Promoting Accountable and Inclusive Institutions in Paraguay: Learning from Access to Information in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay
With Paraguay’s Access to Information (ATI) Law recently approved, coordination of its implementation fell under the responsibility of the ATI Directorate of Paraguay. In order to address capacity gaps, this knowledge exchange with agencies from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay enabled the ATI Directorate to learn good practices. As a result, a strategic working plan was developed, and an ATI multi-stakeholder working group was established.
Paraguay’s Access to Information (ATI) Law was approved in September 2014, and the Ministry of Justice, through the ATI Directorate, became responsible for coordinating the implementation of the legislation which, as stipulated by law, had to become effective a year after its approval.
The ATI Directorate faced capacity gaps given that a new set of processes and mechanisms needed to be set up. Therefore, the ATI Directorate counted on the assistance of the SENATICS (ICT Secretariat), STP (Technical Secretariat of Planning), and SENAC (Anticorruption Secretariat) in order to fulfill that task.
The main goal of this exchange was to bring together the responsible agencies to build consensus around a roadmap for implementation of the ATI law, and to prevent fragmentation of efforts and institutional turfs. The ATI Directorate, being a small and newly-instituted unit, would benefit from inter-agency cooperation and collective leadership for the implementation of the ATI Law.
The idea for this exchange was explored during a conversation at the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Regional Meeting for the Americas in Costa Rica in November 2014 between one of the Bank’s team leaders and the former head of Paraguay’s ATI Directorate. Consequently, Brazil’s Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), Chile’s Council for Transparency, and Uruguay’s Agency for the E-Government of Information Society (AGESIC) were identified as knowledge providers based on their international experience and Paraguay’s needs.
Ahead of visits of experts to Paraguay, a series of four videoconferences took place between February and March 2015 during which they and key stakeholders of the ATI law– including STP, SENATICS, SENAC, and civil society practitioners –assessed implementation gaps and identified areas of opportunity. Officials from the three knowledge providers visited Paraguay between June and August. Chile’s Council for Transparency helped to identify who could assist with the implementation of the ATI law, and provided input to draft the initial strategic working plan for the law’s implementation, including short- and medium-term activities. Uruguay’s AGESIC shared their experience in building capacity of public officials in charge of ATI offices and how to promote the law and its relevance as a fundamental human right throughout the country. Brazil’s CGU shared expertise in developing ICT tools related to ATI, and provided valuable feedback on the pilot version of Paraguay’s web portal to process ATI requests and proactively disclose public information.
In August, a team from Paraguay undertook a study-tour to Chile’s Council for Transparency. Finally, a national awareness-raising seminar was co-organized by the Ministry of Justice and CEAMSO, a local NGO, and co-sponsored by the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). On September 18, 2015, a week after the seminar, Paraguay’s ATI Law became effective.
The learning obtained from the knowledge providers, along with the just-in-time activities led to the achievement of key results to prepare the ATI Directorate to implement the Law.
Enhanced knowledge: The stakeholders from Paraguay gained greater knowledge regarding strategic planning, training of public officials, use of technological platforms to handle information requests, development of a framework for data collection, and oversight of the law implementation.
Enhanced network: Stakeholders from Paraguay interacted with peers from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, which strengthened linkages with them, particularly as part of the Latin American ATI oversight agencies network (RTA). This will enable them to continue cooperating through this regional network in activities such as the recently celebrated Right to Know Day and an Advance Certificate on ATI course sponsored by the RTA to take place in December 2015. An ATI inter-agency working group was established in Paraguay to support implementation and oversight.
Increased implementation know-how: Paraguay’s ATI Directorate obtained greater knowledge on the institutional arrangements necessary for a functioning Unit, collaborating with other government agencies, and collecting relevant data on the implementation of the law. A strategic plan was developed in coordination with the ATI working group to help guide the implementation activities.
- The format of leading off with preliminary videoconferences proved beneficial to connect the knowledge recipient with the knowledge providers ahead of in-person visits.
- In future, it would be helpful to space the in-persons visits a bit further apart in order to allow the knowledge recipients to not only prepare for the visits, but also to digest and work on recommendations provided from a previous visit.
- Holding a national seminar to conclude the exchange program was very valuable to create awareness about the exchange - its goals and results - and the importance of the new ATI law.
- With more countries around the world establishing ATI regimes and adhering to regional and global networks that focus on open governance, there could be future opportunities to replicate this exchange in other regions of the world.
The World Bank Group served as a convener to bring together the exchange partners, and facilitated the design of the exchange and its activities. It also provided knowledge and expertise in the area of access to information. The exchange was financed through a grant of US$44,327 from the South-South Knowledge Exchange Facility.
