World Bank Study Focuses on RTI Implementaton Issues

7 March 2013

Right to information laws “will accomplish little” in poor countries, according to the author of new World Bank study, “unless concerted efforts are made to address the broader enabling environment, and appropriate capacity building strategies are devised.”  

The report by Anupama Dokeniya is based on individual research studies of implementation in eight countries: Albania, India, Mexico, Moldova, Peru, Romania, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

Implementation efforts have been “very uneven,” according to Dokeniya, who summarizes the “not surprising” findings in a World Bank blog post. She wrote:

In some countries, RTI laws had been leveraged effectively for extracting information in a number of important areas, ranging from public expenditures, to performance and procurement, and exposing instances of corruption. In other countries, the existence of an RTI law had little impact in any of these areas, and oversight and capacity building mechanisms had either not been set up, or not functioned effectively.

International agencies, she comments, “have pushed policy reforms without adequate attention to the constraints and challenges of implementation.”

The report discusses the conditions that make RTI laws succeed in practice, including: government effectiveness and rule of law, the broader quality of the civil service, quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the government’s commitment to such policies.

In addition, the “capacity and influence of dedicated oversight and monitoring groups is important to keep up momentum for the implementation, and use RTI to uncover information on corruption or non-performance and demand corrective actions,” she wrote.

“A strong independent oversight agency is important to sustain the momentum for the law, and ensure its effective implementation by serving as an impartial, independent mechanism for redress against non-compliance,” Dokeniya wrote.

Her blog post concludes:

The relevance of these dimensions raises important questions about the usefulness of introducing RTI, where administrative capacity might be weak, the state less responsive to civil society pressures, and check and balance institutions not influential enough– as reflected, for instance, in Uganda and Albania, where there is little evidence of their respective RTI laws having had any impact. Clearly, the near universal recognition of the right to information as a fundamental right (regardless of whether it enables other economic and development outcomes or not) provides a compelling rationale for supporting its adoption. But, unless concerted efforts are made to address the broader enabling environment, and appropriate capacity building strategies are devised for poorer environments, RTI reforms will accomplish little.

Anupama Dokeniya is a Governance Specialist in the Public Sector Governance Group at the World Bank. She works on the implementation and monitoring of the Bank’s Governance and Anti-Corruption Strategy, and leads analytical work on implementation of access to information reforms. She has also worked as a journalist and a consultant on information, communications, and technology (ICT) for Development, and led training programs for the media in many countries.

The case studies were  prepared by: Jolanda Trebicka and Gerti Shella (Albania), Yamini Aiyar and Mandakini Devasher (India), Marcos Mendiburu and Yemile Mizrahi (Mexico), Sergiu Lipcean  and Laura Stefan (Moldova), Robert Pereira Chumbe  (Peru), Sorin Ionita and Laura Stefan (Romania), Anupama Dokeniya (Uganda), and Tom McClean (United Kingdom).

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