FOI Notes: Environmental Transparency, Philippines, Canada, Trinidad, Bhutan, US, Nigeria, Research

1 December 2016

Environmental Transparency: The Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Information submitted comments on the chapter on access to environmental information under the fifth round of the negotiating committee of Principle 10, held in Cepal between Nov. 22 and 25 in Santiago de Chile. Access the document here .

Philippines: Implementation of the executive order on FOI began on Nov. 25, reports The Rappler and others. The Department of Finance released its People’s Freedom of Information Manual. Reporters from private media outlets were not allowed to cover the official launch of the manual and a FOI portal, the SunStar said.

Canada: Access to information in Alberta is fast approaching a “crisis situation,” according to information and privacy commissioner Jill Clayton, the CBC reported. “I do not believe I should have to order public bodies to comply with a clear obligation under the law,” she said in her annual report.

Trinidad: The Appeal Court issued a decision ordering publication under the Freedom of Information Act of the legal opinions on which a ministry had been relying, The Trinidad Express reported.

Bhutan: Opposition MPs stood against introducing the Information Communications and Media (ICM) Bill 2016, saying that they wanted the RTI bill to be tabled first, reported the media.

United States: FOIA activist Ryan Shapiro begins a GoFundMe project to raise money to file FOIA requests concerning the Trump presidency, Salon reports.

United States: The FOI request site Muckrocker begins a FOI newsletter.

United States: Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation reducing the time agencies can take to drag out appeals under the FOI law, Politico reports.

Nigeria: A workshop is held on the fifth anniversary of the FOI Act.

Transparency Research: Suzanne J. Piotrowski publishes “The “Open Government Reform” Movement: The Case of the Open Government Partnership and U.S. Transparency Policies.” Abstract:

Open government initiatives, which include not only transparency but also participation and collaboration policies, have become a major administrative reform. As such, these initiatives are gaining cohesiveness in literature. President Obama supported open government through a range of policies including the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multinational initiative. The OGP requires member organizations to develop open government national action plans, which are used as the basis for my analysis. To frame this paper, I use and expand upon David Heald’s directions and varieties of transparency framework. A content analysis of the 62 commitments in the US Second Open Government National Action Plan was conducted. The analysis provides two findings of note: First, the traditional view of transparency was indeed the most prevalent in the policies proposed. In that respect, not much has changed, even with the OGP’s emphasis on a range of approaches. Second, openness among and between agencies played a larger than expected role. While the OGP pushed an array of administrative reforms, the initiative had limited impact on the type of policies that were proposed and enacted. In sum, the OGP is an administrative reform that was launched with great fanfare, but limited influence in the US context. More research needs to be conducted to determine is the “open government reform” movement as a whole suffers from such problems in implementation.

Transparency Research: An article by Gregory Michener and Otavio Ritter is titled “Comparing Resistance To Open Data Performance Measurement: Public Education In Brazil And The UK.” Abstract:

Much is known about governmental resistance to disclosure laws, less so about multi-stakeholder resistance to open data. This study compares open data initiatives within the primary and secondary school systems of Brazil and the UK, focusing on stakeholder resistance and corresponding policy solutions. The analytical framework is based on the ‘Three-Ps’ of open data resistance to performance metrics, corresponding to professional, political, and privacy-related concerns. Evidence shows that resistance is highly nuanced, as stakeholders alternately serve as both principals and agents. School administrators, for example, are simultaneously principals to service providers and teachers, and at once agents to parents and politicians. Relying on a different systems comparison, in-depth interviews, and newspaper content analyses, we find that similar stakeholders across countries demonstrate strikingly divergent levels of resistance. In overcoming stakeholder resistance – across socioeconomic divides – context conscientious ‘data-informed’ evaluations may promote greater acceptance than narrowly ‘data-driven’ performance measurements.

Transparency Research: An article, “Local government transparency index: determinants of municipalities’ rankings,” by Joaquim Filipe Ferraz Esteves de Araujo , Francisca Tejedo-Romero. “Findings – The results shows that political factors like electoral turnout, political ideology, and political competition have a significant effect on the index of transparency. Gender has no significant effect on the index of transparency.”

Transparency Research: “The Age of Transparency,” an article in Foreign Affairs by Sean P. Larkin. Abstract:

The article discusses the world’s growing focus on transparency in international affairs, which is expected to development into unprecedented
levels due to advancements in technology like surveillance sensors and data analytics. Topics discussed include former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s aim of global transparency in his U.S. foreign policy, advancements in commercial surveillance capabilities and transparency as a tool to hold
leaders more accountable.

Transparency Research: “Transparency and accountability: principles and rules for the construction of publicity,” by Fernando Filgueiras. Abstract:

Western countries have experienced a growing demand for accountability as a key element to the democratization of the State. This demand has given rise
to an advocacy towards a transparency of State institutions and its subsequent public policies. This advocacy, in turn, aims to make governments accountable before the public. The goal of this article is to establish a critical perspective towards what we call transparency policy in favor of what we call publicity policy. The latter provides a normative argument for the concept of accountability aimed towards a deeper democracy and stronger public management processes.

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