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Citizen Initiative for Freedom of Information in Guatemala Citizen Action

By: Edgar Alfredo Pape -Yalibat

Fifteen Guatemalan civil society organizations joined together to form a Citizens’ Observatory. Its purpose is to initiate processes and activities that strengthen the democratic capacity to exercise the right to freedom of access to government information and to hold public officials accountable for their administrative actions. Structurally, the Observatory is a voluntary, multistakeholder council that has entrusted Acción Ciudadana [Citizen Action] to serve as its Executive Secretary for monitoring activities in the framework of the project entitled Citizen initiative for freedom of information.

The project was implemented between April 2002 and June 2004 and divided into three monitoring phases: pre-electoral, electoral, and post-electoral. The case presented here is from the first phase and was implemented in Guatemala City, the capital, and in the municipalities of Chimaltenango and Cobán, Alta Verapaz. The most significant outcomes obtained in the first year of the project were: (i) consolidation of the Citizens Observatory as a civil society entity for the promotion of access to government information; (ii) collective design, editing, and publication of a Citizens’ Guide to Freedom of Information [Manual Ciudadano de Acceso a la Información Pública]; (iii) outcome report based on the first pilot experience that put to the test the Guatemalan government’s information system; and (iv) development of strategic alliances to use the Manual and the standardization of other instruments to be used in the search, processing, receipt, use, evaluation, and dissemination of administrative acts and government documents.