Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Friends of the Earth in 2021, arguing that the International Development Finance Corporation (the “DFC”) illegally exempted itself from the open government and transparency requirements of the Government in Sunshine Act that is meant to apply to federal agencies. The Plaintiffs are appealing the decision of the district court holding that a prior case in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals compelled the conclusion that the composition of the DFC’s board did not meet the Sunshine Act’s definition of an “agency.” Although the district court ruled against the Plaintiffs, in an unusual step, the judge expressed reservations about the decision and suggested that the D.C. Circuit may “find it appropriate to reexamine” the issue and rule differently.
EarthRights International filed an amicus brief on behalf of Accountability Counsel in support of the Plaintiffs’ appeal, emphasizing the importance of transparency, public access, and stakeholder engagement, including that made possible by the requirements of the Sunshine Act, to the effectiveness and accountability of development finance institutions. The brief draws on Accountability Counsel’s extensive advocacy on behalf of project-affected communities and its broader policy reform advocacy with such institutions, including its specific experience with both the DFC and its predecessor, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which complied with the Sunshine Act. The brief explains that there is no legal nor policy justification for subjecting the DFC to less transparency than its predecessor, and the DFC’s decision to exempt itself from the Act is at odds with Congress’s clear intent that the DFC set itself apart from other financing from governments (in particular, China) by abiding by the highest standards of transparency.