From Rhetoric to “Revolution”: Mexico’s Challenge to Cultivate a Culture of Transparency
Mexico assumes co-chairmanship of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) alongside Indonesia following the annual OGP summit in London later this month. As outgoing co-chair, the United Kingdom has been explicit in viewing the OGP as an opportunity to “drive a transparency revolution in every corner of the world” and “hardwire transparency into international governance”. Mexico’s ability to live up to this bold vision for the OGP may be influenced by the degree to which it is able to close a persistent gap at home, as actual accessibility of aid information lags far behind well-respectedtransparency laws on the books.
As a middle-income country both providing and receiving development assistance, Mexico adopted the Law of International Cooperation for Development in April 2011, aiming to make Mexican south-south cooperation more effective. The legislation created the Mexican Agency for International Cooperation (AMEXCID) and sought to improve government coordination through collecting information on development assistance activities through an information bank known as the Mexican International Cooperation Information System (SIMEXCID).
Despite Mexico’s ratification of the 2002 Federal Law on Transparency and Access to Public Government Information requiring government agencies to proactively publish information on budget allocations, subsidy programs, and other government activities, information on development cooperation such as that collected through AMEXCID is not publicly available. Furthermore, Mexico has still not become a signatory of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The result is substantial dissonance between Mexican law mandating proactive disclosure and the reality of what information is actually made transparent to citizens.
Since becoming an OGP member in September 2011, Mexico has increased its emphasis on data accessibility, promoting interoperability through the use of common platforms and information systems to facilitate use and reuse of government data by the public for a variety of purposes. The government has created online platforms such as “Tu Gobierno en Mapa” (Your Government in Maps), providing public access to a raw database of geo-referenced data on 62 federal government institutions downloadable in .csv format.
Mexico's pilot mapping platform. Source: http://www.iderail.es/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/mexico.png
While this type of initiative provides citizens with some valuable information and tools to visualize government activities, meaningful access to information on international cooperation is far from a reality. At issue is not necessarily in the drafting of the legal framework itself, but in building will for its effective implementation. As Dr. Mauricio Merino argues in his article “Transparencia como política pública” (2008), it is not just about establishing the law, but also adopting an administrative culture of transparency within Mexican government organizations.
Moving forward, the Mexican government should evaluate the systems it needs to align the incentives of government ministries to implement transparency laws already in place and monitor compliance with those standards. In taking this step, not only will the government of Mexico make aid and other information more transparent and accessible for its own citizens, but it will also serve as a role model for other OGP member countries as it assumes the co-chairmanship this year.
Eunice Mercado-Lara and Javier Gómez Garcia are Visiting Research Associates at AidData. Eunice and Javier are currently pursuing Masters Degrees in International Cooperation for Development at Instituto Mora, Mexico City.