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The Right to Know in Mexico: The Challenge of Dissemination, in Focus on Citizens Public Engagement For Better Policy and Services

By: Juan Pablo Guerrero Amparán

This resource is a chapter in ” Focus on Citizens: Public Engagement for Better Policy and Services”, a report compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  It begins on p.257.

The most relevant instrument for the effective implementation of the Mexican Law for Transparency and Access to Information (LAI), which was enacted in June 2003, has been the use of information technologies.

The political culture in Mexico has led many citizens to distrust or even fear public authorities. So an important innovation of the LAI is that citizens are not required to identify themselves in order to request public information from the government.  Anyone, anywhere in the world can access government information in Mexico through these information technologies.  The available profile shows that the average applicant is a young metropolitan male, with an income and education higher than the national average.   It is obvious that this concentration of demand undermines the positive effects of the right to know in Mexico to some extent. In general, it is accepted that freedom of access changes the behaviour of public authorities, because they know they can be observed or supervised by the general public. A large number of citizens applying for government information increase the social pressure on public servants to behave legally. However, such pressure has not yet come to bear on Mexican public officials, since 90 000 users cannot match the needs of more that 105 million inhabitants. Thus, dissemination of the right to information is one of the biggest challenges of the Federal Institute for Access to Information (IFAI) in the short run.

Driven by these concerns, the IFAI launched the Proyecto Comunidades in August 2005, with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This programme seeks to identify the best strategy for dissemination of the right to know and the use of the LAI within marginalised social groups, that is, social groups that under normal conditions would not be able to exert this fundamental right.  This chapter explains some of the project’s achievements with grassroots organizations in Mexico to train diverse civil society groups to  seek, gather and obtain the technical and human resources to request information.  It describes specific cases, lessons learnt and contains strategies for further progress.