Information Disclosure Policy

I. The Policy

1. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is committed to making information about its programmes and operations available to the public. UNDP considers public access to information a key component of effective participation of all stakeholders, including ordinary people, in the human development process. UNDP recognizes that there is a positive correlation between a high level of transparency through information sharing and public participation in UNDP-supported development activities.

2. Presumption in favor of disclosure. UNDP’s Information Disclosure Policy (hereinafter referred to as the “Policy”) is guided by openness, with the underlying presumption that any information concerning UNDP programmes and operations enumerated in Part II is available to the public, in the absence of a compelling reason for confidentiality in line with the exceptions to the Policy in Part III

3. As a custodian and steward of public funds, UNDP is directly accountable to its UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board comprising United Nations (UN) Member States, and indirectly accountable to their parliaments, their taxpayers, and the public in donor and programme countries. Public access to comprehensive and timely information held or generated by UNDP will continue to facilitate the transparency, accountability and national ownership of UNDP programmes and operations. To the extent that much of UNDP information is already available to the public through various means, including through the UNDP corporate website, individual Country Office websites, UNDP’s Programme and Operations Policies and Procedures, and UNDP Transparency Portal, this Policy codifies existing principles, practices and procedures.

4. The Policy has been developed taking into account major UN intergovernmental conferences, including the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit (2010) and the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (2012). It also takes into account other international fora and processes that have renewed the spirit of this Policy and UNDP commitment to transparency and accountability, including the UN Development Cooperation Forum, the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, and the Global Partnership for Aid Effectiveness. 

5. For the purposes of this Policy, information is defined as printed or electronic materials that provide knowledge about UNDP activities, including, but not limited to, programmes and operations of UNDP.

6. This Policy applies to UNDP and to those associated Funds and Programmes administered by UNDP, namely, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and United Nations Volunteers (UNV).  This Policy is available on the UNDP corporate website, as well as the websites of Country Offices and the associated Funds and Programmes.

7. Compliance with this Policy shall be the responsibility of the respective Resident Representative in a Country Office, heads of Bureaux at Headquarters, and the Executive Coordinators of UNDP’s associated Funds and Programmes.

II. Public Access

8. The information enumerated in paragraphs 9.1 and 9.2, as further described in Annex 1, is available on UNDP websites. Country specific documentation is available from the appropriate Regional and Central Bureaux, Country Office websites, and UNDP Transparency Portal. If the information is not available on UNDP websites, the public can contact the office of the Resident Representative in the country, the appropriate Regional or Central Bureaux at UNDP Headquarters, or other sources, e.g. UN Official Document System website, depository libraries, UN bookstores and other UN agencies, depending on the nature of the information required. The Resident Representative in a Country Office, the heads of Bureaux at Headquarters, and the Executive Coordinators of UNDP’s associated Funds and Programmes are responsible for ensuring that requests for information from the public are addressed.

9.1 Information about UNDP Country Programme Management

(a) Standard Basic Assistance Agreements

(b) Common Country Assessments/ United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (CCA/UNDAF)

(c) UNDP Country Programme Documents and/or “One Plan” Documents

(d) Country Programme Action Plans and Annual Work Plans

(e) General UNDP Project Information

(f) Project Documents

(g) Project Performance Reports

(h) Resident Coordinator Annual Reports

(i)  Evaluation Reports

9.2 Information about UNDP Operations:

(a) UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

(b) UNDP Leadership

(c) UNDP Financial information

(d) UNDP Procurement

(e) UNDP internal audit reports as of October 2008

(f) Report on disciplinary measures and other actions in response to fraud, corruption and other wrongdoing

III. Exceptions

10. This Policy recognizes that crisis, conflict or humanitarian disasters and special development situations pose particular challenges in terms of Country Office relations with Governments and other stakeholders. The fundamental principle that applies to information disclosure in these situations, or in communities with heightened levels of political, social and cultural tensions, is transparency. However, UNDP recognizes that in certain situations, sensitive information relative to the political/economic contexts will remain confidential. In these instances, there are usually other documents/frameworks relating to UNDP country programme management or operations that are available to the public, such as Security Council Resolutions mandating a UN mission or UN needs assessments.

