05 November 2020
Posteado en : Opinion
The recently approved Inter-American Model Law 2.0 of the Organization of American States marks a before and after in the management of an essential right for the strength of democracies. FIIAPP has contributed, through the European EUROsociAL+ programme, to the development of the legal text by providing technical support and promoting the incorporation of the gender perspective.
On 22 October, the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the Model Inter-American Law 2.0 on Access to Public Information at its Annual Assembly. This policy framework, promoted by the OAS Department of International Law (DDI in its Spanish initials), has enjoyed broad participation in its drafting process and is of enormous relevance to Latin America and the Caribbean, since it incorporates cutting-edge standards and best practices for promoting transparency and the right of access to information.
The Law establishes the broadest possible application of the right of access to information in possession, custody or control of any public authority, political party, union and non-profit organisation, which has to respond to requests for information on funds or public benefits received.
As the DDI emphasises, the ultimate objective of the regulations is that “access to public information is consolidated as a tool that allows increasing levels of transparency and to fight effectively against corruption, promoting open competition, investment and economic growth, to generate the confidence of the population in its democratic institutions and empower citizens, including those sectors that are in a situation of vulnerability”.
“This Model Law is intended to provide citizens with greater access to information which is in the hands of the authorities. Why? So that they have a better understanding of how the administration is managed and how the public resources that derive from its taxes are used. We also want it to influence management models that impact ordinary citizens because the right of access to information ranges from right up high to local governments”, underlines Dante Negro, Director of the DDI at the OAS.
The European Union-financed EUROsociAL+ corporation programme, through its Democratic Governance area, which is coordinated by FIIAPP, has made a decisive contribution to the development of this regulatory proposal, through significant technical support channelled through the Network of Transparency and Access to Public Information (RTA) in spaces for debate and the exchange of experiences between guarantor bodies and promoters of the right to information, and through the systematisation of good practices provided by different experts.
The regulation focuses on key factors such as the nature and functions of the guarantor bodies which guarantee this right, the regime of exceptions, the entities bound by the regulation, active transparency and the definitions and scope of the right of access to information. Likewise, it includes as an annex the Inter-American Model Law on Document Management and its implementation guide, prepared by specialists from the Sub-Directorate of State Archives of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Spain on the basis of the RTA Document Management Model moved forward by EUROsociAL+.
Throughout the work processes EUROsociAL+ also ensured the incorporation of the gender perspective, the norm being one of the first legal instruments of the Inter-American System to incorporate said vision from its conception.
As Gabriel del Piazzo, President of the Executive Council of the Unit for Access to Public Information of Uruguay (UAIP) (Presidency of the RTA), points out, “the Model Law 2.0 has the added value of gathering the experience of the guarantor bodies of Latin America, whose responsibility it has been to implement the access to information laws over the last 10 years”.
The Model Law thus becomes a reference to be followed by States in order to improve regulations, guidelines and internal procedures for transparency and access to information. From the moment that the 35 States of the Americas endorsed it, they acknowledged that it is necessary to reach that standard. For citizens and organised civil society, it implies being aware of the standards that their State could potentially reach and thus being able to demand processes for the elaboration of norms or policies aimed at reaching that standard.
This EUROsociAL+ action is aligned with the 2030 Agenda, especially with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6.10 (to guarantee access to information), 16.5 (to considerably reduce corruption and bribery), 16.6 (to create effective and transparent institutions at all levels of accountability), and SDG 17 (to promote alliances to achieve these objectives).
Borja Díaz Rivillas, Senior Expert in Democratic Governance for the EUROsociAL+ Programme at FIIAPP
28 September 2020
Posteado en : Reportage
FIIAPP celebrates the International Day of Universal Access to Information and works towards this right through its projects
The International Day of Universal Access to Information is a day of global recognition designated by the General Conference of UNESCO which has been observed since 2016. The resolution, in part promoted by civil society groups in search of greater transparency, states that “the right to seek, receive and impart information is an inseparable part of the right to freedom of expression”. This same document points out that both freedom of expression and universal access to information are cornerstones for building inclusive knowledge societies.
Freedom of expression is a right recognised by Resolution 59 of the United Nations General Assembly, approved in 1946, as well as by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which provides that the fundamental right to freedom of expression includes the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. In this way, freedom of information can be defined as the right to have access to information that is not classified as restricted and that is in the hands of public entities.
