• 19 October 2017

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Open Government, Open State

    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)

  • 28 September 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Ghana’s winding path towards Transparency and Anti-corruption

    To date Ghana does not have a Freedom of Information law but it has made some positive strides to ensure transparency and accountability

    In the past years, Ghana has made some positive strides to ensure transparency and accountability within its governance reforms. Some concrete commitments include the development and roll out of a 10 year National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) as well joining in 2011 the Open Government Partnership.

     

    As part of these efforts, there is also the five-year EU funded Accountability, Rule of law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP) currently implemented by FIIAPP.  The objective of the programme is to contribute to current reform processes to reduce corruption and improve accountability, and compliance with the rule of law, particularly when it comes to accountability, anti-corruption and environmental governance. It does so through support key institutions, while at the same time increasing the ability of the public, civil society organizations and the media to hold government to account.

     

    On one hand the programme works with state institutions to improve and strengthen the services to report, prosecute and adjudicate corruption cases. On the other, it strengthens state institutions, civil society and the media to create the conditions for citizens to demand accountability from the government and report corruption cases.

     

    Against this backdrop, access to information is a critical stepping stone for anyone who wishes to hold the government to account. It is no surprise therefore that access to information has become a cornerstone of good governance and an important anti-corruption tool. Information is fundamental to make informed decisions. Information is also power. Where it is not freely accessible, corruption can thrive and basic rights might not be realised. People can hide corrupt acts behind a veil of secrecy. Those with privileged access to information can demand bribes from others also seeking it.

     

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    ARAP contributes to current reform processes to reduce corruption and improve accountability in Ghana

     

    Today, 28th of September, is the International Day for Universal Access to Information. Citizens and organizations across the world call on their leaders today to act upon the fundamental premise that all information held by governments and governmental institutions is in principle public and may only be withheld if there are legitimate reasons, such as typically privacy and security, for not disclosing it.

     

    The International Day for Universal Access to Information was declared just over two years ago by UNESCO. Not many know however that this UN initiative has its roots in Africa, and is an outcome of advocacy of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI).  This is a concerted effort to remind us all – regardless of our job and daily life – that accessing information held by government officials and institutions is a fundamental human right established under international Law, covered by Article 19 of the International Declaration of Human Rights  and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

     

    Over the past 10 years, the right to information has been recognized by an increasing number of countries, through the adoption of a wave of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. In 1990, only 13 countries had adopted national FOI laws, whereas there are currently more than 90 such laws adopted across the world.

     

    To date Ghana does not have a Freedom of Information law, despite it has been debated in the country for almost 20 years: the actual bill being drafted in 1999 and then reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and is currently in Parliament. There are however, positive signs from the government affirming that the bill will be approved in the coming year together with the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Corruption.

     

    Riccardo D’Emidio, Civic Education Expert – Accountability, Rule of law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP) 

  • 31 August 2017

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Comprehensive commitment to transparency in Colombia

    The ACTUE-Colombia project seeks to strengthen transparency and integrity in the Colombian public and privates sectors and in civil society

    Colombia drags behind it the tragic figure of 218 thousand deaths and nearly six million displaced persons, all attributable to an armed conflict that lasted for over fifty years. A conflict that assails Colombian society at all levels, where one of the major factors responsible for the perpetuation of this context of violence has been corruption.

    Today Colombia is looking forward, placing all its hopes on an arduous peace process that must take into account all stakeholders in society. A key piece in advancing in this peace process is the commitment to transparency and prevention of corruption in both the country’s public institutions and private entities.

    Along these lines, the ACTUE-Colombia project was launched in 2014 as a response of the European Union to a request from the Colombian government for strengthening and implementation of public policies aimed at fighting corruption. This is a project funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP that works hand in hand with various Colombian public institutions, such as the Secretariat of Transparency, the Civil Service Department, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Mines, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Council of State, as the representative of the judiciary, among others.