11. Current practice and principles of confidentialityWhile UNDP is committed to have an open and transparent disclosure system in place, there are legal, operational and practical considerations that are necessary to preserve the organization’s interests, as well as those of its staff and its various partners. The exceptions below are in line with international standards, and are limited to what is necessary to preserve essential and legitimate public or private (e.g. personal privacy) needs. Information under the following categories is deemed confidential and not available to the public:

(a) Information received from or sent to third parties, under an expectation of confidentiality;

(b) Information whose disclosure is likely to endanger the safety or security of any individual, violates his or her rights, or invades his or her privacy;

(c) Information whose disclosure is likely to endanger the security of Member States or prejudice the security or proper conduct of any operation or activity of UNDP;

(d) Information covered by legal privilege or related to access of individual investigation cases;

(e) Information on UNDP’s own internal deliberations, communications, and UNDP deliberations with Member States or other entities with which UNDP works;

(f) Commercial information where disclosure would harm either the financial interests of UNDP or those of third parties involved;

(g) Information which, if disclosed, in UNDP’s view would seriously undermine the policy dialogue with Member States or implementing partners.

12. Harm test and public interest override. In exceptional circumstances, UNDP reserves the right to disclose the information deemed confidential in paragraph 11. The Information Disclosure Oversight Panel will consider all requests. UNDP may exercise this right if it determines that the overall benefits and public interest of such disclosure outweighs the likely harm to the interest(s) protected by the exception(s). This may include situations in which the disclosure of certain confidential information would, in UNDP’s view, be likely to avert imminent and serious harm to public health or safety, and/or imminent and significant adverse impacts on the environment. Such disclosure by UNDP would be on the most restricted basis necessary to achieve the purpose of the disclosure. If the confidential information has been provided by or relates to a Member State or third party, UNDP would make such disclosure only after informing the Member State or third party of its concerns and considering their plans to address and mitigate the potential harm involved.  

IV. Review/appeal process

13. If all resources enumerated under paragraph 8 have been exhausted and the requester of information does not obtain the desired information, or if the information requested is denied for reasons that appear inconsistent with the spirit of this Policy, the requester may write to the Legal Support Office, making a case for reconsideration. Requests should be directed to:

The Director, Legal Support Office
United Nations Development Programme
304 East 45th Street, FF- 16th Floor
New York, NY 10017 USA
Email: accesstoinformation@undp.org

14. Every request will be acknowledged. The requester is entitled to a response from Legal Support Office within 30 calendar days of receipt of the request. Vexatious and repetitive requests may be denied.

15. In the event that the requester is not satisfied with the response from the Legal Support Office and a request for a document remains denied in whole or in part, the requester may ask for a review of this determination by the Information Disclosure Oversight Panel (hereinafter referred to as the “Panel”), providing reasons for the appeal. Requests for appeals should be directed to:

The Secretariat, Information Disclosure Oversight Panel
United Nations Development Programme
One United Nations Plaza, DC1-1907
New York, NY 10017 USA
Email: accesstoinformation@undp.org

16.  Every request for appeals will be acknowledged. The Panel shall review the denial of requests to disclose a document or portion of a document to a member of the public, and provide a final determination within 30 calendar days of receipt of the appeal.

17.  If an agreeable solution is not forthcoming within the Panel, the Panel will make recommendations to the UNDP Administrator on the outcome that would be most consistent with the application of the Policy. The Administrator will have the authority

V. Information Disclosure Oversight Panel

18. Mandate. The Panel’s mandate is to oversee the implementation of the Information Disclosure Policy and to consider and review appeals relating to information disclosure.

19. Functions. The Panel’s primary function is to review appeals submitted to it and to determine whether UNDP’s Information Disclosure Policy has been properly applied. Determinations shall be guided by the principle of seeking amicable solutions in the context of the request and the parties who may be affected by the release of the information.

