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Equal Access to Public Information - September 2014

Successful conclusion of High-Level Workshop on Equal Access to Public Information in Guatemala

The High-level Workshop on Equal Access to Public Information, organized by the OAS Department of International Law and the Office of Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman, took place on August 27 and 28. It brought together more than 75 participants from civil society, the public sector, academia, and the private sector to analyze the country’s current regulatory framework in light of the provisions of the Model Inter-American Law on Access to Public Information and its Implementation Guide.

Workshop on Equal Access to Public Information in Guatemala

The event heard thematic addresses given by Commissioner Ximena Puente de la Mora, President of Mexico’s Federal Institute for Access to Information and Data Protection (IFAI); Commissioners Herminia Funes and Jaime Mauricio Campos of the Institute of Access to Public Information of El Salvador; Counselor Alejandro Ferreiro of the Transparency Council of Chile; and Ms. Suzanne Legault, Canada’s Information Commissioner. The meeting was also addressed by prominent institutions that work in this field, such as the Carter Center, the Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Access to Information, and the civil society organization Acción Ciudadana, as well as by leading Guatemalan journalists such as Luis Marroquín, a former editor of the Guatemalan Official Gazette and of the daily Siglo XXI, and Luis Felipe Valenzuela, director general of Emisoras Unidas.

The institutions that organized the meeting were represented by Dr. Dante Negro, Director of the OAS Department of International Law, Ms. Nathalie Samson, Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of Canada in Guatemala, and Ms. Claudia López David, Acting Ombudsman for Human Rights in Guatemala.

The High-level Workshop also involved sessions for discussing and exchanging ideas, at which the participants gathered in working panels to formulate specific recommendations for improving and strengthening the current legal provisions.

At these interactive sessions, the representatives of the different social stakeholders identified specific topics for focusing the discussion of how the current law is regulated; they agreed that the right of access to information is a key element in protecting a series of individual and collective rights that define robust democratic systems, and they also acknowledged its relationship with the promotion of human rights, economic development, and governance. The participants applauded the OAS for this initiative and they underscored the need to replicate the experience in other countries in order to continue fostering exchanges of experiences and of technical expertise to the benefit of the region’s countries.

This workshop was a part of a cooperation project, sponsored by the OAS with funding from the Canadian government, that is intended to boost the capacity of the Organization’s member states in the areas of transparency and equitable access to public information through the dissemination and promotion of the implementation, in those countries, of the Model Law on Access to Public Information adopted by the OAS General Assembly in 2010.

To date, the Department of International Law of the OAS Secretariat for Legal Affairs has organized similar events in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and Guatemala.

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