    This project seeks to create a comprehensive approach in corruption prevention that will work from four strategic areas with special impact in the country:

    Public Integrity and Open Government: Creation of an open and transparent government through instruments such as the transparency and access to public information law, accountability, citizen participation, public ethics, whistleblower protection, among others. As expressed by Liliana Caballero, director of the Civil Service Administration Department, “for the government it is very important that citizens trust the State and the employees of public administrations, and citizens should have the security that they have access to all the information, that there is no longer any secrecy in any proceedings, in the budgets”. 

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    Sectoral Action: to foster integrity and transparency, it is also necessary to act in specific sectors such as judicial bodies, health, the extractive industries and a culture of integrity. 

     

      • Colombia’s Council of State is working to promote transparency, accountability and judicial ethics. To serve as a precedent, the Council of State on 29 June held a public hearing for accountability, which was the first time a judicial body had ever organised an accountability event in the country.

     

      • The extractive industry is one of the most important economic sectors in Colombia; in 2015 the extractive industry was responsible for 7.2% of the country’s GDP, and therefore it is important to keep this economic activity clear of networks of corruption. To accomplish this, implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) throughout the country is being incentivised, and there are currently commitments to implement this initiative by the 16 leading extractive companies in Colombia, which represent 80% of mining production.

     

      • In the health sector, ACTUE-Colombia has been supporting what some call “radical transparency” in the country’s pharmaceutical policy, with a view not only to guaranteeing right of use and access to a quality and transparent service but also to recovering citizens’ trust in the sector. To assure these objectives, initiatives have been developed that involve various stakeholders and donors, such as the Decalogue for Transparency and Integrity in the health sector, and tools for access to information have been implemented, such as the Medicamentos a un Clic [One-click Medicines], a web platform for health professionals, and the Termómetro de Precios de Medicamentos [Medicine Price Thermometer], among others.

     

      • Additionally, ACTUE-Colombia supports the commitment of the national government to promoting a cultural change, as there is wide recognition that the laws are important but insufficient. Along these lines, the Pedagogic Routes for Promotion of Transparency, Integrity and Safeguarding the Public Good have been implemented with the aim of raising awareness in school and university classrooms and in public institutions of their role in this cultural change in personal and institutional conduct.

     

    Citizen participation and the private sector: Both citizens and businesses are key players in the fight against corruption. To create a healthy, upstanding and aware society, it is necessary for them to be participants in the cultural, institutional and regulatory changes.

     

    • To promote the shared responsibility of business owners in the prevention of corruption, continuity has been given to initiatives that promote business ethics, self-regulation, bribery prevention and clear rules, such as the Registry of Private Companies Active in Compliance with Anti-corruption Measures (EACA) and the Handbook of Transparency and Anti-corruption Business Agreements.s

     

    • To engage civil society in the fight against corruption and the promotion of transparency and integrity, support has been given to actions such as strengthening of the National Citizen Council for Fighting Corruption, promotion of a “Friends of Transparency” network and improvement of accountability in citizen participation forums, as well as in NGOs, among others.

     

    Territorial Open Government: The change must take place at all political levels, from the national government to territorial governments. This area strengthens regional and local capacities in the implementation of the law on transparency; attention to citizens and management of corruptions risks; promoting citizen participation, social control and accountability. Additionally, the creation of a network of open governorates is being driven with a view to promoting exchange and peer-to-peer learning.

     

    The coordination work and the comprehensive approach of ACTUE is facilitating the steps being taken towards real change in Colombia, however ending the culture of corruption is a task that requires the commitment and joint work of all stakeholders in Colombian society.

  • 23 June 2015

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    Colombia and EUROsociAL, together in the fight against corruption

    Colombia has a solid anti-corruption policy, and the European Union's EUROsociAL programme, led by the FIIAPP, is supporting it in achieving its objectives

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the decree partially regulating the country’s transparency law (January 2014).

    In 2014, Colombia passed the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information for the purpose of reducing corruption levels in the country. According to public opinion polls, corruption is a major concern of the population. It has nearly the same importance as security, violence and unemployment issues.

     

    The Colombian Secretary of Transparency, Camilo Enciso, in this video analyses the role of the EUROsociAL programme in implementation of the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information.

     

    Complete interview with Camilo Enciso here