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Inter-American
Juridical Committee

Sec. for Legal Affairs

 

Organization of American States

 
Department of International Law
Access to Information
 

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Model Inter-American Law on Access to Information

“We are committed to providing the legal and regulatory framework and the structures and conditions required to guarantee the right of access to our citizens.”

—Heads of States of the Americas
Declaration of Nuevo Leon

 

The Heads of State of the Americas declared that “access to information held by the State, subject to constitutional and legal norms, including those on privacy and confidentiality, is an indispensable condition for citizen participation and promotes effective respect for human rights.” The heads of State then affirmed their commitment in the Declaration of Nuevo Leon “to provid[e] the legal and regulatory framework required to guarantee th[is] right.”

Accordingly, OAS member States, via General Assembly resolution AG/RES. 2514 (XXXIX-O/09), requested the preparation of a Model Inter-American Law on Access to Information to provide States with the legal foundation necessary to guarantee the right to access to information, as well as an Implementation Guide for the Model Law to provide the roadmap necessary to ensure the Law functions in practice.

This General Assembly mandate instructed the Department of International Law to coordinate the drafting of the Model Law and Implementation Guide with the participation of experts from the relevant organs, agencies and entities of the OAS, of OAS Member States and of civil society organizations. The group of experts met over the period of a year to draft, discuss, edit, and finalize the Model Law and Guide. The final versions of both instruments were approved in March 2010 and presented the Permanent Council’s Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs in April 2010. The Permanent Council, in May 2010, elevated a resolution and text of the Model Law to the fortieth regular session of the General Assembly, held in June 2010, which adopted resolution AG/RES 2607 (XL-O/10) on the Model Law – the complete text of which is attached to the resolution – and instructs the General Secretariat, through the Department of International Law, to provide support to the member States that so request in the design, execution, and evaluation of their regulations and policies on access to public information by citizens.

Approval of the Model Law received ample media coverage, and has already had a tangible effect in States whose parliaments and legislatures are discussing legislation on access to information. It will also be a tool for countries that have legislation on the subject but wish to update it to the standards of the Model Law.

The Model Law builds off of previous efforts the OAS has taken to advance the right of access to information, including the Joint Document Recommendations on Access to Information [CP/CAJP-2599/08], which provides detailed information on the right to access to information, as well as policy and legislative recommendations, and the Report on the Questionnaire “Legislation on and Best Practices of Access to Public Information of the Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs” [CP/CAJP-2608/08], which contains answers by the States and civil society to the questionnaire as well as recommendations from civil society organizations. In addition, the Model Inter-American Law and the Guide for its Implementation, incorporate the principles outlined by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in Claude Reyes v. Chile, as well as the Principles on Access to Information adopted by the Inter-American Juridical Committee [CJI/RES. 147 (LXXIII-O/08)].

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