1. Assessment and Recommendations

While the term “open government” may be relatively new, Brazil’s Federal and subnational governments have been implementing initiatives to make public action more transparent, integer, accountable and participatory for decades. This is the case for example of participatory practices such as the National Health Council created in 1944 and the participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre established in 1989, as well as the Law on administrative improbity passed in 2000 and the creation of the Transparency Portal in 2004. In 2011, Brazil was part of those countries that founded the Open Government Partnership (OGP), setting the scene for the first international platform in the field. As founding member, Brazil contributed to establishing an ambitious community of reformers and hosted the first Global Summit in Brasilia in 2012. Since then, the country has been an active member of the Partnership, delivering five OGP National Action Plans including 122 commitments.

As a result of the reforms implemented over the years, Brazil scores today comparatively well in international indices on open government policies and practices, such as the OECD OURData Index. The country is recognised for its transparency agenda and some more recent initiatives such as the creation of the Fala.BR platform. Both the Federal and subnational levels of government have implemented ambitious and innovative mechanisms for citizens and stakeholders to participate in public decisions, placing the country as a democratic innovator, with global recognition from other countries, as well as international organisations such as the United Nations. However, recent years have also seen the emergence of new trends, and sometimes the reinforcement of often pre-existing ones, such as a shrinking civic space and diminishing levels of commitment to the open government agenda, which provide an obstacle to the continued implementation of open government reforms. The situation has been made worse by some of the government's responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, which particularly targeted the capacity of citizens and civil society organisation to participate in public life.

The analyses in this report are based on the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (the “OG Recommendation”) which was adopted in 2017 as the first and only internationally recognised legal instrument in the area. The OG Recommendation contains ten provisions that guide countries in their quest for more transparent, accountable, integer and participatory governments. Brazil adhered to the OG Recommendation in 2019.

The assessment presented in this Review reflects the OECD Framework for Assessing the Openness of Governments (2020) through its different chapters. The Framework – based on the OG Recommendation - clarifies the interplays between all the elements necessary for an open government culture of governance. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 focus on inputs and processes of open government and the following chapters primarily take into consideration the outputs and outcomes of open government, each dealing with a distinct principle.

Finally, the Open Government Review of Brazil is the first to include a dedicated chapter on the protection and promotion of the civic space as a prerequisite to successful open government reforms. The OECD defines civic space as the set of legal, policy, institutional and practical conditions necessary for non-governmental actors to access information, express themselves, associate, organise and participate in public life. This dimension has been added to the analytical framework of the Open Government Reviews following the established of the OECD Observatory of Civic Space in 2019. The OECD recognises a healthy civic space as a precondition for and facilitator of open government initiatives. Governments need to ensure that their civic space is open, protected and promoted through clear policies and legal frameworks that set out the rules of engagement between citizens and the state, framing boundaries, and defending individual freedoms and rights.

The Brazilian government has multiple definitions of open government in place, creating an obstacle to a consistent and coherent implementation of initiatives across the public sector. For example, one of the most used definitions is included in the Decree 10.160 from 2019, which defines open government as “a policy that aims to enhance transparency and access to information, strengthen integrity and improve public service delivery”.

Interviews have shown that the concept of open government is not widely known beyond the OGP community and its understanding does vary from institution to institution. The Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) has led some efforts to disseminate the concept through videos and communications, but it remains associated with the process of the OGP Action Plans and mostly understood as the release of open government data and linked only to the concepts of transparency and anti-corruption. Policies and practices relating to citizen and stakeholder participation and accountability are less commonly seen as part of an open government agenda. In addition, as per the historical role played by CGU, open government is understood through the lenses of internal control and compliance by a vast majority of public servants in Brazil.

The Federal Constitution of Brazil does not include any specific references to the concept of open government. However, in line with practices in OECD Member and Partner Countries, it contains a number of provisions concerning the open government principles, especially on participation and transparency, as well as numerous provisions relating to the protection and promotion of civic space. Beyond the Constitution, open government policies and practices are also enshrined in Brazil’s legal and regulatory framework. For example:

  • The Access to Information Law (Law 12.527 of 2011) provides for the procedures to be followed by the Union, States, Federal District and Municipalities in order to guarantee access to information.

  • The Decree 8.777 of 2016 establishes the Open Data Policy and makes biannual Open Data Plans (PDA Plano de Dados Abertos) mandatory for all public institutions.

  • The Decree 10.160 of 2019 sets out guidelines for the National Policy on Open Government as well as the Inter-ministerial Committee on Open Government (CIGA).

Legislative provisions relating to the open government principles and their protection and promotion in Brazil are extensive and comprehensive and the legal and regulatory foundations for open government are aligned with OECD standards. As a next step, the legal basis for open government reforms in Brazil could be further harmonised.

The policy framework for the promotion of openness in Brazil is very diverse, reflecting the breadth of initiatives implemented. As for many OECD Member and Partner Countries, Brazil’s OGP action plans have been the main driver of the country’s open government agenda and have allowed the government to push for ambitious and far-reaching reforms. However, these action plans focus on short-term policy objectives, the so-called low hanging fruits, rather than providing a comprehensive and integrated vision to transform Brazil's public administration. The National Policy on Open Government (Política Nacional de Governo Aberto), established through Decree 10.160, provides CGU with the mandate to co-ordinate the design of the biannual OGP action plans. The title “National Policy on Open Government” can be misleading as it only focuses on elements relating to the OGP process.

A number of other policy documents include initiatives to foster the open government principles have emerged in recent years (e.g. the Governance Policy, the National Strategy for Digital Government and the National Open Data Policy). In order to align all policy documents in this field, and create an umbrella framework for all open government reforms within a country, the OECD recommends the development of a whole-of-government Open Government Strategy (OGS or Estratégia de Governo Aberto do Poder Executivo Federal).

