CSOs propose new reform agenda to bolster transparency in Argentina
Last month’s runoff presidential election set the stage for a new era in Argentine politics. Mauricio Macri, a non-Peronist candidate, won a stunning victory, representing a marked shift in the political philosophy that defined the 14-year Kirchner era. Now, In an effort to bring governance issues to the forefront as the new administration takes office, a group of civil society organizations — including Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ), Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), Fundación Directorio Legislativo and Poder Ciudadano — have launched the Agenda de Transparencia para Argentina.
The reform agenda for 2016 defines a number of issues that Macri’s freshly elected government will face and proposes an action plan for addressing them in ways that encourage civic engagement with citizens and activist groups alike. The proposal addresses a wide range of issues, from systemic changes for rooting out corruption, to new legislation around openness, to updates that will increase public understanding of the policymaking system.
First, Argentina is one of only four countries in Latin America without a freedom of information law. As a result, developing and passing FOI legislation — a goal that has seen growing demand from civil society internationally — is one of the first proposals on the agenda.
According to reformers, the current infrastructure places incumbent governments in unreasonably advantageous positions. To combat these concerns, the platform is also built around proposals that would mandate reform from within. The coalition is working on building momentum around small steps aimed at forwarding political equity, such as updating the obsolete balloting system as well as proposing long-term goals, such as creating an independent electoral agency and tightening campaign finance laws. Simple fixes like limiting the conflation of party colors, images and names with government agencies could make a huge difference in levelling the playing field for opposition candidates.
The coalition also fears that corruption and secrecy continue to hamper progress in equitable governing. In Argentina, agencies charged with handling corruption and transparency policies, such as the Office of Anti-Corruption, are politically and financially dependent on the majority party. Knowing the impediments that dissidents face in keeping checks on the administration, the platform is intent on giving opposition parties a majority say in appointing government auditors to balance these interests and encourage enforcement of corruption legislation across all parties.
Finally, the platform advocates for more openness at the core of government — the congressional houses that represent the body of decision-making in Argentina. The country currently has one of the lowest ratings for legislative transparency of the nine surveyed as a part of last year’s Indice de Transparencia Legislativa project, and both houses are in legal disputes with civil society groups about the publication of data. The Agenda de Transparencia para Argentina proposes an open budget process, employee and administrative data, as well as access to session and commission meetings. This will foster a more collaborative legislative process aimed at both building public awareness and integrating different sectors of society into the lawmaking process.
The Sunlight Foundation applauds these efforts to demand more equitable and transparent government. We wish reformers the best of luck in achieving the platform’s goals over the next year. You can read more about each of the specific 12 proposals at the newly launched agendatransparencia.org, a portal for the platform complete with updates on the status of its successes.