Through the intense internal work done by the Latin American Civil Society in 2013, 2014 appears to be a key year for encouraging transparency and access to information within BNDES and thus aiming to strengthen the regime of socio-environmental safeguards of the Institution.
The Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) constitutes, nowadays, one of the main financial sources of infrastructural work in the Latin American region, Argentina being one of its principal clients. However, the strong growth that the Bank has experienced in its number of activities throughout the recent decades and that it has been allowed to cross the national borders of Brazil with its operations has not come accompanied by the corresponding adjustment in its operational policies and rules of operation to the high standards currently in the Latin American countries, including in International Financial Institutions or multilateral bodies that operate in the region, such as the World Bank, the IADB or the Inter-American Development Bank, among others. At least in terms of socio-environmental safeguards, public participation and transparency; which is an important concern for the Civil Society of Latin America, since a large part of the projects financed by BNDES result in enormous socio-environmental impacts in the territories in which they develop, and the possibilities of participation and of access to information of such projects is extremely limited.
In this context, during 2013 FUNDEPS has worked, alongside a group of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), as many being Brazilian ones, as ones from the rest of the South American countries, in the effort to clarify the actions and financings of this Institution in the region. Thus, for example, through having participated in various workshops about the operation of BNDES created in the months of June and October 2013 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, FUNDEPS took active participation in the International Workshop of the Civil Society “BNDES’s Agenda: dialogues, convergences and incidence” carried out on the 26th and 27th of November, in the city of Brasilia (Brazil). In this event FUNDEPS presented, alongside other organizations of the region, the document “Guidelines for the Discussion on the Implementation of a Policy of Access to Information for BNDES”, which contains a Model Policy of Access to Information for the Bank and a series of counter-arguments against the reasons alleged by the institution to restrict the information. Both resources have the aim to serve as basic and essential tools for the future incident actions regarding the Organization.
In that regard, 2014 seems to be a key year, since the Bank has decided to open the gateway for dialogue with the Civil Society and to set up an institutionalized space for discussion with the SCOs, where different subject matters concerning the operation and functioning of the Organization are addressed. The first of these meetings, agreed on for February of 2014, will approach the subject of Transparency and Access to Information within BNDES fairly, which with a doubt forms a unique opportunity to work alongside the Bank with a view to perfect its regime of transparency and access to information. The bad news is that this space will be restricted, at least for the moment, to Brazilian organizations only, without participation of the rest of the organizations in the region. Despite this impediment, FUNDEPS will continue working throughout 2014 in the effort to make the actions of BNDES clear and ensure that the Bank adopts an appropriate Policy of Access to Information, a prerequisite to be able to effectively influence the strengthening of the socio-environmental safeguards applied to the projects financed by the Institution.
Gonzalo Roza – Coordinator of the Global Governability Programme
Translated by: Max Jeremiah