An Open Government Strategy can be a tool to set a vision and objectives for Brazil’s open government agenda and create a narrative for the medium and long term that goes beyond transparency and anti-corruption as to include the areas of participation and accountability. Ultimately, the Strategy could constitute an opportunity to broaden the understanding of open government by fully embracing the protection of civic space as an enabler for it and by linking open government reforms more directly with the improvement of citizens’ trust in public institutions and in strengthening Brazil's democracy.

The Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) and its Directorate for Transparency and Social Control are at the heart of Brazil’s open government institutional architecture. According to its institutional mandate, the CGU is responsible for assisting the President of the Republic on matters related to the defence of public assets and the increase in transparency within the scope of the federal executive branch. Its broad range of responsibilities and competences includes the roles of co-ordinator of the OGP process, national open data co-ordinator, access to information agency, ombudsman, and anti-corruption agency.

The CGU has a clear understanding of the potential of open government reforms and aims to move towards a more integrated federal agenda, beyond the OGP process. However, it does currently not have the mandate to coordinate an integrated open government agenda, as for example, key areas such as citizen participation are responsibility of other public authorities. In addition to the CGU, other federal government institutions contribute to the wider open government agenda, notably the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, the Secretariat of Government of the Presidency of the Republic (SEGOV), the Ministry of Economy, the Casa Civil, the Court of Accounts of the Union (TCU), the Offices of the Public Defender and the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights. Given its broad set of responsibilities and its recognised competence and leadership in this domain, the CGU would be in an ideal position to become the country’s dedicated Open Government Office and, as such, the co-ordinator of an integrated open government agenda and the main entity responsible for the suggested Federal Open Government Strategy.

Open government policies are transversal by nature, thus co-ordination and cooperation between public and non-governmental stakeholders is key to promote a coherent approach to the creation of a culture of openness. Brazil has created institutional co-ordination mechanisms in different areas of open government, including the Interministerial Committee on Open Government (Comitê Interministerial Governo Aberto, CIGA) which is made up of federal government institutions and the Civil Society Working Group for Advice on Open Government (Grupo de Trabalho da Sociedade Civil para Assessoramento em Governo Aberto, GT) which is composed of civil society stakeholders. However, these arrangements have been driven by the country’s participation in the OGP and those mechanisms remain largely within OGP-boundaries. This means that important areas of open government such as citizen participation are not being properly addressed by these forums. Brazil has the opportunity to build an integrated institutional architecture for its open government agenda to ensure the sustainability and efficiency of its open government reforms.

The promotion of open government literacy, including competences and skills for public servants and awareness for citizens, can support changes in individual and institutional values, beliefs, norms of conduct, and expectations and move an entire country towards an open government culture of governance. The CGU, in collaboration with other federal institutions such as the National School for Public Administration (ENAP) has taken important steps to increase literacy in- and outside of government, with initiatives such as the Open Government Game, the CGU’s Knowledge Base and the civic education programs directed to young students. Brazil is in line with OECD standards when it comes to the availability of written guidance and trainings on open government policies and practices, with 22 different toolkits, manuals and guidelines and 24 different trainings available for public authorities.

While the federal government has established numerous innovative initiatives aiming to promote open government literacy, degrees of awareness, knowledge, and skills on open government policies and practices across Brazil continue to differ substantially and the literacy among non-public stakeholders remains limited. Hence, there is a need to further harmonize existing efforts and support them with other informal mechanisms, such as the creation of communities of practice or reward mechanisms (e.g. an “Open Government Award”).

Given their multidimensional and cross-cutting nature, open government policies are inherently difficult to monitor and evaluate. The creation of more solid monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems for open government is a challenge faced by many OECD Member and Partner countries, including Brazil. OECD evidence shows that most countries only monitor the implementation of their OGP action plans and collect limited data and evidence on the broader effects of open government initiatives

In this sense, Brazil has developed advanced mechanisms to monitor the implementation of different open government policies. In particular, online panels (paineis) are also used to monitor the implementation of other open government policies and practices across the federal government and the monitoring system around the OGP action plan is well established. However, Brazil has a relatively weak evaluation culture in the field of open government and there is a need to develop a clearer understanding of causal effects relating to open government reforms. The adoption of a Federal Open Government Strategy marks an opportunity for Brazil to develop a maturity model coupled with metrics and indicators to monitor the implementation of its open government agenda and evaluate its broader impact.

Public communications is a key lever of government that can be deployed both internally (across and within public entities) and externally (with the broader public) and serve as a tool of policy implementation and service design and delivery. It implies a two-way relationship that allows understanding, listening, and responding to citizens. As part of its effort to communicate around open government reforms, Brazil has established multiple portals and websites such as the CGU’s open government website. However, evidence collected by the OECD indicates that the effectiveness of communication on open government policies and practices could be further improved.

Brazil has a unique window of opportunity to expand the ambition of its open government agenda by promoting public communications as effective tools to support sustainability, bolster the impact of open government initiatives and promote a culture of openness across the public sector and the wider society.

This Review focuses on the open government agenda of the Federal government. However, it acknowledges that subnational governments, the Legislature, and the Judiciary are also contributing to the country’s open government efforts with innovative and ambitious initiatives. For example, the Federal Chamber of Deputies has an ambitious agenda of transparency, citizen participation and innovation led by the HackerLab – a permanent space for collaborative development of digital solutions. Several municipalities in Brazil have developed initiatives of transparency, open government data, citizen participation and accountability. Notably, the municipality of Fortaleza has experimented with innovative approaches to citizen participation, such as the 2019 Citizen Council where randomly selected citizens produced recommendations on waste management. In 2020, the cities of Osasco, Santa Catarina and Sao Paulo joined the local government program of the Open Government Partnership.