20. The Panel may also develop, as appropriate, more detailed mechanisms and procedures for the review of denied requests, review the implementation of the Policy and provide recommendations on changes which should be made, as well as re-examine the Policy annually in light of operational and other changes within UNDP.

21. Membership. The Panel consists of five members, all appointed by the UNDP Administrator in consultation with UNDP Bureaux: three UNDP professional staff members and two individuals from non-governmental organizations, one who is a national of a UNDP programme country and one from a donor country, each appointed in his/her personal capacity. UNDP’s Chief of Staff or his/her Deputy, and the Director of the Office of Audit and Investigations will serve as ex-officio members of the Panel. The Chair of the Panel will be selected from amongst, and by, the Panel members.

22. Members will serve for a term of two years, which may be extended for another term at the discretion of the Administrator. Appointments will be made at the expiry of the term of a member any time during the course of the year or when a vacancy arises.

23. Criteria for selection of Panel members. Members will be selected on the basis of the following criteria: keen understanding of UNDP policies, structures, programmes and operations at Headquarters and Country Office levels; knowledge of programmes and operations of UNDP’s associated Funds and Programmes; thorough knowledge of, and familiarity with, information disclosure and access to information policies; and proven ability to work with UNDP partners.

24. Meetings. The Panel will meet virtually or in situ whenever there is an appeal for review. The Panel may also meet to consider policy matters related to information disclosure and/or other ad-hoc issues, as necessary.  

25. Role of the Office of Communications. The Office of Communications will serve as the Secretariat to the Panel.

Annex 1

Type of information normally available to the public through UNDP websites:

9.1 Information about UNDP Country Programme Management:

(a) Standard Basic Assistance Agreements

UNDP’s relationship with the Governments of programme countries is legally established and governed by the Standard Basic Assistance Agreement or predecessor agreement applicable to UNDP (SBAA). The applicable SBAA is available on UNDP Country Office websites.

(b) Common Country Assessments/United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (CCA/UNDAF) 
The CCA/UNDAF sets the framework for the operational activities of the UN system in many programme countries. This is a Government-originated document prepared by representatives of the Government in consultation with the UN Country Team, which is led by the UN Resident Coordinator. A contribution to the country’s analytic work and the UNDAF are mandatory products, unless there is only one UN agency resident in the country, or the country is in or emerging from a crisis situation, in which case the UN contribution may be to support a post-conflict needs assessment. Completed UNDAFs and CCAs are available on UNDP Country Office websites and on the United Nations Development Group website.

(c) UNDP Country Programme Documents and “One Plan” Documents

Based on the UNDAF approved by the Government and the UN Country Team and the UNDP Strategic Plan, dialogue with the programme country Government results in the Country Programme Documents, which is prepared by the Government in consultation with and with support from the UNDP Country Office. This document identifies key goals and opportunities for UNDP support to national programmes and priorities, as approved by the Executive Board. After its approval by the Executive Board, the final Country Programme Document will be made available online to the general public through the respective Regional Bureau websites and/or Country Office website, or through the office of the Resident Representative in programme countries. The “One Plan” is a common programming framework agreement between the Government and a number of participating UN organizations to enhance the inclusiveness and coherence of the collective programmatic response of the UN system in a given country. UNDP contributes to the “One Plan” within the scope of the Country Programme Document approved by the Executive Board for the particular country. The “One Plans” are made available to the public through the respective UNDP Country Office websites, the UN Development Group website and the participating UN organizations’ websites.

(d) UNDP Country Programme Action Plans and Annual Work Plans

Based on the UNDP Country Programme Document approved by the Executive Board and in collaboration with the Government, a UNDP Country Office will develop a Country Programme Action Plan, which further details the programme design, the major results expected and the strategies for achieving these results, and clarifies the arrangements for programme/project implementation and management. In addition to the Country Programme Action Plan, the Annual Work Plan sets out the Country Office’s objectives and priorities for the year. The Country Programme Action Plan together with the Annual Work Plan constitutes the formal agreement between UNDP and the Government to execute the Country Programme. The Country Programme Action Plan and the Annual Work Plan are available on UNDP Country Office websites.

