27, March, 2014

ELLA Learning Alliance on Citizen Oversight – Module 1: Strengthening the Legal Framework to Ensure Transparency and Access to Information

Module 1 of the Learning Alliance on Citizen Oversight discussed howFreedom of Information Acts, regional institutions and civil society initiatives have helped advance the right to information and set strong bases for civil society to work on improving social justice.

This document summarises conclusions drawn from an ELLA online Learning Alliance (LEA) on Citizen Oversight of Public Policies during which experts and participants, mainly from the global south, discussed the Latin American legal frameworks and institutional conditions that have enabled or prevented the effective realisation of the right to information.  In countries where this right has been formally recognised and institutionalised, political actors (states, international human rights agencies and civil society) have mobilised to demand respect, protection and promotion of the right to information. These actors have developed and engaged in important oversight activities.The rich LEA discussions allowed participants from Africa, Asia and Latin America to explore similarities and contrasts between their regions and to identify issues and conclusions that seem to be critical for the different themes.

The LEA was moderated by experts from Fundar, with guest experts from Latin America invited to share their perspectives and experiences during the online debates. The discussions that took place between participants and Latin American experts focused around three main issues: 1) The current situation in Latin America regarding access to information; 2) National legal frameworks and their enforcement as mechanisms to realise the right to information; 3) The role of civil society in promoting the right to information.

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Key Conclusions:

  • The acknowledgement of the right to information as a human right by national and regional legal frameworks is the keystone to the advancement of the right to information. Strong legal frameworks provide civil society with sufficient backup to demand rights and enhance social justice.
  • Regional legal frameworks and institutions promote and guide national processes to implement Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs). Likewise, rulings by regional courts play a crucial role in compelling governments to comply with their obligations regarding disclosure of public information.
  • The active participation of civil society through strong coalitions helps to enforce the right to information, either through appealing to national and regional courts to set precedents, lobbying for the approval of FOIAs, continuously demanding access to public information or by raising awareness amongst citizens and public officials.
  • Mechanisms for improving access to information are more likely to achieve their objectives if they are easily accessible by citizens and take their needs into account.

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