Jamaican Activist Urges Donor Push on Transparency

26 February 2015

Foreign aid should be more directly tied to governments’ efforts to improve their transparency and donors should place more emphasis on greater grassroots involvement, according to Aylair Livingstone, a Jamaican transparency activist who presented an overview of access in the Caribbean at a World Bank webinar.

Livingston summarized the freedom of information situation in the Caribbean, where eight out of 20 nations have FOI regimes (Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Antigua, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Guyana). She noted that bill have been drafted in five places (the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts, and St. Lucia).

She looked examined the features of the laws, looked at implementation issues and highlighted success stories.

“In terms of implementation, the Cayman Islands is regarded as having the best FOI regime so far in the region,” reported Livingston, an attorney in Jamaica.

The regional Caribbean Community (Caricom) should plan a larger advocacy role for transparency, Livinsgton said. “This has been lacking, even as some countries have now endorsed and embarked upon Open Data initiatives.”

The 2104 Caricom Implementation Plan says “very little” concerning the right to information “in the midst of ICT (information and communications technology) for development plans, which itself is indisputably necessary,” she commented.

“Caricom countries’ scant and diminishing regard for FOI is also very apparent in the fact that to date, only Trinidad and Tobago is an OGP member. The author suggested using the United Nations Pacific Regional Anti?Corruption (UN?PRAC) Project as a template.

Livingston reported that only Jamaica, Trinidad and the Cayman Islands have FOI websites that can be readily accessed. “All three are outdated and not maintained regularly,” she commented, adding that the website for Cayman’s Office of the Information Commissioner is up-to-date.

Livingston recommended the increased use of technology, such as request tracking software. She also suggested the development of more Request Assistance portals for the public such as Muck Rock, WhatDoTheyKnow and PublishWhatYouFund

“Develop more youth centric FOI education strategies,” said Livingston, who pointed out that both UNESCO and Transparency International recently published “excellent guidelines” on developing youth community radio and empowering youth activism.

 

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