For this reason, having laws that guarantee access to information is an essential factor in any democratic society, since it guarantees greater transparency in the internal processes that take place within it. The right to information grants greater freedom and empowerment to citizens.
This day is especially significant for the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 16, which requires guaranteeing public access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms. In line with this objective, FIIAPP projects seek to contribute to this universal right.
One of the projects in whose management the Foundation participates is EUROsociAL+, through which it seeks to support the improvement of social cohesion in Latin American countries, as well as their institutional strengthening. Specifically, the project’s governance area, which works towards transparency and access to information in Latin America, will launch the “Legislative Transparency Toolbox” which is carried out through collaboration between the Transparency and Access to Information Network (RTA) and Parlaméricas.
Also in the region, the project Support for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Paraguay is in operation, which aims to promote the country’s sustainable development through the acceleration of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. To achieve this, two main objectives have been set: on the one hand, that the country has an efficient governance system that includes official statistical data to facilitate monitoring and evaluation, and on the other, that there are better public policies to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDGs 13 and 15 (protection of the environment).
On the other hand, on the African continent the Supporting Transparency and Anti-Corruption in Ghana project aims to reduce corruption and improve accountability in the country. The project is supporting the Ghanaian Government in developing the Ghana National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACAP). Also, together with Ghanaian civil society organisations, it has participated in forums that have aimed to promote the approval of the Access to Information Act in Ghana.
How is it possible to empower citizens through access to information?
What these projects have in common is that they guarantee transparency by strengthening good governance, and if we understand the right to information as being a human right, this turns out to be the basis for the development of many other civil and universal rights since it does not just guarantee that citizens are fully aware of the truth, but also requires that government procedures are transparent. Therefore, having a law on access to information turns out to be a key factor for every society and country that claims to be egalitarian as it helps to prevent acts of corruption, crimes against humanity and to reduce inequalities.
The former director of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, explained access to information as a “commitment by governments to formulate, approve and apply policies and laws on the right to information in order to ensure respect for this human right. This requires efficient enforcement mechanisms and a culture of transparency in all institutions”.
For this reason, at FIIAPP we commemorate the World Access to Information Day every day through our work and we will continue to fight so that all regions across the world, especially those most disadvantaged, can fully enjoy all their rights and belong to a more informed, fair and free society.
04 April 2019
Posteado en : Entrevista
We interviewed Pansy Tlakula, the High Commissioner in South Africa for the right of access to information, during the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, in which EUROsociAL+ also participated.
How important is the right of access to public information for human rights and democracy?
Access to information is the key to enjoying other rights. You cannot enjoy social and economic rights without the right of access to information; and, moreover, it is also important for the right to vote. For all these reasons, it is fundamental to the human rights system.
From the historical point of view, what has been the importance of this right for South African citizens?
In this case, it is important to bear in mind the country’s sad history with apartheid and racial segregation. That is why, in 1994, when the people became free, one of the first things done was to make sure that the “culture of secrecy” ended. One of the first laws we adopted after gaining freedom promoted access to information.
Can we highlight any relevant cases relating to public information that have been historically important in South Africa?
I think the most important case in this regard occurred last year. Several civil society organisations had asked the political parties to disclose the source of their funding and, initially, they refused. Then, an organisation called Right2Know took the case to court, which determined that the right of access to information is fundamental to the right to vote. In order for citizens to exercise the right to vote, they must be able to access information about the financing of political parties.
EUROsociAL+, the programme financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, has presented its experience in supporting the Transparency Network in Latin America (RTA) at the conference. In Africa, there is a plan to create a similar network. How do you think the creation of a similar network on the continent would be beneficial?
I think the network is very important and the collaboration between countries in Africa and Latin America is significant because it is South-South cooperation. For example, these past couple of days, when we held our first meeting on establishing the African Network of Information Commissioners, our colleagues from the Latin American network explained how they had established their network.
Let’s talk about gender and the right of access to information: How important is this right for women in South Africa and throughout Africa?
I think it is very important for women throughout the world, for example, if we look at the rights related to reproductive and sexual health; in this case, women and girls cannot benefit from these rights if they do not have enough information. If they knew about it, they would be able to face the specific health challenges that these issues entail.
And some of them can be easily resolved by giving women access to information, so this year, at the International Conference of Commissioners on Access to Information, we gave a presentation on the importance of access to information for vulnerable groups: on how this impacts women and people with disabilities. Personally, I believe that access to information has a positive impact on everyone, including vulnerable groups.