The Pathway to Legislative Transparency in Latin America
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Over the past few years in Latin America, access to public information and transparency have stopped being exclusive concerns of the executive branch and have expanded to the legislature and other arenas. More and more organizations focused on monitoring and bringing transparency to the work of congresses and parliaments have appeared in a short period of time. And certainly, Latin America is not the exception. It has now been three years since the creation of the Latin American Network for Legislative Transparency (LANLT or LALT Network) as a mechanism of cooperation, association and collaboration on advocacy and research projects, as well as the promotion of access to congressional activity, accountability and the strengthening of networking between representatives and their constituencies. Today, the LANLT includes 16 organizations in 8 countries in the region: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

During the last annual meeting of the LANLT, which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, between June 17 and 18, important actions were taken towards consolidation and enlargement, along with measures to strengthen the network’s efforts and capabilities. Among these actions, we can emphasize the launch of the network’s new web site,, which consists of publications, goals, actions and basic documents on the different political contexts of the region. Another fundamental achievement of the meeting was the review of the Legislative Transparency Index, which was first released in 2011 and will once again be carried out in 2013 with the inclusion of best practices of legislative behavior and the principles enunciated in the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness.

The Declaration on Parliamentary Openness is a call to national congresses and parliaments, and sub-national and transnational legislative bodies, by civil society parliamentary monitoring organizations (PMOs) for an increased commitment to transparency and to citizen engagement in legislative work. The main goal of the Declaration is intended not only as a call to action, but also a cornerstone to cement a basis for dialogue between legislatures and PMOs to advance government and congressional openness, and to ensure that this transparency leads to greater citizen engagement, more responsive and accountable representative institutions and, ultimately, a more democratic society. It is important to point out that all members of the LANLT have supported the Declaration individually, and the LANLT contributed actively in the negotiation, composition and elaboration of the Declaration, and its translation to Spanish.

The Declaration was originated at an international conference that took place in Washington D.C. between April 30 and May 2, 2012, co-hosted by the National Democratic Institute, the Sunlight Foundation, and the LANLT. This conference gathered PMOs from 38 countries from every corner of the planet, with the joint objective of establishing effective means for networking, strengthening international measures to ease access to legislative data, as well as exchanging of best practices to promote congressional transparency and the supervision of parliamentary behavior.

A second step took place with an updated version of the draft Declaration, reflecting the prevailing consensus among conference participants, in a review summit at the Open Legislative Data Conference in Paris, France, hosted by Regards CitoyensCentre d’études européennes de Sciences Po, and Médialab Sciences Po from July 6 to 7, 2012. The final draft project was made available for public comment online for 81 days, and the definitive Declaration on Parliamentary Openness was launched at the World e-Parliament Conference in Rome, Italy, on the International Day of Democracy, September 15, 2012. Up until now 127 PMOs from over 74 countries have endorsed the Declaration and the document has been translated into over 20 languages. All versions, and new translations to come, are available at

Another result from the annual meeting of the LANLT was the establishment of a pathway to a geographical expansion of the network to the rest of Latin America, by inviting PMOs with the best experience in each country to join the LANLT: Brazil, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay. This process will be carried out during 2013 and 2014.

Finally, the LANLT primary work plan will be to attain the promotion, embracement and adoption of the Declaration by national and subnational legislative bodies, with a continuous scrutiny made possible by the Index of Legislative Transparency to guarantee that each adhesion will not be just a promise of good will, but a measurable and assured execution. Additionally, the LANLT will seek the endorsement of individual legislators committed to clear and measurable achievements in congressional openness, along with the creation of a parallel network among parliamentarians to promote the right and enforcement of access of legislative information in the region.

Only three years after its creation, the LANLT has achieved important goals such as the creation and measurement of the Index of Legislative Transparency, the active participation in the outlining of the Declaration, and the adhesion of three legislatures to the principles of the Declaration: i) the Senate of the Republic (Mexico) on May 17; ii) the Legislature of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (Argentina) on June 17; and iii) the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District (México) on June 18, all in 2013.

In the case of the Mexican Senate, the Committee to Guarantee Access and Transparency of Information (COGATI), presided by Senator Arely Gómez González, voted to endorse the Declaration. The document included a series of recommendations to internal bodies (the Congress TV Channel, the Secretary General of Parliamentary Services, and the Secretary General of Administrative Services) to adopt the principles of the Declaration. Highlighting the creation of databases in an open source format; an easy and intuitive search engine in the Senate website; public access to Senate databases; the creation of an online video and audio library with all the meetings of the House of Senate and its Committees; and the inclusion of roll call voting and attendance records in an open source format, in accordance with the precepts of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The two members of the LANLT in Mexico: Fundar and Impacto Legislativo will monitor and follow all actions taken to enforce such recommendations.

In regard to the Legislature of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Congressman Cristian Adrián Ritondo, first vice-president, signed an endorsement with the following comment: “The Legislature of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires adopts the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness entirely, and commits to the principles comprehended in such document.” The four Argentinian PMOs members of the LANLT will carry out the monitoring of the actual enforcement (Asociación por los Derechos CivilesCIPPEC, Fundación Directorio Legislativo and Poder Ciudadano).

In the case of the third signature of the Declaration, the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District, signed a an agreement comprehended of 10 points from the principles of the Declaration with the Mexican Chapter of Transparency International (Transparencia Mexicana) to oversee the implementation of the agreements. Since this last NGO is not a member of the LANLT, Fundar and Impacto Legislativo will assess its efforts.

As these efforts continue, the Index of Transparency will be the toolkit that will allow LANLT organizations to build a pathway for Latin America’s legislatures toward the optimal standards established in the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, as well as an expansion of the number of bodies that adopt its principles of open parliament and open government.