The Global Access to Information Initiative
Global Access to Information Initiative
Access to information is the cornerstone to good governance, meaningful participation, and increasing transparency, and is recognized as a fundamental human right. Since 1999, The Carter Center has supported the establishment of an access to information culture, beginning with a project in Jamaica that focused on ongoing legislative efforts to pass an access to information law. From its original work exclusively in the Americas region, the Global Access to Information Initiative expanded its programming to support the development of international norms and regional standards, as well as applying its model of promoting participatory lawmaking through informed debate and facilitating new partnerships between government and civil society in the establishment of the right to information in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Mali. Currently, the initiative continues to collaborate closely with international and regional bodies such as the World Bank and the Organization of American States; engage in focus counties including Liberia and China; and create tools and serve as a resource to advance the right of access to information around the world.
Guiding Principles: The Need for Access to Information
Passage of an access to information act, however, is only the first step. Following the promulgation of legislation, governments must adequately implement and enforce the laws; otherwise, it becomes simply a "check the box" exercise and does not increase citizen trust or government accountability. Thus, appropriate emphasis must be given to the three phases of developing an access to information culture: passage, implementation, and enforcement, with a complementary focus on encouraging the law's use.
In partnership with government and civil society, the Center's Global Access to Information Initiative focuses not only on the passage of legislation but also encourages effective implementation, enforcement, awareness, and use. Establishing a vibrant access to information culture is the responsibility of both government and civil society. While governments must pass comprehensive legislation and implement the necessary procedures, civil society also must play a leading role, such as by making information requests and pursuing appeals when requests are denied.
The Carter Center's Contributions to Access to Information
Throughout the world, The Carter Center has been instrumental in providing technical assistance to legislators and civil society advocates in the drafting and passage of access to information laws. The Center has facilitated training and expert consultation to public servants with regard to archiving, document retrieval, and information request processing. The Carter Center also is effective at "getting a dialogue started between groups that never speak" and in positively engaging voices that are seldom heard. For example, The Carter Center has offered hundreds of workshops among different sectors of society, including the government, civil society organizations, the private sector, and the media. As part of the hemispheric and country-specific work, the Center produces and publishes materials for widespread distribution.
While many organizations focus on the passage of the law, The Carter Center has recognized the importance of full and effective implementation. Unfortunately, very little information or analysis exists on governments' implementation efforts. To address this shortcoming, The Carter Center developed an access to information legislation Implementation Assessment Tool (IAT), which diagnoses the extent to which a public administration is enabled to respond to requests and to provide information and provides an implementation roadmap for the government. In 2010, the Center's access to information initiative developed the tool's methodology, and will next pilot the tool in selected countries. Read more about the IAT.
International ATI &
Resources: Access to Information