May 31, 2011, 9 a.m.
Proactive Transparency: The future of the right to information? A review of standards, challenges, and opportunities by Helen Darbishire written for the World Bank discusses the nature and necessity of proactive transparency by the government to the public. The paper covers five main topics: Drivers of Proactive Transparency, Access to Information Laws and Proactive Transparency, International and Comparative Standards for Proactive Disclosure, Proactive Transparency in Practice, and Funding, Promoting, Monitoring and Enforcing Proactive Disclosure.
This paper identifies four primary drivers of proactive disclosure throughout history (Section 2). The first is the need to inform the public about laws and decisions and the public’s right to be informed, to know their rights and obligations. The second is the public’s demand for the information needed to hold governments accountable both at and between elections. The third is the demand for information in order to participate actively in decision-making. The fourth is the provision to the public of information needed to access government services, which has expanded significantly in the past decade with growth of electronic access to services or “egovernment.”
These drivers led to progressive development of laws and practices for proactive disclosure. They have been given further impetus by the large-scale disclosure potential of the Internet. Also advancing proactive disclosure has resulted from the development of the right of access to information, as enshrined in access to information laws, which increasingly contain specific proactive provisions. The recently adopted legal frameworks which include proactive disclosure regimes (Section 3) point to an emerging standard on the classes of information which should be made available at the core of any national proactive disclosure regime.
Also essential in setting up proactive disclosure regimes is the need to allocate necessary resources, to consider rolling out proactive disclosure programs progressively, and to establish effective enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. These considerations lead to a number of recommendations including that information should be organized and published so that it is: available, findable, relevant, comprehensible, free or low cost, and up-to-date. When setting up or improving proactive disclosure schemes, public bodies should ensure that they are well-resourced, progressive, promoted (within government and to the public), comprehensively monitored, and properly enforced.