(e) General UNDP Project Information

General information on UNDP development projects worldwide, including funding and implementing organization, actual start and end dates, status of the project, recipient country and subnational geographic location, is available in UNDP Transparency Portal.

(f) Project Documents

Project Documents, Country Programme Action Plans and Annual Work Plans, constitute the legal agreement between the programme country Government and UNDP to implement a project. Project documents are available in UNDP Transparency Portal and on UNDP Country Office websites,

(g) Project Performance Reports

These include Annual Review Reports, Country Office Results Reports, Assessment of Development Results, Project Annual Review Reports, Project Quarterly Progress Reports and Outcome Evaluation Reports, if an outcome is evaluated.

(hResident Coordinator Annual Reports

The annual reporting of UN-system activities to the UN Secretary-General and stakeholders is available in the Country Office website.

(i) Evaluation Reports

This refers to evaluations of UNDP programmes and management responses to evaluations of the performance, outcomes or impacts of such programmes, where they exist, are available on the Evaluation Resource Centre’s public database and/or the Evaluation Office website.

9.2 Information about UNDP Operations:

(a) UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board

All documentation, based on the programme work of the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board, is available on the Executive Board website prior to each session. The documents are prepared to help the Board carry out its mandate as formulated in UN General Assembly resolution 48/162. The documents cover a wide range of issues – policy and strategic, financial, budgetary, administrative, programming and operational matters, evaluations, and organizational and procedural issues. These reports are later issued as official documents of the UN and are available through the UN’s Official Document System website. A permanent record of all deliberations and decisions of the Board is also available on the Executive Board website. In addition, an archive of Governing Council documents dating back to 1966 is available on the website.

(b) UNDP Leadership  

Annual Reports of the Administrator as well as statements and speeches by the Administrator and Associate Administrator are available on the UNDP corporate website.

(c) UNDP Financial Information

Relevant documentation on UNDP budgets for management and programme activities approved by the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board, including the financial report and audited financial statements, and the annual review of the financial situation are publicly accessible. UNDP’s audited financial statements are also published and posted every biennium on the UN General Assembly website, and on UNDP corporate website. Information on funding sources is available in the Annual Reports of the Administrator and in UNDP Transparency Portal. Financial information at the transaction level including donor commitments, and UNDP disbursements, expenditures and incoming funds are available in UNDP Transparency Portal.

(d) UNDP Procurement

UNDP procurement activities are guided by policies and procedures set out in various documents, including the procurement chapter of the UNDP’s Programme and Operations Policies and Procedures. UNDP also makes public all its procurement solicitation notices. Information regarding awarded contracts is available in Country Office and UNDP corporate websites.

e) UNDP internal audit reports as of October 2008

The annual report of UNDP’s Office of Audit and investigations and the annual report of UNDP’s Audit Advisory Committee are part of the documents discussed during the Executive Board sessions and are publicly available on its website. They are later issued as official documents of the UN and are available through the UN’s Official Document system website. UNDP internal audit reports issued by the Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) as from 1 December 2012 are available on UNDP corporate website. Requests for access to internal audit reports between October 2008 and November 2012 should be made in writing to the UNDP Administrator at accesstoinformation@undp.org, with a copy to the Director of the Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) at audit.disclosure@undp.org. The procedure for requesting disclosure of internal audit reports issued between October 2008 and November 2012 is available at UNDP Corporate Website.

f) Report on disciplinary measures and other actions taken in response to fraud, corruption and other wrongdoing

An annual report on disciplinary measures taken in response to fraud, corruption and other wrongdoing is published on the UNDP corporate website.

Annex 2

Example of information in the exception list:

11. Current Practices and principles of confidentiality

(a) Information received from or sent to third parties, under an expectation of confidentiality.

