Frequently Asked Questions on Access to Information
What is the purpose of this policy?
The purpose of this policy is to maximize access to the information in possession of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS), reaffirming its commitment to transparency in its operations while striking an appropiate balance with its obligation to respect privacy in its relations with the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS), staff, independent contractors and others.
What is the information available on the OAS website?
The GS/OAS proactively discloses and updates abundant information on its website www.oas.org.
This information includes its organizational structure, its budget, its rules and procedures its functions and activities,
and copies of treaties, conventions, bilateral agreements and so on. Moreover, through its Live Webcast system, the GS/OAS
provides direct access to General Assembly sessions and meetings of the Permanent Council and other bodies, in accordance with
rules and decisions on such access made by those bodies.
What are the exceptions?
While the purpose of the Policy is to provide the public with the broadest possible accces to the information in the possession of the GS/OAS,
it is also essential to protect the confidentiality of certain information provided by other organs of the OAS, its member states, staff,
independent contractors and other parties involded. Therefore, the GS/OAS does not provide access to:
Personal information. Unless pertinent rules, procedures and practices allow it, the GS/OAS does not provide access to:
- Medical information and personal communications.
- Information whose disclosure is considered by the GS/OAS to be an invasion of the privacy of staff, independent contractors,
their family members or third parties.
- Auditors' reports or investigative reports of the Office of the Inspector General, unless they are requested by the permanent mission
of an OAS member state.
- Information that could compromise the security of staff and independent contractors and their families.
- Information on bidding processes.
- Information subject to professional secrecy, including, inter alia, communications affected and/or received by attorneys in the Department
of Legal Services and other legal advisors of the GS/OAS.
- Information bound by confidentiality agreements.
- Commercial or financial information whose disclosure should be harmful to the commercial or financial interests of the GS/OAS or of other
parties involded, except when disclosure is requested by the permanent mission of an OAS member state.
- Deliberative information, whether internal or exchanged with representatives and officials of member states or third parties, including e-mails,
letters, memorandums, reports and other communications.
- Information provided by a member state or a third party on the understanding that it is confidential, unless that member state or that third party
expressly grants prior consent to its disclosure.
- Information whose disclosure could compromise the security and/or the international and intergovernmental relations of the member states or
- Information protected by copyright.
- Information on individual petitions and cases, precautionary measures, and any document relating to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
and its Executive Secretariat, which are governed by pertinent rules and procedures on the provision of information.
- Any other information that, in the opinion of the Information Officer or, where applicable, the Committee, is as sensitive as the information
protected by the exceptions described in the foregoing paragraphs.
What is the scope and application of the exceptions?
- The exceptions contemplated in the Chapter IV.1 must not be construed or applied in such a way as to thwart or prevent the exchange of information
among the different units of the GS/OAS in the normal performance of their duties.
- The personal information referred to in Chapter IV.1.(a) may be disclosed either at the request of the staff member or independent contractor
or, in certain cases, pursuant to the rules, procedures and practices of the GS/OAS the purpose of which is, inter alia, to help ensure that staff and
independent contractors comply with their legal and financial obligations.
- The GS/OAS reserves the right to disclose information included under one or more of the exceptions described in Chapter IV.1 if it considers that
the interest of the Organization so warrants and the benefits of disclosure outweigh the possible harm to the interest protected by the exceptions.
- The GS/OAS reserves the right to restrict, under exceptional circumstances, the access to information that it normally discloses.
What are the procedures for requesting information?
- The person applying for access to information (applicant) shall address his or her application in writing to the Information Office, either
electronically, by mail or by fax. The name of the Information Officer, his/her e-mail address, postal address and fax number are posted in the section
reserved for the Policy on the GS/OAS website www.oas.org
- The application must contain:
- The applicant's contact information;
- A sufficiently detailed description of the information required (including title and date, where relevant); and
- The preferred medium for delivery of the information.
The Information Officer shall register the application and assign it a number for follow-up purposes. Within ten calendar days of receipt
of the application, the Information Officer shall acknowledge receipt of it and inform the applicant of the number assigned to his/her application.
If necessary, and by the same deadline, the Information Officer may request further information and data regarding the information requested.
- When information is requested that is already available to the public on the GS/OAS website, the Information Officer shall respond to the
Applicant within 20 calendar days of receipt of the application. That deadline may be extended by a further 20 calendar days for complex or voluminous
applications, after notifying the Applicant of the extension. Failure to respond by the aforementioned deadlines shall be construed as a denial of the
application. The response may consist of:
- Denial of the application because the information requested falls within the exceptions listed in Chapter IV;
- Denial of the application because the GS/OAS does not have the information requested or because the data provided
by the Applicant are insufficient for locating the information; or
- Confirmation that the GS/OAS does possess the information, together with an indication of the cost of copying and remitting it.
Within 10 business days of receipt of confirmation of the corresponding deposit, the GS/OAS will procede to dispatch the information requested.
- The only remedy against unwarranted failure to meet the deadlines set in this Chapter V shall be an appeal to the Committee.
Is there an Appeal process?
- An Applicant denied access to the information requested may file an appeal if he or she considers that denial is unjustified.
- Appeals against denial of access to informatio shall be addressed in writing to the Committee, via the Information Officer, either
electronically or by mail or fax within 30 calendar days following expiration of the deadlines established in Chapter V.B.3.
Appeals received after that deadline shall be regarded as extemporaneous and dismissed.
Appeals should contain the following information:
- The Application number assigned in the Information Officer's acknowledgment of receipt of the request for(to) information;
- The Applicant's contact information;
- A description of the originally requested information; and
- A statement of the facts and reasons substantiating the appeal.
- The Committee may contact the Applicant to request further information regarding his or her appeal.
- Within 30 calendar days following receipt of the appeal, the Committee shall make a final decision either revoking or confirming
the Information Officer's previous decision. Under exceptional circumstances, that deadline may be extended by an additional 20 calendar days.
- The Committee shall notify the Applicant of its decision in writing. If the Committee revokes the decision taken by the Information Officer,
the Applicant shall be entitled to receive the information he or she requested but under no circumstances to payment of compensation.
Are there Copyright restrictions?
Information in the possession of the GS/OAS subject to copyright of third parties may be made available to public for information purposes, but copying,
reproduction or reproduction shall be subject to applicable copyright restrictions.