecdobserver.org

[17] OECD website: http://www.oecd.org/general/olis.htm