The CGU has put in place several mechanisms to support the pursuit of openness of the subnational level, including the TIME Brazil initiative. However, there is currently no integrated vision or action to move towards an open state that is shared across levels of government. While the limitations of interference between different levels of government and different branches of power are clear, both constitutionally and legally, there are no rules in Brazil that prohibit co-operation, collaboration or co-ordination between the various branches of power and the different levels of government. On the contrary, co-operation and co-ordination are the mechanisms to which a federal state can resort when it aims to promote national public policies across levels of government and branches of the state. The development of a Federal Open Government Strategy can be a powerful way to create a shared commitment to the principles of open government across the entire Brazilian public sector, including in all branches of power and at all levels of government.

In light of the key assessments above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of this Review, the Brazilian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

By fully integrating civic space into its governance work, the OECD is advocating for an expansive and holistic understanding of open government that explicitly recognises the importance of the enabling environment. The OECD views civic space as an enabler of government transparency and accountability, as a prerequisite for citizen participation, and a crucial element of functioning democracies. Effective participation is only possible when all members of society have an equal chance of being consulted, informed, listened to and of expressing their opinions. The OECD is raising the bar in terms of creating a more ambitious and impactful context for the next generation of open government initiatives. To support this, it has adopted an all-encompassing analytical framework for civic space that focuses on four core pillars: 1) civic freedoms and rights; 2) the impact of media freedoms and digital rights on civic space; 3) the enabling environment for CSOs; and 4) citizen and stakeholder participation. This framework places cross-cutting issues such as equality, non-discrimination and inclusion at its core.

As a young democracy, Brazil has come a long way since 1985 in terms of creating an enabling environment for civil society and effective public participation. As a leader in the open government movement, Brazil has an opportunity to move from the current technical, compliance-driven approach to open government to a more comprehensive understanding that recognises the crucial role of protected civic spaces for all members of society, both online and offline. The OECD's civic space recommendations are aimed at a broad range of government institutions and some will require cross-government discussions and approaches, in which the CGU is well placed to play a leadership and coordination role.

Similar to the vast majority of OECD countries, Brazil has adopted legislation to reflect and ratify key international and regional treaties governing civic freedoms and rights. Brazil’s Constitution and legislation provide far-reaching legal guarantees related to civic space, with core rights largely protected in law. In addition, Brazil has taken commitments at the international level, as in the 2021 US Summit for Democracy, where the government submitted a wide range of commitments to advance civic space. At the same time, there are some gaps coupled with significant concerns about a recent increase in activity by the executive, mainly through the approval of decrees and provisional measures, that side-line the legislature in its role as an independent body in charge of law making.

There are also concerns that an ongoing review of legislation governing counter-terrorism may also have a negative impact on civic freedoms. The introduction of broad and imprecise terminology in security and counterterrorism legislation has been central to the closure of civic space and restrictions on civil society across the globe, leading to the arbitrary application of laws and the criminalisation of otherwise peaceful and legitimate activities.

According to Article19’s Global Expression Report 2021, which assesses the state of freedom of expression around the world, Brazil has fallen from an “open” to a “restricted” environment in the last ten years, with restrictions on freedom of expression affecting a wide range of groups such as CSOs, trade unions, communicators, indigenous persons, academics, artists, politicians, and public figures. Brazil experienced the world’s biggest drop in score over one, five and ten years, a decline that has accelerated in the last couple of years. The COVID-19 pandemic consolidated this trend. It is key for Brazil to stem this decline and restore this fundamental democratic right.

In addition, in the context of a heightened number of protests arising from social discontent across the entire LAC region, it is crucial for Brazil to protect freedom of peaceful assembly, as a cornerstone of democracy. International guidance in this area states that governments have an obligation not just to refrain from violating the rights of those assembling but to actively ensure their rights and to facilitate and enable assemblies. Although the right to peaceful assembly is generally respected in Brazil, law enforcement officials have been accused of employing excessive force against demonstrators. Brazil would benefit from a detailed protocol, developed in partnership with civil society, on implementation of this right in order to avoid arbitrary and inconsistent handling of assemblies, to ban the use of indiscriminate force, and to ensure a consistently favourable environment for assemblies. In a positive step in 2021, the Supreme Federal Court ruled that meetings and demonstrations are permitted in public places regardless of prior official communication to the authorities, which reflects the practice in many OECD countries, and also international human rights standards.

Discrimination is assessed in the context of Open Government Reviews, as it affects people’s relationship with the government, in addition to their ability and willingness to engage with public institutions if they feel undervalued, excluded, or threatened. Brazil faces long-standing challenges related to inequality and discrimination due to complex historical as well as socio-economic specificities that existed even prior to the country’s independence. To counter this, it has implemented programmes and initiatives over the years to address pervasive obstacles to the exercise of rights on an equal basis. However, structural inequality and violence continue to disproportionately affect particular groups, are anchored in discriminatory attitudes, and can act as a form of oppression and intimidation, particularly when public actors are involved.

Afro-Brazilians, women, LGBTI persons, people defending land rights, indigenous peoples, and human rights defenders are identified as groups that are particularly at risk. For example, according to the Brazilian Forum of Public Security, Afro-Brazilians represent 56% of the population but they make up 76% of victims of homicide and 79% of victims of lethal police violence. Among the 50 033 intentional violent deaths in Brazil in 2020, police interventions were responsible for 6 416, the highest number in years, representing a total of 13% of these deaths. Amid a recent rollback in protection for LGBTI rights, a report by the oldest LGBTI rights organisation in Latin America estimates that 237 LGBTI people died due to violent attacks in 2020. Brazil has a dedicated Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (PPDDH) but according to Global Witness, the country is identified as among the most dangerous in the world for land and environmental defenders, the majority of whom are killed in the Amazon Region. The situation is aggravated by historical disputes over land and environmental degradation, in addition to deforestation and displacement caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and infrastructure projects. Official, comprehensive, disaggregated and standardised country-wide data on groups of people who are at a heightened risk of violence, whether from state or non-state actors, and more effective programmes and initiatives to protect them are lacking. They are essential to design and implement effective policy responses and would help to improve transparency, accountability and citizen and stakeholder engagement, in addition to building greater trust between citizens and their government.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) contribute to society in many ways, including through their by advocacy work and by providing basic services, protecting the environment, defending the interests of vulnerable groups, conducting social research and analysis, and delivering basic services. For example, formal and informal civil society organisations played an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic, collecting and distributing donations, food, hygiene products, and other goods for those most affected. Brazilian civil society is diverse, vibrant, and offers expertise to the government on a variety of issues. According to the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), in 2021, 815 676 registered CSOs exist in Brazil. Close to half of them work on development issues and defence of rights, followed by religious initiatives, and culture and recreation.