UNDP does not provide access to financial, business, proprietary, or other non-public information that it receives in, or with the expectation that it will be treated in, confidence. UNDP does not grant access to information provided to it by a Member State or a third party, on the understanding of confidentiality, without the express permission of that Member State or third party. This includes information, data, reports and analysis, deliberations, and any other work product generated as a result of, or in response to, the confidential information received from a Member State or third party under an expectation of privacy. Material held by UNDP in which other parties hold the copyright may be made available for review, but copying or distributing such material is limited to respect the rights of the copyright holder.

(b) Information whose disclosure is likely to endanger the safety or security of any individual, violates his or her rights, or invades his or her privacy

UNDP does not provide access to:

i)      Information whose disclosure would, or would likely  compromise the security of UNDP staff and their families, consultants, contractors, other individuals, and UNDP assets;

ii)     Information about logistical and transport arrangements related to UNDP’s shipments of assets and documents and the shipment of staff’s and consultants’ personal effects;

iii)   Information whose disclosure would, or would likely endanger the life, or safety of any individual, or the environment.

iv)    Personal information relating to staff and consultants whose disclosure would, or would likely compromise the rights and legitimate privacy interests of the person concerned.

This includes, among others, terms of employment, performance evaluations, personal medical information, information relating to staff appointment and selection process, personal communications.

(c) Information whose disclosure is likely to endanger the security of Member States or prejudice the security or proper conduct of any operation or activity of UNDP

UNDP does not provide access to any information that if disclosed would or would likely prejudice an investigation or the administration of justice or violate the applicable law. This includes privileged information (e.g. legal advice and correspondence with legal advisers), and information that, if disclosed, might prejudice an investigation, legal or regulatory proceedings, subject UNDP to an undue risk in any contested matter (e.g. litigation or arbitration), subject UNDP to unauthorized access to its internal information technology systems, or aid the requester(s) or any other third party in impersonating UN personnel for fraudulent purposes.

(d) Information covered by legal privilege or related to access individual investigation cases

Requests for confidentiality by complainant or witnesses will be honored to the extent possible within the legitimate needs of the investigation.

(e) Information on UNDP’s own internal deliberations, communications and UNDP deliberations with Member States or other entities with which UNDP cooperates.

UNDP does not provide access to information whose disclosure would, or would likely frustrate the success of a policy or deliberative process; seriously prejudice the work of UNDP; undermine the integrity of UNDP’s decision making process; or inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views. This includes, among others, internal inter-office or intra-office documents, emails, drafts and other relevant correspondence if the record contains:

(i)     An opinion, advice, report or recommendation;

(ii)   An account of a consultation, discussion or deliberation that has occurred, including, but not limited to e-mails, notes, letters, memoranda, and draft documents or any other document prepared during the course of its own internal deliberations and deliberations with Member States or other entities with which UNDP cooperates.

(f) Commercial information where disclosure would harm either the financial interests of UNDP or those of third parties involved.

UNDP does not provide access to financial, commercial, scientific or technical information that may, in UNDP’s sole opinion or as a result of a confidentiality restriction, if disclosed:

(i)  Cause harm to UNDP or a third party’s commercial and financial interests;

(ii) Put a third party at a disadvantage in contractual or other negotiations;

(iii)  Prejudice a third party in commercial competition

(g) Information which, if disclosed, in UNDP’s view would seriously undermine the policy dialogue with Member States or implementing partners.

UNDP does not provide access to any documents, memoranda, or other communications which are exchanged with Member States, with other organizations and agencies, or with or between members of UNDP Executive Board, where these relate to the exchange of ideas between these groups, or to the deliberative or decision-making process of UNDP, its Member States, its Executive Board or other organizations, agencies or entities with whom it cooperates.

Footnotes

1. The present Policy supersedes the first official draft completed in July 1996, approved by the Executive Committee on 10 January, 1997. An independent evaluation was undertaken in June 2001 to review the Policy’s implementation and impact.  Subsequently, the Policy was compared against broader UN policies and in August 2004 was further revised. Minor revisions were made in May 2007. Major revamps occurred between December 2007 and January 2008, and March 2013.

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