05 November 2020
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
17 October 2019
Marta Monterrubio, Public Policy Evaluation specialist from the Evalúa project, tells us about the policy evaluation carried out after the earthquake that took place in Ecuador in 2016
When it comes to preparing the National Evaluation Agendas, different goals come into play: accountability, policy improvement or programme evaluation (its design or management), transparency promotion as a democratic tool, and ultimately institutional or managerial learning.
In terms of Disaster Risk Management, this evaluation is relevant to all of these matters. It is also a particularly sensitive matter: in addition to exposing the major vulnerabilities that afflict a large part of the world’s population, there are known cases of regrettable deficiencies in fund management for emergency and reconstruction. The unanimous opinion of specialists, also included in the Sendai Framework, is that in terms of disaster risk having a solid prevention system helps prevent the loss of human lives, as well as material loss and the loss of basic goods for population survival. It will also make a difference when facing subsequent reconstruction.
On April 16, 2016, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 (Mw)3 was recorded on the north-east coast of Ecuador. 671 people died and 6,277 were injured. The damage affected four provinces, and fourteen cantons were declared to be in a state of emergency.
After assisting the first moments of the emergency, the Ecuadorian government approved the 2016 Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Plan, framed within its Risk Management regulations and in the National Decentralized Risk Management System (SNDGR). The Reconstruction Plan’s aim is territorial recovery, canalise the reconstruction and recovery processes of post-earthquake livelihoods under the criteria of resilience and sustainability through intersectoral and multilevel coordinated interventions.
What has emergency and reconstruction assistance coverage been like for the population in the affected areas? How many families benefited from this asisstance and for how long? How and in what way were the shelter, rental and food aid distributed? Were the most vulnerable people included? To what degree was infrastructure rehabilitated? How many public health facilities were rebuilt and rehabilitated? What is the degree of citizen satisfaction with regard to medical care and services? Is Ecuador’s National Decentralized Risk Management System working as well as it could to prevent and manage disasters of this nature? What improvements should be made to minimize the consequences of possible future disasters?
These are just some of the questions that the evaluation will answer: Transparency, improvement, learning.
The consulting team hired by EVALÚA has already completed the field work. In the next few weeks we will have the answers.
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.
07 February 2019
Posteado en : Entrevista
Shamima Muslim, ARAP project specialist, reflects in this interview on the role of the media when they raise issues of corruption, particularly in the case of Ghana
As a media worker and specialist on the ARAP project (Ghana’s Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme), funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, do you think that the media address the issue of corruption?
We have been reflecting on this since I started in the media in 2008. Even before that, corruption has always been a key issue, especially at election time. All politicians and political parties who campaign and come to power always have it in the spotlight, they fight against corruption in their public speeches and insist on the need to be accountable. So we recognise that it exists.
And do you think that the media is sensitive to corruption?
We have not given our best. Well, maybe we have given our best, but the best has not been enough. Since the media is a news industry, when a big new corruption issue appears, everything is immediately told, but then people go on with their lives and their problems and they have already forgotten by the following news story. I think we have to develop a culture that is slightly different from the culture of the cursor and Google, which is what we have been doing.
So, do you think that the media should play a more active and permanent role in corruption issues?
The media have to do more than they are doing right now because both the media and the people who work in them should be the eyes of society.
The mass media is a powerful tool for socialisation. If we use them efficiently, we will make citizens aware of many things: cases of fraud, theft, contract inflation, etc., all of the issues that reduce public resources and prevent State players from making the proper investments in social services.
But we need support, for example, by targeting certain key influencers in the media and making them part of this process of holding leaders accountable. Newscasters who present the morning magazine programme, professionals who do night programmes, professionals who give the news, etc. You need them to be part of the process. And so we get an ally who has the power of the microphone and who is able to ask the important questions, thanks to the point of view they have acquired.
What role can social media play in this awareness?
Information, information, information. Social networks are the future, but we must also remember that not everyone is on them. Internet access is still very expensive in most of Africa and virtually non-existent in some communities. So maybe you are not able to use social networks for an appropriate general mobilisation of society, of citizens, from different economic strata. Especially if you want general collective action.
