Tag Archives: access to information

Open Government and Public Enterprises in Argentina

Argentina's state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, was privatized in 1993 but partially re-nationalized in 2012.

Argentina’s state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, was privatized in 1993 but partially re-nationalized in 2012.

Access to information is an integral part of an open democracy. The UNDP defines access to information as encompassing the core principles of democratic governance: participation, transparency, and accountability. And the promotion and protection of both access to information itself and flows of information that exists between constituents, government, civil society organizations and the private sector are of equal importance. Yet, in many countries around the world, transparency or access to information laws are not properly enforced.

Argentina is a good example of this. The Access to Information Decree 1172/03, obliges “the bodies, entities, enterprise, companies, dependencies and all other entity that work under the jurisdiction of the National Executive Branch” to provide public information. The Decree defines private organizations as those either receiving subsidies or contributions from the national government. This definition is particularly important because the percentage of the national budget devoted to public enterprises in Argentina has been increasing – in 2006 it was 2 percent and it rose up to 8 percent by 2012. But are these state-owned enterprises abiding by Decree 1172/03?

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Freedom of Information and Democracy

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By Hyeji Kim

We live surrounded by futuristic information technology ranging from Facebook and Google to wearable mobile gear. Yet, despite the gigantic leaps in technology for sharing information, many parts of the world still lack the right to share information at all. Reporters Without Borders have updated the World Press Freedom Index, measuring the level of freedom of information of both provider and recipient in 180 different countries. The indices show that many countries are behaving anachronistically by suppressing the media and journalists.

This kind of oppression takes many forms, ranging from censorship and legislative barriers to actual physical abuse and even abduction of journalists. The sources and causes for oppression vary greatly. Journalists are faced with assaults from all sides: the police, criminal groups, angered demonstrators, and devout political party supporters. In any case, different groups often see the media as a strategic target necessary to either achieve their political goals or cover their wrongful doings.

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The Push for Evidence-Based Policymaking in International Development

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Some central questions in international development are how to measure progress, make sound cross-country comparisons, and build the case for political and economic reforms. Multilateral institutions such as the World Bank play the role of repositories of credible, accessible, and up-to-date information that serves as an international benchmark for progress. Access to information is the basis for evidence-based policymaking and can serve as a catalyst for necessary reforms.

The World Bank recently convened a conference to present research around its  Doing Business index at my alma mater Georgetown University. The keynote speaker, Tim Besley of the London School of Economics, discussed the importance of World Bank data that is publicly available and internationally recognized as a reliable source of evidence-based policymaking.

The Doing Business Survey focuses on two main sets of indicators: regulations and legal institutions. The regulation indicators are the number of procedures, time, and cost involved in starting a business, to obtain a construction permit, getting access to electricity, registering property, paying taxes, and the ability to trade across international borders.

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Holding Government Accountable in Pakistan

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For the first time since its independence in 1947, Pakistan saw its first ever peaceful transition from one democratically elected government to another in 2013.  While this was a remarkable success for Pakistani democracy, the country still lacked a process for holding civilian governments accountable for their electoral promises.

Working with economic think tank Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), CIPE Pakistan initiated a project to monitor key economic promises made by the current government in its pre-election manifesto.

Through a consultative process, PRIME developed a scorecard to gauge the progress made by the government in the areas of economic revival, energy security, and social protection, focusing on 26 of the goals mentioned in the winning Pakistan Muslim League’s pre-election manifesto. Scores are based on a possible 10 points in each category, with the most thorough implementation earning the most points.

The first Scorecard report released on January 27 shows that the average score for the economic revival is 3.17 out of 10, energy security scored 4.16, and social protection scored 6. This report covered the period between June 2013-December 2013.

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Social Media Supports Democracy in Pakistan

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The last five years of democratic government helped Pakistani citizens to understand the benefits of living in a democratic society. One of those benefits is the ability to speak up and sharing your point of view. Social media is certainly helping Pakistani citizens to raise their voices.

Historically, media in general and social media in particular has been gagged in Pakistan by successive governments. On October 3, 2013, the most recent attempt was made by Sindh’s provincial government when it talked about banning social media platforms such as Viber, What’sUp and Skype in the province on the pretext of terrorists using these platforms for their activities.

Civil society organizations including Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT Related Services (P@SHA) together with social media users started campaign to protect their rights to access these platforms. Twitterraties  and Facebook users were at the forefront in condemning this move.

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A Toolkit for Access to Information Programs

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If knowledge is power, then ensuring access to information is a vital step in empowering civil society to participate in the policy making process.  Creating an environment where information, both political and economic, is widely available is also the key to fostering a citizenry that will hold elected officials and economic agents accountable to the public. Without mechanisms that allow for the diffusion of information, individuals cannot effectively participate in democratic processes or be successful actors in any market economy.

A new toolkit from CIPE discusses important elements surrounding access to information and provides a number of examples of how partners have worked to build institutions that allow for  greater sharing of knowledge.  In addition, the publication identifies core objectives in the field of access to information in an effort to guide the design of information programs.  Covering topics such as legal structures like freedom of information laws and alternative sources of information, the toolkit seeks to share key practices and lessons to improve the performance of such programs.

Download the toolkit here.

Frank Stroker is Research Assistant at CIPE.

The Role of Information in Planning for Syria’s Post-War Economic Future

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As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, it is important to remember that access to information and free and unbiased reporting are vital elements for developing a democracy. According to the 2013 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, Syria is ranked 176th out of 179 countries. Since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, Syrian authorities have restricted coverage of the unrest and continue to misreport the civil war on state-run TV stations.

My colleague Stephen Rosenlund wrote in his blog post A Bright Light on Syria’s Horizon about CIPE’s work with the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), a think tank dedicated to building a free, pluralistic, and independent Syrian homeland that rests on a strong economy and ensures a life of freedom and dignity for all citizens. Despite the ongoing civil war and inability to establish a home office inside Syria, SEF has established a robust online presence through its website and social media pages allowing for the exchange of ideas and knowledge.

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