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Press Releases: Americas Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information

April 28-30, 2009 

(Read the April 24, 2009 release)


May 21, 2009

Plan of Action to Advance the Right of Access to Public Information in the Americas Released Today

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Deborah Hakes, 404-420-5124 

Atlanta . . . Participants in a conference on the right of access to information released today their findings and plan of action to advance the right in the Americas. The Americas Regional Plan of Action provides a blueprint for the regional and international community, states, and non-state actors to establish, develop, and nurture the right of access to information in the Americas and calls on them to commit to the plan in furtherance of our common objective. The regional document serves as an annex to last year's globalAtlanta Declaration and Plan of Action (PDF).
 
The conference was held April 28-30, 2009, in Lima, Peru, and was organized by The Carter Center in collaboration with the Organization of American States, the Andean Jurists Commission, and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. More than 115 representatives from government, civil society, media, private sector, regional intergovernmental organizations, international and regional financial institutions, and donors from 18 countries in the region came together to consider the main obstacles and potential solutions to advance the right of access to information in the Americas.   
 
Participants found that the greatest challenges to the right of access to information in the Americas are a lack of implementation and enforcement of legislation, backsliding in the more developed systems, and an absence of widespread use of the existing legislation and mechanisms, and that the diversity of the region necessitates diversity in responses. 
 
The group also agreed that states have a special obligation to disclose information pertaining to human rights violations or corruption. This is all the more important in the Americas regional context of past state-sponsored or approved human rights violations and the more recent "global war on terror," whereby systematic torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment has been allowed to flourish under the veil of state secrets. 
 
Chairing the final day of the conference, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter reminded those gathered that "access to information can change the landscape of society" as it provides citizens a tool to hold government accountable, improve development, and assure greater security, as well as being a fundamental human right. President Carter was in Peru as part of a trip to four Latin American countries also including Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil, where he met with the heads of state and urged them to establish and implement access to information legislation.
 
Read the full Americas Regional Findings and Plan of Action and the Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action for the Advancement of the Right of Access to Information (PDF).


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A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Center has observed over 70 elections in nearly 30 countries. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.




 

April 24, 2009

Carter Center Conference to Address Advancements and Challenges to the Right of Access to Information in the Americas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: In Atlanta, Deborah Hakes 1 404 420 5124

More than 100 high-ranking officials, civil society leaders, and journalists from 20 countries will participate in a Carter Center-hosted Americas Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information from April 28-30 in Lima, Peru. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will attend as part of his four-country trip to visit Carter Center projects in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil, in addition to the Lima conference, from April 27-May 4.
 
Also joining the conference will be representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS), World Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank, as well as such participants as Inter-American Court of Human Rights Vice-President Diego Garcia Sayan, Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon, and World Bank Andean Region Director Carlos Felipe Jaramillo. The Americas Regional conference is organized in collaboration with the OAS, the Andean Commission of Jurists, and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas

"This is a particularly important moment in the development and entrenchment of the right of access to information in the Americas," said Laura Neuman, access to information project manager and associate director of the Americas Program at The Carter Center.  "Regionally, we can celebrate our successes in getting many laws passed and the strong support of the Organization of American States for the right of access to information, but we cannot lose sight of the greater need to assure full and effective implementation and compliance with these laws."

Participants will examine the current status of the right of access to information in the Americas and the ongoing challenges, as well as the positive impact that greater transparency can have in this time of national security, climate change, and economic crises. In advance of the official proceedings, conference participants also will have an opportunity to consult with World Bank representatives to shape its new policy on information disclosure.
 
Access to information is a fundamental human right and a necessary tool for holding government accountability, improving governance, and for providing a meaningful right of public participation. More than half of the countries in the Americas have an access to information law and the rest are in the process of contemplating how to increase government transparency. Although there have been great successes in the Americas, most notably the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, the first of any inter-regional court, that all citizens have a right to public information, there are still many challenges.  In many of the countries in the region, there is a failure to fully implement the law, backsliding toward secrecy, or a lack of citizen use.
 
This regional conference follows the February 2008 International Conference on the Right to Public Information, which convened leaders and experts in Atlanta, Georgia, to explore the issue at the global level and will allow the participants to explore the unique challenges facing our region. 

At the conclusion of the 2008 meeting, the conference issued the Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action for the Advancement of the Right of Access to Information. The April 28-30 regional event will contextualize those findings and culminate in a more specific plan of action for the Americas, serving as an addendum to the global document. A similar conference will be held later this year for the Africa region.


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The Carter Center has worked in the access to public information field since 1999, working extensively in Jamaica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mali, and China to support the establishment of comprehensive laws and voluntary disclosure strategies and assist their implementation and enforcement. The Carter Center also has worked at the regional level with organizations such as the Organization of American States, the World Bank, and regional civil society networks.
 
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Center has observed over 70 elections in nearly 30 countries. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

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