CSOs have been partnering with the Brazilian government in supporting the open government agenda, playing an important role in improving policies, engaging in participatory mechanisms, and helping to increase transparency and accountability. Civil society initiatives have used public information and data to help the government reduce spending and identify fraud, highlighting the value of partnerships between the state and civil society. Additionally, CSOs are active members of the National Policy Councils, and the National Conferences, ensuring vitality to those participatory spaces.

However, the environment for CSOs to operate in has become more difficult in recent years. The Regulatory Framework for Civil Society Organisations (known as MROSC) regulates partnerships between the government and CSOs, but there is no policy or strategy to promote an enabling environment for these organisations. Evidence collected by the OECD suggests that the deterioration of the enabling environment is partially due to a decrease in available public funding, a reduction in opportunities to engage in policy-making and a negative discourse on CSOs from public officials. Although CSOs are legally entitled to a range of potential public and private funding sources in Brazil, their availability has declined and obtaining them remains a challenge in practice, especially for smaller and more informal organisations and those working for the rights of vulnerable people. Moreover, in recent years, the relationship between CSOs and the government has become conflictual and polarised, with a negative impact on the whole sector.

A healthy information ecosystem has a direct impact on open government initiatives and on civic space, as it allows diverse opinions and sources of information to circulate and inform national debates and decision making.

Brazil is facing challenges regarding its information ecosystem, with negative effects on trust, democracy and the open government agenda. The environment for journalists and communicators continues to decline, resulting in journalists practising self-censorship for fear of civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution, and professional reprisals or attacks on their reputation. In addition, targeted violence is on the rise. The National Federation of Journalists considered 2020 to be the most violent year since the 1990s for Brazilian journalists, with 428 cases of reported violence – covering physical as well as other forms of violence – against media outlets and journalists (compared to 208 cases in 2019). Brazil also has a high concentration of media channels and a high risk of political affiliation and media control.

Mis- and disinformation obstruct citizens’ access to factual information, including in the context of COVID-19, and contributing to rising polarisation within Brazilian society. Elections in Brazil have been particularly affected by the spread of false material about candidates, parties and the electoral system. In a positive steps, during the 2020 municipal elections the Superior Electoral Court partnered with roughly 50 public and private institutions, social media platforms, and fact checking groups, to discourage the proliferation of false content and to improve the identification of practices disseminating misleading content. CSOs and media outlets also play an important role in fact checking by collecting information from reliable sources, consulting specialists and debunking false claims.

The government acknowledges its responsibility in protecting journalists at risk because of their profession and several initiatives are ongoing in this regard. As an example, the Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders explicitly includes “communicators” since 2018 (now the Programme for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Communicators and Environmentalists), an essential step given the rising and targeted violence against them. The challenge now is to make related initiatives more effective.

Privacy and data protection are core components of civic space as they help to create the conditions for citizens to inform and express themselves freely, in addition to debating ideas. The recent introduction of the Personal Data Protection Law and the establishment of Brazil’s National Authority for Data Protection (ANPD) are important advances for the protection of Brazilians’ right to privacy and personal data protection. Brazil faces the challenge of building a national digital security culture that brings together the various relevant government entities, in addition to CSOs and citizens. Another is to ensure that personal data protection efforts focus on protecting people and their privacy rights, and to ensure a separation of this area from that of national security and surveillance. It is key to ensure that measures to protect citizens from security threats and to simplify their access to public services through the collection, use and sharing of personal data do not further erode fundamental civic freedoms and rights foreseen in the Constitution.

In light of the assessment above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 5 of this review, the Brazilian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

Since its democratisation process, Brazil has shown commitment to include citizens and stakeholders in policymaking and service delivery at the Federal and subnational levels of government. Citizen and stakeholder participation is enshrined in the country’s democratic architecture through institutionalised mechanisms such as the National Policy Councils and Conferences. Social participation is the term regularly used in Brazil to refer to the participation of citizens and stakeholders in policymaking and service delivery. This concept is used both in the legislation (i.e. Article 193 of the Federal Constitution), as well as in the day-to-day communications of public institutions. Nonetheless, Brazil does not have a commonly agreed definition and thus the understanding of what social participation entails is not harmonized nor common to all public institutions. Hence, visions are not always aligned and practices are not harmonized.

Participation is well-established in Brazil, with different mechanisms in place across all public institutions in the Federal and subnational levels of government. Brazil is considered as a democratic innovator, and the birthplace of internationally applauded innovations such as the participatory budget. In a recent study, the LATINNO project placed Brazil as the country with the largest number of democratic innovations in Latin America, gathering almost 112 million participants in the participatory processes organized from 1990 to 2020. However, starting from 2014, there has been a steady decrease of government support for participatory mechanisms, both in terms of the quantity of processes organized and the quality (lack of representation and inclusion). After a wave of institutionalisation of participatory practices, through for example the National Policy on Social Participation, in recent years, the Federal government has taken a reverse path aiming at dismantling certain practices such as the Councils, the Conferences and the National System of Social Participation.

Legal and policy provisions on citizen and stakeholder participation are important not only to frame the mechanisms and practices, but to provide mandates for public authorities. In addition, it gives participation a high degree of institutionalisation and embeds these practices in the institutional architecture.