The following partnered with Paraguay’s Ministry of Justice. Their countries have implemented ATI legislations in the past few years, are ranked among those with the lowest corruption perception indexes in South America, and are members of international networks that focus on advancing transparency and access to information such as the OGP and the Latin American ATI oversight agencies network (RTA).
Uruguay’s Agency for the E-Government of Information Society (AGESIC). In an interview, Mariana Gatti, adviser to the Unit of Access to Public Information of AGESICstated, “This kind of exchange of experiences is very enriching for participating countries, since it contributes to strengthening the Right to Access to Public Information in the region and allows for instances of further joint work to be identified.”
The Latin American ATI oversight agencies network (RTA) published news stories of the activities of the exchange which helped raise awareness around the region about this initiative. The ATI Directorate of Paraguay joined the network as a result of its interaction with the knowledge providers, all of whom are also members of the RTA.
CEAMSO (Centro de Estudios Ambientales y Sociales) provided funds to SENATICS to develop the web portal to process ATI requests and proactively disclose public information.
Thesuccessful implementation of activities of this exchange will allow the Directorate of ATI to delegate tasks and count on the assistance of the ATI inter-agency working group to advance the ATI agenda. The group members (from ATI Directorate, SENAC, SENATICS, STP) are more committed to working together to achieve results. Through this exchange, they have concluded that moving an ATI agenda forward is too big a task for a single institution, and that coordination with other stakeholders is key for a successful ATI regime.
The developed strategic working plan will serve as a guide to continue working towards establishing ATI offices throughout all public bodies, and explore possible support by USAID and others. The interaction between the Bank’s Country Management Unit and the Ministry of Justice has encouraged dialogue to explore future collaboration on open government issues.
Here are comments from some participants (translated from Spanish):
Javier Quiñonez: National Secretariat of Information and Communication Technology: “We saw in Chile how important is to manage cultural change through a strong campaign of socialization and dissemination.”
Ariel Ojeda: General Director of Prevention and Transparency of the National Anticorruption Secretariat:
“The exchange was a really rich experience. The knowledge will be key in order to plan our work.”
Romy Fisher, member of the Access to Public Information Group, a civil organization that advocated for the Access to Information Law: “The law means a big progress for our democracy, because all citizens will be able to cooperate with the Government to improve their quality of life.”
Federico Legal, Director of Access to Information at Paraguay’s Ministry of Justice: “We have seen realities that we will apply to the situation of Paraguay to continue working on a key issue for democracy in our country.”
Knowledge Exchange materials in Spanish: http://www.bancomundial.org/es/country/paraguay/brief/paraguay-ley-acceso-informacion-publica
FEATURE STORY - Learning from peers: Implementing the Access to Information law in Paraguay: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/08/11/paraguay-intercambia-experiencias-ley-acceso-informacion
FEATURE STORY - Paving the way to implement the Access to Information Law: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/09/02/paraguay-allanar-caminos-ley-de-acceso-informacion-publica
Paraguay’s Access to Information Law (September 17, 2015): http://www.presidencia.gov.py/archivos/documentos/DECRETO4064_6b26wnlx.pdf
OGP Blog Post on Lessons Learned by Federico Legal, Ex Director of ATI Directorate, Vice-Ministry of Justice: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/blog/federico-legal/2015/10/16/programa-de-intercambio-sur-sur-en-la-implementaci%C3%B3n-de-la-ley-de
NEWS STORY - Paraguayan ATI Delegation visits Chile’s Council for Transparency:
NEWS STORY – Exchange of Knowledge and Experiences for the Implementation of the Law on Access to Information in our Country:
FEATURE STORY - Now, Information is the Rule and Secrecy is the Exception: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/09/02/ahora-informacion-regla-secreto-excepcion
FEATURE STORY - The Exchange of Experience is very Enriching to Strengthen the Right to Access to Public Information in the Region: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/09/02/intercambio-experiences-enriquecedor-fortalecer-derecho-acceso-informacion
Paraguay’s OGP Website: http://www.gobiernoabierto.gov.py/
News report video clip - “Seminario de Acceso a la información pública” - ABC TV Paraguay: (https://youtu.be/U9gfK9Rin58)
Photo Gallery & Quotes – Participants from the Knowledge Exchange: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bancomundiallac/21012355954/in/album-72157656637392664/R
Photo: “Paraguayan ATI Delegation visits Chile’s Council for Transparency” – Ministry of Justice – (http://www.ministeriodejusticia.gov.py/application/files/5714/3981/3315/DSC_0022.jpg)
Photo “National Access to Information Seminar in Paraguay” – Paraguay OGP Website: (http://www.gobiernoabierto.gov.py/sites/default/files/SNIP.jpg)