September 30, 2008 Resources on Mexican Constitutional Reform on Access to Information To commemorate International Right to Know Day and the beginning of the México Abierto Week, the National Security Archive’s Mexico Project publishes today on its Transparency Web Site new English-text resources on Mexico’s latest developments in the area of access to information, especially related to the new constitutional reform of Article 6.
About the Program
The National Security Archive's Mexico Project supports the freedom of information movement in Mexico, promotes government transparency and accountability and helps publicize the country’s national freedom of information law that went into effect in 2002. The Archive works closely with scholars, lawyers, and openness advocates to influence the public debate about the right to know; we bring international transparency activists to train Mexican NGOs on the effective use of FOI laws in advocacy work; and we encourage the news media to monitor government transparency programs and to use FOI laws in pursuit of breaking news stories.
Our goal is to expand and strengthen Mexico's transparency movement by drawing on our expertise from two decades of FOI advocacy, as well as bring the lessons from the Mexican experience to the U.S. and other international struggles for open government. The program also makes a special effort to connect the Mexican human rights movement and openness advocates.
Transparency and Access to Information in Mexico
Transparency is a threshold issue affecting every other issue in Mexico today – issues such as social relations, the environment, education, corruption, state security, accountability, human rights, and democratic governance.
The access to information law passed in 2002 represents a vital element of Mexico’s democratic transition, and has become a model worldwide. The country's active civil society, the extensive media coverage of the issue, the competence of the governmental body charged with implementing and overseeing the law (IFAI – Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información), the electronic access to agencies that is already in place, the over 200,000 requests that have been received in its first five years – have resulted in Mexico's setting a new international standard for transparency legislation.
The challenge for Mexico now is to cultivate a new culture of openness. It is a challenge that goes beyond ensuring that laws are fully and properly implemented – a culture of openness requires the forging of a new relationship between the citizen and state, one that fosters the capacity for informed debate and decision-making that citizens need in order to participate fully in democratic governance.
Mexico's Constitutional Reform Guarantees the Right to Know In March 2007, a comprehensive reform of Article 6 of the Mexican constitution was passed in the federal Congress, and within three months it was approved by a majority of state legislatures, signaling a major victory for the right to know movement in Mexico. This reform is, without a doubt, the most important development related to freedom of information in Mexico in the last two years. Read more…
Documents in Action Workshop Series
Last year the Archive's Mexico Project organized a series of workshops tailored to the particular needs of civil society actors that actively use the Mexican federal and state transparency laws.
The purpose of these workshops was to provide NGOs the skills they need to transform the new transparency laws into effective tools for their advocacy work. Participants shared experiences in the use of FOI laws and worked to develop strategies to harness the government information they obtained to advance and promote their issues.
1. Documents in Action: Using FOI Laws in Defense of the Environment
Mexico City June 26, 2006
Organized in partnership with Presencia Ciudadana
In an event organized by the National Security Archive and Presencia Ciudadana, twenty-two Mexican environmental activists met to share their experiences in trying to obtain government data through state and federal FOI laws. The objective of the workshop was to offer real-life examples of how NGOs have used transparency laws to uncover important information related to environmental issues and use this information in an effective way to support their work. Presentations were made by U.S. FOIA litigator Aaron Colangelo of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and by Mexican environmental organizations such as Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA).
2. Documents in Action: Using FOI Laws in Non Governmental Organizations
Monterrey September 4, 2006.
Organized in partnership with Tec de Monterrey's Graduate School for Public Administration and Public Policy
The objective of this workshop was to provide basic training to Nuevo León-based non-governmental organizations on the use of the federal, state and municipal information laws. Participants included representatives from diverse NGOs, state and municipal government officials, and university students and faculty. Philipp Mueller from Tec de Monterrey, Sergio Manuel López from the Subdirección de Enlace con la Sociedad Civil Organizada of IFAI and Cruz Cantú Garza from the Nuevo León Information Commission, gave presentations during the workshop.
3. Documents in Action: Using FOI Laws in Migration Work
Mexico City October 19, 2006.
Organized in partnership with Sin Fronteras
This workshop, which was held in Mexico City and organized with Sin Fronteras, targeted groups from around the country that work on migration issues. The objective of this seminar was to provide basic training on the use of the federal transparency law and to respond to the particular information needs of migration activists. Presentations were made by Sergio Manuel López from the Subdirección de Enlace con la Sociedad Civil Organizada of IFAI, Issa Luna Pla from LIMAC and Gregorio Castillo Porras of the Unidad de Enlace (information liaison office) of the Instituto Federal Electoral.
This workshop was held in Mexico City and organized in partnership with the Mexican NGO Fundar, one of the leading organizations in the world that specializes in government budget analysis. The objective of the workshop was to show groups already using FOI laws in their budget work how to disseminate government information released by government agencies. Sowmya Kidambi, from India’s Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), a community-based grassroots organization dedicated to the right to information, was the keynote speaker during this workshop; other presenters included former FOI officer Yuri Cinta and Libby Haight from the University of California Santa Cruz.