The Federal Constitution of 1988 establishes principles and general guidelines to frame the understanding of citizen and stakeholder participation in the Brazilian context. It establishes citizen and stakeholder participation as a constitutional principle and a pillar of the democratic system. In addition, Brazil has a patchwork of dozens of legal provisions covering citizen participation at the Federal and subnational levels as well as in specific policy areas and for targeted groups. This rich framework is comprehensive but it is disconnected from the open government agenda nor the specific areas of transparency, accountability, and the civic space. This in turn creates overlaps and complexity both for public authorities and the public.

Brazil has included elements of citizen and stakeholder participation in a diverse set of policy documents, such as the OGP action plans and the Multiannual Plans (PPA). However, these elements are scattered, without an overarching policy on citizen participation, or a strategic vision to drive the participation agenda. The 2014 National Policy on Social Participation attempted to harmonize the legal and policy framework but was revoked in 2019 and has not yet been replaced.

The participation agenda in Brazil is steered by three public institutions: the Special Secretariat of Social Articulation in the Secretariat of Government of the Presidency of the Republic, the Casa Civil and the CGU. On the one hand, this setting means that the participatory agenda is located within public authorities in the Centre of Government with Ministerial rank and with an inter-ministerial perspective, giving high-level visibility and a transversal vision to the agenda. However, on the other hand, different public authorities and non-public stakeholders raised the concern of the lack of clarity and consistency on the institution leading the participation agenda.

Coordination among the different entities overseeing the same agenda is important to ensure coherence and support the move towards common objectives. Evidence gathered by the OECD point out to a lack of coordination as one of the main challenges to implement participatory practices in Brazil’s Federal Government. At the institutional level, the OECD found that 70% of public institutions at the Federal level do not have a central unit or person in charge of their institutions’ participation agendas, hindering the effective implementation of participatory practices.

Almost all Federal public institutions involve citizens and stakeholders at some point of their respective policy cycles, whether in the design and delivery of public services or in drafting or implementation of a policy. Evidence collected by the OECD highlight some trends: the provision of information is done on a regular basis, participatory opportunities are more important and regular in early stages of the policy cycle but decrease in later stages (evaluation) and the most used participatory mechanism are the collegial bodies (Councils and Conferences). Additionally, the use of digital tools for participation is important across Brazilian public institutions. The Federal Government put in place a centralized participatory portal (Participa Mais Brasil), including consultations and information about some instances such as the Councils. This digital platform can be considered a good practice among OECD countries, but there is room for improvement in increasing the feedback to participants and encouraging more public authorities to use this tool. In addition to consultation mechanisms, the OECD collected some good practices of more engaging opportunities for citizens and stakeholders to influence policies and services through mechanisms such as co-creation platforms (Desafios), and deliberative bodies (National Conferences). The subnational level of government (both States and Municipalities) is a very rich playground for citizen participation, with innovative and impactful mechanisms such as participatory budgeting, local councils and pilots of representative deliberative processes.

Besides moving towards more engaging practices, Brazil faces some challenges to ensure participatory spaces are representative and inclusive – meaning that they represent the voices of all groups of society, including the “silent majority” or usually underrepresented groups such as women, youth, LGBTI persons and Indigenous populations.

The colegiados (National Policy Councils and the National Conferences) are a unique participatory institution mixing stakeholder participation and deliberation with mandate that can vary from body to body including binding opinion, regulation, and advice to co-ordination among stakeholders. The Councils and Conferences are the backbone of the participatory system in Brazil, as they constitute spaces for non-governmental stakeholders to inform policy making and provide recommendations to policy makers. They allow for participation of government representatives (public officials, elected members, etc.) and non-public stakeholders (civil society organisations, union representatives, etc.) rather than individual citizens. The Councils and Conferences have demonstrated concrete and tangible impact in policymaking and service delivery. For example, a recent study on municipal health management in Brazil shows that the Health Councils had a positive impact on the reduction of corrupted practices at the local level. On a national level, The legal framework of the Brazilian Unified National Health System (SUS) extensively incorporated the inputs coming from the National Health Conferences.

Despite their proven impact, in recent years, there has been an uncoordinated multiplication of these instances, affecting their efficiency and impact. Furthermore, the diversity of the Councils’ members could be strengthen to better represent the Brazilian society as research led by IPEA shows than on average, 63% of members are men, the majority self identifies as white (66%) and 58% are between 40 and 60 years old.

In 2019, as part of overall efforts of the current administration to "rationalise and de-bureaucratise the Federal administration”, the Brazilian Federal government adopted Decree n° 9.759 which closed several collegial bodies, modified the mandate and composition of other bodies, and revoked both the National Policy on Social Participation and the National System of Social Participation. The Decree has faced strong criticism from public authorities and civil society, and there is a lack of clarity on its impact and achieved results.

In light of the assessment above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 6 of this review, the Brazilian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

Transparency is underpinned by the right to access to information (ATI), which is understood as the ability for an individual to seek, receive, impart, and use information effectively. Transparency has been a high-level political priority in Brazil and transparency-related policies have helped paved the way for the open government agenda. The approach of the government of Brazil to transparency is trifold: publishing information proactively, guaranteeing citizens' right to information, and providing open government data, with the overarching aim of allowing citizens and stakeholders to use information and data to engage and monitor government action.

For many years, transparency initiatives have been a key building block of Brazil’s open government agenda. For example, the four past Open Government Partnership (OGP) action plans have had transparency-related focus, contributing to advance the transparency agenda on several fronts, from supporting subnational governments with ATI obligations to developing a federal open data policy, to fostering active transparency in environmental and health issues. Moreover, the open government community both in the public sector and in civil society is strongly linked to the transparency agenda (open data, access to information, etc.). As in many OECD countries, this focus has resulted in an overlap of the conceptual understanding of transparency with open government, meaning that the two terms are often used as synonyms.

Brazil has developed a comprehensive regulatory framework through several laws, decrees and policies with varying scopes of application that regulate several transparency provisions. These provisions are either interlinked or complementary to access to information, such as open data, protection of personal data and archives. The complex interaction of regulations and processes can represent confusing obligations, burdensome reporting lines and bureaucratic procedures, particularly for subnational governments.

