RE: Concern Regarding Lack of Consultation and Transparency by the High Level Panel for Infrastructure
Mr. Thiam and Members of the High Level Panel for Infrastructure,
We are writing to request that the High Level Panel for Infrastructure (HLP), which is referenced in the February 2011 G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Communiqué, disclose its draft report [on recommendations on future infrastructure investment in Southern countries] and hold consultations with civil society organizations prior to submission of the report to the G-20 Summit on 3-4 November 2011.
As civil society organizations, we are deeply concerned about the lack of transparency and consultation in the HLP’s process of formulating the report, especially since the process has been ongoing for a year, since the November 2010 G-20 Summit.
We are profoundly aware of the importance of appropriate infrastructure in the developing world. Undertaken correctly, infrastructure projects can promote the well-being of current and future generations of people while protecting the environment. Undertaken incorrectly, large infrastructure projects can benefit primarily the elites in developing and developed countries, while creating unsustainable development paths that saddle countries with poverty and debt, violate human rights, and cause harmful environmental impacts, including global climate change.
In their recent Communiqué, the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors: “call on the MDBs, working with countries involved to pursue implementation of transformational regional infrastructure projects following the criteria set by the HLP and to prioritize project preparation financing” [emphasis added]. We believe that identifying such criteria and selecting projects that meet the criteria are processes that should be carried out in public, involving Parliamentarians and civil society organizations, particularly those in the host countries.
Transparency, accountability and public participation are particularly important for public works sector projects that the HLP may be considering. Transparency International has found that “the problem of corruption is particularly prevalent in public works and construction,” and that it is “often responsible for the funneling of scarce public resources to uneconomic high-profile projects, such as dams, power plants, pipelines and refineries, at the expense of less spectacular but fundamentally important infrastructure projects, such as schools, hospitals and roads, or the supply of power to rural areas.”
We hope that the HLP observes standard public participation processes and ensures prioritization of a pipeline of projects that have appropriate public interest safeguards and have as their chief goal to reduce poverty in low income countries.
We are concerned that the HLP could interpret environmental, social and human rights safeguards as “bottlenecks” and fail to integrate these with poverty reduction objectives. According to a recent World Bank Independent Evaluation Group report, only 13% of sampled International Finance Corporation projects over the past decade had explicit poverty alleviation objectives.
Our organizations will continue to be involved in the infrastructure development processes undertaken by the G-20 and other international and national bodies. Civil society organizations have proactively engaged with the G-20 Development Working Group and therefore wonder why this work stream on infrastructure has so little transparency and no consultation, undercutting the legitimacy of this specific G-20 process.We therefore respectfully request public disclosure of the latest draft HLP report, and call for consultations with civil society organizations at the soonest possible opportunity and, in any case, prior to the November G-20 Summit in Cannes, France.
(Groups listed alphabetically by country)
Bank Information Center
CC: France and G-20 President Nicolas Sarkozy
 The HLP includes: Chair: Tidjane Thiam (Ivory Coast), Group Chief Executive of Prudential plc; Yahya A. Alyahya (Saudi Arabia), CEO of the Gulf International Bank; Yoon-Je Cho (Korea), Professor at Sogang University, Seoul, Korea; Luciano Coutinho (Brazil) President of the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES); Paul Douglas (Canada) CEO of PCL Constructors, Inc.; Jim Harmon (USA), Chairman of Harmon & Co., LLC, Chair, Caravel Fund; Mo Ibrahim (Sudan), Founder, Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Hayrettin Kaplan (Turkey), CEO of the Turkish Eximbank; Takatoshi Kato (Japan), President, Japan Center for International Finance; Norbert Kloppenburg (Germany) Member, Managing Board, KFW; Rajiv B. Lall (India), CEO, Infrastructure Development Finance Co.; Jin Liqun (China) Board of Supervisors, China Investment Corporation (CIC); S.R. Maharaj (So. Africa), Former Minister of Transport, Special Envoy, SA pdt; Nicholas Moore (Australia), CEO, Macquarie Bank; Paul Victor Obeng (Ghana), Chair, Guinness Ghana Breweries, Ltd.; Alessandro Ortis (Italy), Chair, National Regulatory Authority for Electric & Gas; Lionel Zinsou (France), CEO of PAI Partners.
 Item 6, Communiqué of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G-20, Paris, France, 14-15 October, 2011, available at http://www.g20.org/Documents2011/10/G20%20communiqué%2014-15%20October%202011-EN.pdf
Click here to see the original letter.
You can also find a good piece on the issue written by Peter Bosshard at the International Rivers at www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/6936 or http://huff.to/usl8dl and a good analysis by Nancy Alexander at the Heinrich Boell Foundation at http://www.boell.org/web/index-843.html