But even so, social networks are very useful: we have seen what has happened in Ghana. We have seen campaigns on social networks that have forced the Government to change certain policies. When the government wants to introduce a new policy and we say it’s a bad idea … There was a case where the government said, “If you do not pay for your television licence, you will have to go to court.“ All this brought a great public uproar: it was a campaign organised purely on social networks. Influencers and young people on social media protested and protested. In a few hours, or a day or two, it was announced that this policy was not going to be implemented.
So social networks are a powerful tool to mobilise a certain group of people who share the same ideas, who are a little more informed. There are some people who are influencers on social networks and who, when they open discussions on their walls, generate arguments.
What do citizens achieve with all this?
If the media play their role, we, the citizens, will be able to force our leaders to be accountable, because they know that the media will always be watching them until things are done well.
13 April 2018
Posteado en : Reportage
The Ghana-ARAP Project relies on institutions to get the public involved. According to Transparency International, sub-Saharan Africa is the worst–rated region in this respect
“Having to pay for a service we have a right to receive – do you think that is corruption?” Barbara Mensah asks the people of Ghana, referring to one of the most burning questions of our time. She is one of the Civic Education Officers responsable for investigating perceptions of corruption in Ghana.
“I am going to ask about certain practices, you tell me if you think they are corrupt” was the question put by another of these officers, Jafaru Omar. Through a questionnaire, officers appointed by Ghana’s National Commission for Civic Eduction (NCCE) survey the views of citizens in different parts of the country.
On the ground, the findings are already clear: of the 8672 responses, over half those surveyed (58.4%) have been witnesses to some form of corruption. Henrrieta Assante-Sharpong, in charge of the investigation, says: “the findings show that although Ghanaians are aware of corruption, they have very little knowledge of the various ways it may be practised.”
The NCCE was set up for the purpose of increasing public awareness: “Our lives are going backwards. We don’t have roads, there is no electricity. The money gained from corruption could have been used for these services”, says Aluliga Malpang, a farmer from the Tengzuk Community. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst-rated region for corruption, according to the most recent report from Transparency International.
Cooperation in a hostile climate
The report on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) rates 180 countries and territories according to perceived levels of corruption in the public sector, using a scale of zero to 100, where zero is extremely corrupt and 100 highly transparent.
New Zealand and Denmark are highest-placed in 2017, with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia have the lowest scores, with 14, 12 and 9 respectively. Ghana is in 81st place, with 40 points – a score above the average for the sub-Saharan region (32 points).
Nevertheless, the study shows that over two-thirds of countries had scores below 50. Transparency International works internationally and locally in over 100 countries in the world: “giving a voice to the victims of corruption, working with governments, undertakings and citizens to stop the abuse of power or bribery”. It states that most countries are making little or no progress in putting an end to corruption.
Ghana does not want to be in that category. Its initiative is part of the Anti-Corruption, Rule of Law and Accountability” programme. It is a project in support of transparency, with the aim of reducing corruption and improving accountability in the African country. For four and a half years, FIIAPP has been managing this programme, financed by the European Union, in collaboration with GIZ (Germany) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
“I want to help solve the corruption problem”, said Joseph Samuel Bebefiankom, a student in Kwashieman (Accra). Like him, other citizens say “it could be reduced, cut back”, “that will provide jobs for a lot of people” “it will help the country to develop.” They know what they want to achieve, but not how to achieve it.
A number of Ghanaian public institutions such as the NCCE, in collaboration with FIIAPP, have designed a strategy to involve the public, as well as others, in the struggle against corruption. One of the priorities of Ghana-ARAP is to raise their awareness of the importance of reporting it.
The more leaders that get involved, the less corruption there will be
The África no es un país [‘Africa is not one country’] blog reminds us, in the same report, that “2017 has seen the fall of a number of rulers accused of encouraging corruption”: Yahya Jammeh in Gambia, José Eduardo dos Santos in Angola, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and, already in 2018, Jacob Zuma of South Africa.