The right to information is recognised in the Brazilian Constitution and Brazil has ratified relevant international treaties and conventions that recognize it. The access to information (ATI) law of Brazil was adopted in 2011, and represented an important milestone for the national open government agenda. In broad terms, the law itself is robust and its provisions fall, in general, within OECD standards. The ATI law has a wide scope of application but its uptake remains relative weak in other branches of government and in subnational governments. The complex federative structure, regional disparities, limited capacities and a lack of oversight and enforcement partly explain this. To counter the weak compliance by Brazilian municipalities, the CGU developed the Brazil Transparency Programme (Programa Brasil Transparente - PBT) initiative. Established in 2013, the PBT is a voluntary programme that encourages subnational governments to commit to regulate the national ATI law, by providing implementation support through capacity building activities, technical materials, among other measures. Despite these positive steps taken by the CGU, further efforts are needed to promote the adoption of ATI obligations from the national ATI law across levels and branches of the state.

Overall, proactive disclosure of information at the federal level in Brazil exceeds national legal requirements as well as OECD good practices. The CGU has led efforts to implement proactive disclosure obligations of the access to information law at the federal level, including the centralisation of information related to federal expenditures with the Transparency Portal, which represents a major landmark for Brazil’s open government agenda. However, evidence gathered by the OECD shows that implementation varies widely due, in part, to the different technical capacities across the 300 federal bodies. While a significant volume of information has become available, the lack of a centralised and unique web page mapping all of the existing information across the numerous existing portals and panels, hinders efficiency and creates confusion for users. To counter these challenges, the Council for Public Transparency and Fight against Corruption (Conselho de Transparência Pública e Combate à Corrupção - CTPCC) proposed the creation of an active Transparency Observatory to expand the monitoring capacity for the proactive publication or withdrawal of information as well as for disseminating new information.

The process for reactive disclosure is well-established at the federal level through the use of the Fala.br platform. By centralising ATI requests into a single system, this platform has simplified the process for citizens and for federal bodies. Moreover, the CGU has made efforts to improve the quality of information at the federal level, reflected by a high response rate and an increase of user satisfaction with requests. However, a more efficient appeals process and stronger sanctions for non-compliance could stir federal government institutions to systematically provide information that is of higher quality.

Beyond the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, and the other levels of government broadly comply with their proactive transparency obligations and have developed tools and mechanisms to promote the access and use of their published information and data. However, the implementation of reactive disclosure measures varies. At the subnational level in particular, important challenges remain due to resources, capacities and a lack of incentives and leadership.

An important factor for the effective implementation of ATI laws is the existence of robust institutional arrangements to ensure their application. The CGU is the institution in charge of co-ordinating the transparency agenda and ensuring the correct implementation of the ATI law. As part of its attributions, the CGU is responsible for increasing awareness, providing training, promoting a culture of transparency, and submitting an annual report to the National Congress. In practice, these responsibilities are divided among three bodies within the CGU:

  • the Directorate of Transparency and Social Control (DTC) leads the co-ordination of the transparency policies, and the oversight and monitoring of the implementation of the ATI obligations at the federal level, in particular with compliance with deadlines and procedures. This body also conducts capacity building and awareness raising activities related to ATI and the broader transparency agenda.

  • the Federal Ouvidoria's Office (OGU) acts as external appeals body (3rd level) for ATI requests made at the federal level.

  • the Federal Internal Affairs Office (CRG) is in charge of enforcement and sanctioning, for instance, with cases raised by the DTC.

Another relevant body in the governance of transparency is the Council for Public Transparency and Fight against Corruption (Conselho de Transparência Pública e Combate à Corrupção - CTPCC). The Council’s mandate is to debate and suggest measures for the improvement and promotion of federal policies and strategies, and it is composed of fourteen members (seven representatives of the Federal Executive Branch and seven from organized civil society). This body represents an opportunity to further engage non-governmental stakeholders in the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of transparency agenda to increase awareness and buy-in.

The CGU’s ministerial status provides high visibility and authority to its actions. However, given its historic mandate for internal control, the approach to transparency is often perceived by federal bodies as a control issue rather than an attempt to change the administrative culture, limiting the potential that this agenda has in terms of inclusive policy- and decision-making.

All federal bodies have established a SIC (ATI office) and a monitoring authority. At the Federal Level, this role is mostly allocated to the Ouvidoria. However, few states and municipalities have done so. At all levels, there are relevant challenges for these offices. According to data gathered by the OECD, 55% of federal government institutions and 62% of subnational governments report the lack of staff and/or financial resources as one of the main challenges to implement ATI provisions.

The OECD has gathered evidence that supports having an autonomous institution in charge of the enforcement and oversight of the ATI legislation is a good practice. The status of the CGU as a federal government ministry limits, to some extent, the possibility to carry out its enforcement function and a proper appeals process in a neutral and autonomous way Moreover, its limited capacities and resources, both financial and human, hinder the effective oversight of the ATI law. This situation raises concerns regarding the level of independence and a potential conflict of interest given the duality between the CGU’s role both in making the transparency policy, as well as in being in charge of the implementation and oversight of the ATI provisions at the federal level. Beyond the Federal executive branch, the Federal Public Prosecutor has the mandate to enforce ATI at the subnational level but is impeded by its limited human and financial resources and heavy workload. The legislature and the judiciary have both designated an internal body in charge of ATI oversight, however, few states and municipalities have done so.

There is an opportunity to increase the oversight of the ATI law by ensuring that in the long term, the institution with the oversight mandate of the national ATI law has the necessary institutional autonomy and the independence of public officials within the organisation to ensure impartiality of the decisions and the operations.

