10, February, 2012

Using Information for Accountability and Justice: Lessons from Latin American Civil Society

Using the right to access public information, Latin American civil society groups are achieving concrete policy changes, as these case studies from Mexico, Ecuador and Costa Rica show.

Throughout Latin America, civil society organisations (CSOs) are exacting accountability by undertaking independent assessments of the implementation and outcomes of public policies and programmes. To get the information needed for these assessments, CSOs have used the Right to Information guaranteed by Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs), Constitutions or Court decisions. By conducting these exercises, civil society has highlighted mismanagement and inefficiencies in public policies, and pushed for reform, especially to ensure that policies benefit socially excluded groups. Using case studies from Mexico, Ecuador and Costa Rica, this Brief analyses how CSOs are successfully using the right to information as a tool to improve accountability and social justice in Latin America.

This Brief has been reviewed by Andrea Ordóñez, Director of Research, Grupo FARO, Ecuador, aordonez@grupofaro.org and Steffan Gómez, Researcher, Estado de la Nación Programme, Costa Rica, sgomez@estadonacion.or.cr.

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:

  • The right to information can be a powerful tool for undertaking social audits which can improve accountability and social justice.
  • Policy changes are more likely to happen if civil society is able to: a) engage partners who could use the findings of social audits to advance their rights or to hold governments accountable; and b) build linkages with government actors responsible for public policy design or implementation.

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