In 2012, fifteen countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC) had adopted Access to Information (ATI) legislation to strengthen Government accountability and transparency. Despite the existence of 5 national Information Commissions (Chile, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay), only 3 (Chile, Honduras, and Uruguay) combine the promotion of the right to access information with powers of enforcement. In most countries, civil society organizations (CSOs) appeared more organized than the state entities charged with carrying out the mandate to promote and protect the right of access to information. Due in part to this minimal regional coordination, these country agencies experienced limited capacity in the implementation of new ATI laws. Responding to demand expressed by several countries to develop a deeper knowledge and consensus about the most effective mechanisms for using ATI as a tool to promote good governance and mitigate corruption, the Bank began to review its support in this growing movement in the LAC region.
Following a review of several Bank-financed activities relating to ATI, through lending and non-lending instruments, a Spanish Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean (SFLAC) grant permitted a diverse Bank Task Team (including LCSOS, PRMPS, LCSPS and WBI), led by the LCR Regional Governance Adviser, to support the establishment of the Regional Network of Access to Information Practitioners. Through the facilitation of knowledge exchanges on jurisprudence, record keeping, statistics, and strengthening state efforts on ATI laws and their implementation at the national and regional levels, the Network was designed to address a knowledge gap that persisted between these laws and the institutions required to apply them.
The Network of Access to Information Practitioners, which is focused on promoting a formal network for implementation of access to information legislation and systems, has helped to support governance improvements with several key outcomes:
- Successful establishment in April 2012 of a formal, Regional ATI Network, comprised of Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil, with other countries pending formal membership application. Known by its Spanish name, Red de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información (RTA), this collaboration has allowed for a more consistent and fluid exchange of information and leadership among these entities that supervise transparency and guarantee Access to Information in the LAC region.
- Ongoing interest among non-member countries with ATI legislation who wish to join the Network and have thus requested the Network’s technical assistance and interest to join as full members.
- Enhanced capacity among the participating agencies charged with implementing ATI legislation through regular workshops at the technical and administrative levels, as well as dialogue among countries’ political leaders and leaders of these agencies.
- Greater understanding of how to enhance ATI in the LAC region and improve collaboration among Governments and stakeholders through the production of a roadmap.
Bank Group Contribution
The Spanish Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean (SFLAC), a trust fund established by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Finance, provided financing to generate greater understanding of how to enhance ATI laws and country systems. This work spanned across a number of leading countries in the LAC region (e.g., Mexico, Chile) and supported collaboration among Governments and multiple stakeholders through the production questionnaires, a roadmap, knowledge exchange workshops and joint drafting/peer review sessions for improving the implementation of ATI initiatives at the national and sub-national levels.
Through the leadership of state agencies such as Mexico’s ATI commission, the Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Informacion Publica y Proteccion de Datos (IFAI) and Chile’s Consejo para la Transparencia (Transparency Council), countries in the LAC region have benefitted from the first Index of Transparency and Access to Information (IATT), an indicator designed to measure the effectiveness of ATI implementation efforts. This multilateral partnership among LAC countries, other regional development banks (e.g., Inter-American Development Bank), and CSOs such as the Alianza Regional por la Libertad de Informacion has enabled the Bank to effectively promote the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness by allowing donor countries to coordinate, share information, and simplify procedures.
This Regional Network of Access to Information Practitioners in LAC (Red de Transparencia y Acceso a la Informacion, RTA) is a sustainable network currently consisting of 6 countries (Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Peru, Chile, and Brazil) in the Region. We expect to see other countries continue to express their interest in joining the Network, as well as continue to seek support from each other to enhance the capacity of state oversight and accountability systems as they work toward becoming a successful international model of exchange and cooperation on ATI specifically, and good governance more broadly.
In the future, the Network will likely have to address the challenges of managing the interests of its diverse membership, as many of its new members have varying levels of development and capacity for implementation of ATI legislation. While members are confident that they can provide operational expenses of the Network, funding to support activities of the Network remains an area that requires attention. The state agencies have development proposals to address this issue, including requiring annual contributions from members and permitting an “Observer” status for non-paying member countries to still benefit from knowledge exchanges.
The Network (RTA) is perceived as a fundamental tool to achieve both shared and particular objectives of the member institutions. It adds value to the work of these supervisory institutions by providing a forum for knowledge and experience sharing, as well as an opportunity to improve and build relationships among the state agencies while enhancing public trust in Government information through greater access. RTA has become an increasingly important coalition for state agencies to work in a proactive way to guarantee ATI laws’ implementation and address the challenges of a more open Government through information sharing with the public.