Executive summary

Open government has been a priority of the Brazilian federal government for more than a decade. Some initiatives, such as the creation of the Transparency Portal or the municipal participatory budgets, have inspired other countries, and made Brazil a leader in this agenda.

To develop an open government culture across the government and society, Brazil intends to broaden the focus beyond transparency and anti-corruption and develop a coherent vision at the federal level. Political support at the highest level, as well as a protected civic space and a favourable environment for civil society organisations, will be crucial for greater openness and, ultimately, a more robust Brazilian democracy.

The OECD Open Government Review of Brazil analyses open government policies and practices in Brazil over the past decade. Many current achievements, as well as challenges, stem from reforms undertaken by several Brazilian administrations. The policy recommendations included in this Review provide a medium to long-term path towards a fully integrated and sustainable open government agenda.

  • While the Federal Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) has made efforts to mainstream the open government agenda, the concept and its benefits could be better known across the public administration. Public officials often associate open government with transparency and open data, and do not consider participation and civic space part of open government.

  • As in many OECD countries, Brazil’s open government policy framework is built around the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plans and complemented by policy documents on transparency, open data, and accountability. There is scope for increasing the coherence, ambition and harmonisation of this framework.

  • Brazil’s constitution and legislation provide far-reaching legal guarantees related to civic space (e.g. freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and the rights to privacy and non-discrimination). Nevertheless, freedoms and rights remain unequally protected and are at times obstructed.

  • Citizen and stakeholder participation has been a core feature of Brazil’s institutional architecture, and includes good practices, such as the National Conferences and the “Participa Mais Brasil” platform. However, since 2014, government support for participation has steadily decreased in both quantity and quality.

  • Brazil has made efforts to reduce discriminatory practices. However, structural inequality and violence are pervasive and continue to affect the ability of certain groups to engage in public life on an equal basis.​ Afro-Brazilians, indigenous peoples, women, LGBTI persons, land defenders and human rights defenders are particularly at risk of violence and exclusion.

  • Restrictions on freedom of expression coupled with the spread of mis- and disinformation are restricting public debate; the environment for journalists is increasingly difficult, exacerbated by rising violence against them and related impunity.

  • Subnational governments are implementing numerous open government initiatives and the CGU supports them through initiatives such as TIME Brazil, a programme providing resources and skills to increase access to information and participation. However, there is yet no action to develop a structured open state framework to promote co-ordinated open government reforms across branches of power and levels of government.

  • The federal government has made important progress in implementing the 2011 Access to Information (ATI) Law. However, further efforts are needed to ensure an equal uptake across the public sector, including in the other branches and levels of government, and to improve the quality of information provided.

  • The CGU has a strong mandate for transparency and for overseeing the ATI law at the federal level. While its leadership is well established and recognised, the effective oversight of the law is hindered by its historic mandate for internal control, a lack of autonomy, and limited capacities and resources.

  • Brazil lacks a fully-flegded Ombudsman institution, in line with the Paris Principles, with a mandate to monitor, investigate, and sanction. The Citizen Complaint Offices (ouvidorias) partially compensate and have a prominent role in advocating for social accountability, but are more reactive than proactive.

  • Brazil has sound governance frameworks for open data. Nevertheless, challenges remain in the use of open data to support wider policy goals.

  • Adopt a more ambitious approach to open government that explicitly recognises the enabling role of protected civic spaces and fundamental democratic rights.

  • Adopt a Federal Open Government Strategy to provide an umbrella policy framework and outline the government’s vision for transparency, accountability, and participation, including a commitment to protect civic space.

  • Update and broaden Decree 10.160 establishing the National Open Government Policy to support a harmonised and coherent implementation of existing legal and regulatory provisions.

  • Establish the National Open Government Council and Institutional Open Government Co-ordinators in all public institutions to foster co-ordination at the Federal level.

  • Improve the enabling environment for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) by facilitating access to funding and simplifying the legal regime; consistently involve CSOs in reviews of legislation and policies that affect their work and society more broadly.

  • Take strong, concrete actions to reduce exclusion and violence against specific groups, affecting their ability to engage in public life on an equal basis, especially for groups that are particularly affected, and to reduce related impunity.

  • Create the Transparency Observatory and provide additional training and resources for federal public institutions to implement the proactive and reactive obligations of the ATI law.

  • Strengthen access to information oversight by ensuring that the relevant institution has the necessary autonomy and independence to ensure impartiality.

  • Acknowledge and commit to reversing negative trends related to the promotion and protection of civic space, especially freedom of expression and assembly, as a means of protecting fundamental democratic norms. Ensure that legal frameworks to counter terrorism and fake news do not infringe upon fundamental civic rights.

  • Strengthen existing participatory processes such as the Conferences, the OGP Process and the Desafios platform, and encourage more continuous practices such as representative deliberative processes.

  • Consider a review of Decree 9.759 in consultation with all relevant stakeholders, ensuring it improves and not hinders the impact of the colegiados.

  • Consider empowering the Defensoria Pública with the entitlements of a fully-fledged Ombudsman institution and allocate the human and financial resources necessary to fulfil this role.

  • Scale up the strategic, social and economic value of open data by using it to fight against misinformation and to co-design public services; publish more granular data on vulnerable and marginalised groups; engage with watchdogs to validate its trustworthiness; and explore data partnerships and donorship with businesses and civil society.

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