Pictured: Sowmya Kidambi from India’s MKSS gives her talk as the keynote speaker.
Forum: Toward a Democratic and Transparent Guerrero
Pictured: Promotional poster for the event.
An extraordinary range of grassroots organizations came together in a state-wide forum entitled, "Toward a Democratic and Transparent Guerrero," held in the state’s congressional library on November 16, 2006.
More than 140 representatives from 34 indigenous, peasant, environmental and human rights organizations, as well as 12 public institutions, exchanged experiences about how to exercise their right to access government information.
It is often assumed that the demand for transparency in government is limited to urban professionals. Recently, however, in one of Mexico's most impoverished rural states a wide range of grassroots organizations came together in a state-wide forum entitled, "Toward a Democratic and Transparent Guerrero," held in the state’s congressional library.
More than 140 representatives from 34 indigenous, peasant, environmental and human rights organizations, as well as 12 public institutions, exchanged experiences about how to exercise their right to access government information. Participants ranged from social movement leaders -- including the indigenous Community Police of the Costa Chica-Montaña region and the Community Coordinating Committee against the "La Parota" Dam -- to state and federal government representatives. Excerpts from the plenary session were broadcast live on a state-wide radio station. The keynote speaker of this event was Sowmya Kidambi India’s Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) organization.
This event was organized by the Universidad Campesina del Sur and by Promotores de la Autogestión para el Desarrollo Social with the support of University of California Santa Cruz and The National Security Archive.
Click here to view the General Resolutions generated at the Forum. English / Spanish
Delegations to Washington Pictured: Mexican government officials with National Security Archive staff at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland.
Mexican Government Officials Delegation (April 2005)
The project hosted a delegation of Mexican federal and state officials for a week of meetings and discussions on freedom of information laws in Washington on April 2005. The objective of this visit was to give Mexican officials the opportunity to consult with U.S. officials on issues such as U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests, creating or mining government databases, interacting with the national press, and working with Congress. This activity was focused on the strengthening of Mexico’s access to information effort on its administrative and civil procedural end.
Pictured: Delegates present on FOI in Mexico at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Investigative Journalists Visit to Washington (March 2006)
Investigative journalists Arelí Quintero (El Centro) and Daniel Lizárraga (Proceso) visited Washington in March 2006 to learn more about the FOI movement in the United States. Quintero and Lizárraga have used the freedom of information law and have a strong commitment to the new transparency movement. The purpose of this visit was for them to meet with experts to receive advice on how to improve their investigative work through more skillful use of the FOI law and to seek other opportunities to promote openness in Mexican society. Their visit was programmed to coincide with "Sunshine Week" – a national effort by major news organizations to illustrate the vital importance of open government through a week of print, radio and television stories that directly address the state of secrecy and transparency in the United States today. Both reporters were able to take part in the activities and media discussions relating to secrecy and government accountability that took place during "Sunshine Week."
Articles Published by Arelí Quintero and Daniel Lizárraga
Arelí Quintero, inspired by a Hurricane Katrina news story broadcast in the US during Sunshine Week, wrote about donations given by Mexicans intended for Asian tsunami victims, but which never left the country.
Daniel Lizárraga’s investigative article about the travel expenses of Sari Bermúdez, president of the National Arts and Culture Council (CONACULTA) was based on numerous information requests made through Mexico’s Federal Transparency and Access to Information Law.
Watch this YouTube video of the state forum that took place in Guerrero on November 16, 2006, which includes a presentation given by Sowmya Kidambi of India’s grass-roots community-based advocacy organization Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS).
Derecho A Saber: A Webpage dedicated to the right to know in Mexico. This site contains the latest FOI news and normative information about access to information at the federal and state levels.
FOI Advocates Network: FOI Advocates was formed to link activists in non-governmental organizations around the world working to strengthen their freedom of information movements.
Freedominfo.org: The site tracks developments in international movements for the right to information, describes best practices, consolidates lessons learned and explains campaign strategies and tactics used by transparency advocates worldwide.
IFAI: Mexico’s Federal Institute for Access to Public Information: This autonomous organization was established by Mexico’s freedom of information law to promote the new transparency regime, monitor developments in open government and access to information, and settle disputes between citizens and government bodies over responses to FOI requests.
SISI: Created and managed by the IFAI, Mexico’s System for Information Requests provides an electronic forum for citizens to make requests to government entities for public information.
ZOOM: A keyword search engine where users can search for government responses to federal FOI users in Mexico, as well as IFAI resolutions.
Sunshine Week: Sunshine Week is a U.S. national initiative that aims to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information at every level of society.
Colectivo por la Transparencia:Colectivo por la Transparencia groups eleven Mexican organizations that work in transparency and freedom of information issues.