Simulating civil society participation, European Investment Bank edition

I am a firm believer that relatively small, routine events, conferences or seminars actually say quite a lot about large organizations and how they perceive their environment and engage with the outside world.
Granted, I was not expecting a lot from the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank (EIB), but their announcement of their ‘EIB Board of Directors Seminar with Civil Society 2013’ is a particularly good example of ‘civil society engagement – you are doing it wrong’ (see last week’s post on the EU's
European Year of Citizens for another bad example from the European heartland...).

The ‘Board of Directors Seminar’ is essentially a 90 minute affair.

Prior to the Board of directors holding court engaging with civil society, there is a half-day of meaningless discussions that somehow is supposed to simulate a critical debate: ‘Promoting growth in Europe – with the right economic, social and environmental returns’ already contains all the spoilers in the title. You can almost imagine a final report that some staff member has already produced on the ‘debate’.
The short speeches of Bank dignitaries, plus time for coffee, lunch and ‘networking’ round off another of those days that essentially looks like it is going to waste staff time as well as precious money from the travel budget.

But the real gem is hidden in one of the final paragraphs:

In order to ensure that the discussion at the last session with the EIB’s Board of Directors (16.30-18.00) is better structured and that the time available is used most efficiently, participants wishing to address the EIB Board with specific questions or to make an intervention are asked to indicate this in the registration form stating the issue(s) that they would like to raise.
So you have to tell them your specific question in advance so EIB can prepare a harmless and diplomatic response that makes the Board look smart, knowledgeable and compassionate. This is also a great tool to make sure that only those with the right questions succeed in the ‘first come, first serve’ registration process. Luckily
Time for further questions that arise ad hoc during the discussion will also be foreseen.
So there may or not be another 5 minutes or so for further discussions! What a wonderful learning opportunity for the Board!

Come to Luxembourg

(The EIB is not able to cover accommodation or travel expenses for participants. Please also note that the Bank is not in a position to facilitate visa application procedures.), 
have some drinks on us and experience a civil society process that may bring back those cherished memories of Soviet-style decision-making processes in 2013.
And if you miss this one, chance are that there will be another one in 2015!

Large international organizations really seem to struggle to enhance accountability beyond well-known participatory meeting simulations- or maybe they just could not care less?!


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