Governments across the OECD Membership have recently started to shift from solely publishing information and data, towards a more targeted disclosure that is more useful and impactful for stakeholders. In doing so, governments enable a two-way relationship with stakeholders encouraging more accountability and participation by opening the decision-making process and the actions taken by public officials at every stage of the policy cycle. This second generation of transparency policies, also understood as targeted transparency, uses disclosure as a means to attain or improve other policy objectives (i.e. transparency in budgeting to decrease corruption) and to contribute to value co-creation with stakeholders.

Brazil is taking steps in this direction, with increasing initiatives from public institutions to make information and data useful for citizens. For example, by improving the comprehensibility of information with simple language, glossaries or dictionaries on technical terminologies. 58% of federal bodies and 46% of subnational governments conduct user consultations to understand needs. For instance, the Casa Civil and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security consulted stakeholders on open data needs and the Chamber of Deputies integrated feedback from stakeholders to improve the usability of its portal created in 2019. The Ministry of Economy developed several portals and tools to allow citizens to access and monitor information and data related public procurement process and the budget cycle at the federal level. Another relevant example created by non-government stakeholders is the QEdu platform, which uses open data from the Ministry of Education to show the performance of students by state-municipality-school in a user-friendly way. Despite these islands of good practice, a systemic understanding of transparency as a way to achieve broader objectives, such as citizen participation or government accountability, could contribute to build a more robust open government agenda in Brazil.

In light of the assessment above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 7 of this review, the Brazilian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

The inception of open government in Brazil is synergic to the development of its open government data (OGD) agenda. Key legislation on open government included provisions regarding OGD. For example, the ATI Law (2011) introduced the concept of open data for the first time in the Brazilian legal framework. In addition, since 2011, open data-related commitments have been systematically included in Brazil’s OGP Action Plans, with tangible results such as the creation of the Open Data Portal (dados.gov.br), launched in 2012, and Brazil’s Open Data Reference Model developed as part of its 4th OGP Action Plan.

The open government data movement also considers the access, use and re-use of datasets as important enablers for more democratic, collaborative and innovative societies and economies. Despite significant positive synergies between the open government and open data agendas, there is still some confusion among public stakeholders about the scope of each. Notably, a considerable number of public officials understands open government data as a synonym for transparency, which is an important aspect, but does not grasp the full picture of open government data.

Brazil has a sound legal framework and key strategic plans to structure its open government data agenda. The country counts with a national open data policy (Decree 8,777/2016) setting transparency and social control among the guiding principles of open government data at the federal Executive level. Every two years, the federal Executive publishes a comprehensive medium-term action plan on open government data (Plano de Ação de Infraestrutura Nacional de Dados Abertos - INDA), setting clear actions and objectives, concrete steps and deadlines for implementation. In addition, Brazil’s National Digital Government Strategies (2016 – 2019 and 2020 – 2022), and the 2021 Digital Government Law have contributed to the promotion of open government data at the national level. These instruments have broadened the understanding of open government data beyond the transparency agenda and reaffirmed its importance in the context of digital transformation in the public sector.

Likewise, Brazil has specific governance mechanisms and initiatives that help leverage and monitor the implementation of open government data in the country. Beyond its responsibilities regarding the open government agenda, the Federal Comptroller General (CGU) is responsible for implementing the Federal Open Data Policy. Decree 9,903/2019 shifted the management and oversight of the open data policy at the federal Executive level from the Ministry of Economy to the CGU and supported a strategic vision with the Federal Open Data Policy and the institutional Open Data Plans. As part of its responsibilities, in 2017, the CGU launched the Open Data Monitoring Portal to help enforce the duties from the Open Data Policy of opening government database (Decree 8,777/2016, Article 8) in more than two hundred public institutions at federal level. This tool allows monitoring federal public institutions’ progress in disclosing their databases following open standards.

Brazil’s efforts in open government data were reflected in the country’s performance in OECD’s Open, Useful and Re-usable data (OURdata) Index 2019, which benchmarks the design and implementation of open government data policies at the national level across OECD member and partner countries.

Brazil performed above the OECD and Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) averages, and among the top three leading countries in the region. Compared to other LAC countries, Brazil’s overall results illustrate the country’s commitment to the open data agenda in the past years, and results from the availability of sound institutional, policy, legal and regulatory frameworks supporting strong governance for open government data in the country. Compared to LAC countries, Brazil’s overall results for 2019 illustrate the country’s commitment to the open data agenda in the past years, and were the outcome of the availability of sound institutional, policy, legal and regulatory frameworks supporting strong governance for open government data in the country.

Despite the country’s efforts in the past few years, evidence suggests that Brazil can further advance to increase the impact of its OGD. For example, public authorities could advance in implementing open data requirements (e.g. the provision of timely and machine-readable data) as part of performance indicators for all public sector organisations. Results of the OECD OURdata Index suggest that main challenges remain in having mechanisms in place to ensure that open government data initiatives comply with formal requirements on security, privacy and confidentiality to maximise benefits of open data while managing risks.

Despite all the positive advancements in open government data, there are still some areas of opportunity to connect this agenda to the broader efforts on open government and achieve higher levels of trustworthiness, better design and delivery of policies and services, and value creation through collaboration with actors outside the public sector.

Open government data can further play an important role in supporting the protection of online civic spaces, and promoting inclusion. The ethical management of data throughout the data value cycle from its generation to its publication can help ensure that open data aligns to efforts aiming at the mitigation of biases affecting the generation or collection of data by public sector organisations. Publishing disaggregated data may help uncover bias and monitor social injustices and policy challenges hidden in data, and inform policies to fight exclusion, discrimination and violence.

In addition, the access to and sharing of trusted data sources is crucial to help individuals navigate information overload, and channel them to reliable sources of information and facts. The spread of dis- and misinformation online threatens citizens’ capacity to make well-informed decisions, contribute to social fracture, and jeopardise democracy. Open government data can be a tool to counter dis- and misinformation by helping public authorities to fill in data vacuums, contributing to informed discussions and decisions, and allowing fact checking.

Brazil has an untapped opportunity to advance in the re-use of open government data to create public value on the basis of people’s needs, and promote citizen and stakeholder participation. While much of the efforts on open government data to date have focused on making large quantities of government data available (e.g. increasing the number of datasets in dados.gov.br), challenges remain to translate open government data into a strategic asset for improved service delivery and addressing people’s needs in their daily lives. Moreover, Brazil could explore the potential of non-governmental data (from public sector for example) and build partnerships with non-governmental stakeholders to use data as a strategic asset to create public value.

In light of the key assessments above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 9 of this review, the Brazilian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

The concept of accountability has its historical origins in bookkeeping and the need for individuals and organisations to provide an account of their financial activities and their use of public funds, originally intended as a way to track government spending and demonstrate evidence against wrongdoing. The modern movement for accountability has grown to encompass a much wider range of possibilities than the sole responsibility and duty of a public official or public body to citizens, to now consider a complete reconfiguration of government structures and the fundamental ways in which public bodies operate, with citizens and stakeholders at the centre.

The legal, policy, and institutional frameworks for the different types of accountability are well-established in Brazil. However, as is the case in many OECD countries, Brazil’s definition of and overall approach to accountability is not clearly defined in any policy document. Brazil’s view of accountability emphasises sharing documentation, offering an account of decisions made, and showing how funds have been used, as accountability tends to be related mostly to internal and social control. Accountability is thus perceived as a bookkeeping and internal control and compliance practice rather than a forward looking interpretation centred on strengthening the government-citizenship relationship.

The Constitution establishes safeguards for both horizontal accountability (i.e. the reciprocal oversight between different state institutions) and vertical accountability (i.e. the direct relationship between the government and citizens in democratic systems, both within and outside electoral channels)). in Brazil. In addition, there is a wide range of legislation relevant to horizontal accountability, including laws and decrees on administrative improbity, public integrity, lobbying, fiscal responsibility and whistleblowing, among others, with the aim of guiding public officials on their duties and responsibilities to the public, including:

  • the Law on Administrative Improbity (Law 8.429 from 1992) provides for the punishment and sanctions applicable to public officials in case of unlawful behaviour in the exercise of their role.

  • the Brazilian Anti-Corruption Act (Law 12.846 from 2013), which targets corrupt business practices in Brazil and defines administrative and civil penalties for any individuals involved

  • the Law on Conflicts of Interest (Law 12.813 from 2013) prohibits any public officials from engaging in activities that may involve the disclosure of information that benefits either themselves or a third party.

  • Decree 10.153 from 2019 provides means to protect whistle-blowers who denounce misconduct in public bodies.

A number of additional legislative frameworks, ordinances and decrees solidified and consolidated the importance of stakeholder participation for vertical social accountability over the last decade, demonstrating Brazil’s commitment to improving responsiveness and receiving feedback from citizens.

Currently, Brazil has a wide range of mechanisms for vertical and horizontal social accountability that span different forms, including administrative, fiscal, and budget, and policy outcome accountability, many of which are led by the CGU with involvement from different public bodies. To implement and oversee these mechanisms, Brazil has an institutional framework that includes several public bodies, namely the CGU, the Government Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic (SEGOV), the Casa Civil, the Federal Court of Accounts (Tribunal de Contas da União - TCU) and the network of Ouvidorias.

Due to the complex institutional arrangement for accountability in Brazil, most public bodies with a mandate for social accountability collaborate and coordinate. In fact, several have existing cooperation agreements to this effect, with the number of such agreements increasing.

Brazil does not have a traditional and independent Ombudsman institution that has a mandate for all steps of a social accountability cycle, that is to say: to monitor, investigate and sanction. Furthermore, no institution is currently fully in line with the Paris Principles and accredited by the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institution.

Nevertheless, two institutions cover common responsibilities of an Ombudsman institution. The Federal Public Ministry (Ministério Público) and the Public Defender’s office (Defensoria Pública) play an important role concerning government oversight. In addition, a number of bodies collaborate at the national and subnational levels to ensure accountability for human rights abuses and to protect civil liberties in particular.

The Federal Public Ministry has a mandate of overseeing compliance with the law at each level of government in Brazil and undertakes investigations. However, public prosecutors have a large volume of work, which can be detrimental to the quality of investigations. The Public Defender's Office ensures access to justice and is responsible for defending human rights and providing legal advice and guidance to citizens, especially those who are not able to afford such costs. This public body in particular shows potential to fulfil the traditional responsibilities of an Ombudsman institution. However, both institutions suffer from a lack of sufficient resources, both financial and human, to fulfil their respective missions.

Social accountability relies on citizen engagement and interaction with the government to hold public bodies to account and can include a wide range of methods and strategies to assist stakeholders – including civil society, the media, and academia – to track public policy making and the use of public funds. While public bodies in Brazil are receptive to feedback and offer a range of opportunities for citizens to offer inputs, the quality of these responses and the level of satisfaction among citizens can be quite low. Furthermore, statistics on requests, suggestions and complaints are available but the data is not disaggregated nor does it provide enough detail available on the substance as well as the eventual outcome of the requests, which highlights a need for evident feedback loops. Lastly, citizens can find it difficult to decipher where to direct their request and the stages and timelines involved at each stage of the process.

When it comes to engaging with citizens and allowing them to provide feedback across the public administration, the ouvidorias are the main interface for this government-stakeholder relationship and represent a complex network of offices that handle citizens’ requests and demands. These ouvidorias, which exist at both the national and sub-national levels have wide-ranging responsibilities and competences aiming at building a more bottom-up approach to accountability and enable more direct interaction with citizens. Nevertheless, the ouvidorias tend to operate reactively rather than proactively and how they function varies widely with no national comprehensive standard across the federal, state, and municipal levels regarding their level of development. The ouvidorias have the potential to bolster the move towards a culture of open government as pillars of a renewed citizen-state relationship.

In light of the key assessments above, which draw on the main findings and analysis included in Chapter 8 of this review, the Brazilian government could consider implementing the following policy recommendations:

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