(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - São Paulo, 21.09.2011 - As one of the founding partners of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the Brazilian government recently co-launched a multilateral initiative aimed at supporting national efforts around the world to promote transparency, fight corruption, strengthen accountability and empower citizens. In sharp contrast however, the Brazilian government still has not implemented its own national right to information bill.
With exactly one week to go before the world marks Right to Know Day (28.09.11), the government must ensure that the Senate makes the passing of the national bill a priority, without further delay or obstacles, or Brazil risks losing its credibility as an OGP right to information champion.
"Since Brazil is co-leading with the US the Open Government Partnership, it is imperative that the Brazilian government and Senate champion transparency by driving forward their own progressive right to information law, in order to gain more legitimacy at the global level," said Paula Martins, Director South America office ARTICLE 19.
Eight nations in the partnership have agreed to an 'Open Government Declaration,' under which they pledge to be more transparent at every level, since more information on government activity should be open, timely and freely available to the people.
Although the Brazilian government has overcome some obstacles put forward by the Senate in relation to the approval of a right to information bill, it was not voted in on time for the formal launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), co-chaired by Brazil and the United States, in Washington.
Previously, the access to information bill was jeopardised by Senators from the Commission for External Relations and National Defense, chaired by former President Fernando Collor. The government acted to circumvent the Commission in order to vote for the bill before the launch of the OGP. However, the Senate has a series of priority vote bills which cannot be surpassed according to its statute, and expectation within the Senate is that the access to information bill will not be voted on until October 2011.
"Although we welcome government efforts to hasten the approval of the right to information bill for the purposes of the Partnership, this bill has been hampered by the Senate's delay in providing a vote," said Paula Martins, director for the South America office of ARTICLE 19.
According to the original OGP roadmap, Brazil meets the criteria to participate in the OGP except for the absence of an access to information law. The country improved its budget transparency and some participatory mechanisms but the lack of the right to information law still hampers monitoring and participation in public policies and facilitates a culture of secrecy within public administration.
The OGP was first proposed in 2010 by the U.S. President Barack Obama at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, and is moving forward at a fast pace. Until now, over 30 countries have agreed to adopt minimum standards and commitments to "promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance."