23, February, 2012

Building the Legal Framework to Support Transparency and Access to Information in Latin America

Currently, 65% of Latin American countries have Freedom of Information Acts, some of which incorporate innovative elements that go beyond the minimum standard for transparency and access to information.

In the last two decades, Latin American countries – including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Uruguay, among others – have designed and adopted Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs). These FOIAs have increased transparency in government actions, ensured citizens’ right to request and access public information, and enhanced overall accountability. This Brief describes and analyses critical features of these Latin American legal frameworks, highlighting their originality, design, preliminary outcomes, and the contextual factors that enabled their adoption. The lessons coming out of Latin American countries’ experiences in designing their FOIAs will likely be of use to countries in other regions that are looking to either create or strengthen their own legal framework supporting access to information.

ELLA Reviews: As part of ongoing efforts to ensure quality in our research and communications, the ELLA team asks recognised experts to conduct reviews of the knowledge materials in a given theme and produce a short written response. 

Read this ELLA Review of the ELLA knowledge materials on Transparency and Access to Information, written by Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy.

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Key Lessons:

  • A legal framework with a comprehensive scope and clear sanctions in the case of non-compliance ensures greater access to information and transparency.
  • An independent oversight body monitoring FOIA compliance can enforce the right to access information more effectively, thus legal frameworks including an agency like this are stronger.
  • By mandating governments to make public information accessible to all citizens, and particularly to vulnerable groups, FOIAs can promote not only greater accountability, but also participation and social justice.

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