George Obeng Obei is another Civic Education Officer. He says “people without much education don’t know how things are done in assemblies and in institutions. But they do believe there are elements of corruption in them”, Not knowing how it works doesn’t mean they don’t see it. They know, they are aware, according to Obeng Obei, that you can only get things with money. And this mindset has to be changed.
According to Transparency International, it is the right time to “redefine” the problem in Africa, as, in some cases, the CPI points to a “hopeful future” for the continent. In spite of being the worst region overall, some countries have made significant progress, such as Botswana (61), which has a higher rating than Spain (59).
The key, according to the organisation, is that these countries have “a political leader committed to fighting corruption.” That is why they go further in developing laws and institutions in this regard. Ghana is making efforts in this direction, and its government has introduced a National Anti-corruption Action Plan (NACAP) to steer the project.
If the public at large also gets involved, success will be one step closer. The president of the NCCE, Josephine Nkrumah, knows this. She assesses the investigation conducted in the country: “NCCE will use this report to create civic education actions. To win the battle, we have to get both the public and the private sector involved. And what is even more important is getting every Ghanaian man and woman involved.”
“Winning the fight against corruption” is the African Union (AU)’s motto for 2018. This phrase could be said to apply to almost the whole world. It stems from the premise that “corruption rewards those who disobey the rules, destroying all the endeavours of constructive, just and equitable governance”.
The areas investigated in Ghana are shown in this video:
19 October 2017
Today, when corruption has become an endemic evil, we need more than ever to bring the country's institutions closer to its citizens, its legitimate creditors
Today, when corruption has become an endemic evil that directly affects the democratic quality of our societies, we need more than ever to bring the country’s institutions closer to its citizens, its legitimate creditors. One thing that contributes to closing the gap between the public authorities and the public is undoubtedly promoting a culture of transparency and accountability to bring back the public’s trust in the public administrations.
An interesting initiative along these lines is the Open Government Partnership (OGP) a multilateral initiative involving 69 countries, including Spain and Colombia, that seeks to improve government performance, promote the effective participation of civil society and improve the responsiveness of governments to their citizens.
Each member state of the OGP undertakes to implement multi-year Action Plans that are applicable across the board to their institutions and, in particular, to government powers.
Colombia has demonstrated its commitment to transparency by moving from an “Open Government” to an “Open State” perspective, by including the Judiciary in this initiative. ACTUE Colombia has spent three years working on this initiative in Colombia, giving support to the coordinating body, the Transparency Secretariat, including strengthening the technical capacities of civil society so that they can maintain an effective dialogue with the Colombian government.
The OGP Action Plans are designed to be built with the participation of the different public administrations (General State, Regional and Local Administrations,) and civil society, in which the participation of the public plays an essential role in the development and success of the Partnership.
Spain, which has been a member of the OGP since 2011, has implemented two Action Plans to date, for which civil society demanded more transparency and participation. These demands were included by the National Court in a recent ruling (NCR 3357/2017) in which it recognised the Right of Access of the organisation Access Info Europe, citing for this the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR 8.11.16 and 25.06.13), which understands this to be a fundamental right that merits a special sphere of protection, so that although in this country the right of access to information has not been recognised as being a fundamental right, in current practice we can speak of a promising situation in this regard.
Similarly, the 3rd Open Government Plan, launched in June this year for the period 2017-19, introduced significant improvements, as recommended by the Partnership’s Independent Review Mechanism (Cooperation, Participation, Transparency, Accountability and Education). It includes proposals from the territorial administrations and ministries, as well as the participation of the public through the public information tool, whereby any citizen can present proposals via the transparency website and monitor all the stages of the 3rd Plan.
A planned new feature will set up a Multi-Sector Forum with representatives from academia, civil society and the public administrations to monitor the 3rd Plan.
Although there is still much to be done to achieve an open state, it seems clear that we are facing a paradigm shift in public policy building in which Access to Information and Transparency, Education in a culture of integrity and progress towards a government in line with these are key elements in making the public an active participant in public decision-making processes and policy building and in contributing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our institutions.
Carolina Díaz is a Legal Technician for the European Union Anti-Corruption and Transparency Project for Colombia (ACTUE Colombia)