2. The context and drivers of open government in Brazil

Open government constitutes a fundamental transformation of the way in which governments and society interact. While most countries have implemented initiatives that aim to promote the open government principles of transparency, integrity, accountability, and stakeholder participation for a long time, the concept of open government aims to go one step further and establish a culture of governance that ensures that these principles, implemented in synergy, guide any government action from its conception to its evaluation.

Open government touches upon every single aspect of public governance. The creation of an open government culture means that citizens understand how government works and are able to collaborate with public authorities to improve public decision, policies, services and all kinds of governmental processes (e.g. procurement, budgeting, etc.). Over time, open government approaches can alter the core functioning of public institutions and democracy itself. From co-creating environmental policies with concerned stakeholders to fostering transparency in the health sector, countries are starting to recognise that open government approaches have the potential to act as a catalyst for the attainment of broader policy goals such as fostering socio-economic development, increasing trust and ultimately improving democracy. Recognising this, the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (OECD, 2017a) defines open government as “a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth”.

Brazil has historically been a leader in the field of open government. The country has a longstanding history of open government reforms, introducing practices such as the participatory budget of the city of Porto Alegre, as well as modern day standards like the Transparency Portal. As a founding member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), Brazil has globally pushed for ambitious open government reforms.

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 internationally recognised for its transparency agenda and some more recent initiatives such as the creation of the Fala.BR platform and of different monitoring panels on open government policies and practices. However, recent years have also seen the emergence and / or reinforcement of (often pre-existing) worrisome trends, such as a shrinking civic space which provides an obstacle to the implementation of open government reforms. At the same time, levels of commitment to the open government agenda have seemingly dropped in the past years and policies that aim to promote openness have suffered from the public responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is against this backdrop that this OECD Open Government Review (OGR) of Brazil takes stock of past reform efforts and provides a path for Brazil to foster its openness in the short-, medium- and long term. The OGR examines diverse reform areas that were jointly identified as priorities by Brazil and the OECD for bolstering the effectiveness and sustainability of the country’s open government agenda. In addition to discussions on the governance of open government (Chapters 3 and 4) and on the implementation of the open government principles of citizen and stakeholder participation (Chapter 6), transparency (Chapter 7) and accountability (Chapter 8), the Review – for the first time – fully integrates a civic space perspective (Chapter 5), recognising the importance of a protected civic space for a successful open government agenda. Moreover, noting its importance in Brazil’s open government agenda, the Review includes a full chapter dedicated to open government data (Chapter 9).

The present chapter (Chapter 2) provides an introduction to the OECD’s wider work on open government and discusses Brazil’s main achievements and emerging areas of opportunities. It ends by presenting the Review’s methodological approach.

Open government is a wide concept that has seen increased levels of global attention following the creation of the Open Government Partnership in 2011. Governments – both at central / federal and at subnational level, individual public institutions, international organisations and civil society organisations have adopted their own definitions of the concept. The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (2017[1]), the first and only internationally recognised legal instrument in the area of open government (see Box 2.2), defines open government as “a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth”.

As such, the OECD definition identifies two overarching objectives – fostering democracy and inclusive growth – as well as four transformation principles to achieve them. The principles of open government – transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation – are deeply related and intertwined in practice. Conceptually, they can be defined as:

  • Transparency is understood as the disclosure of relevant government data and information in a manner that is timely, accessible, understandable, and re-usable (OECD, forthcoming[2]).

  • Public sector integrity refers to the consistent alignment of, and adherence to, shared ethical values, principles and norms for upholding and prioritising the public interest over private interests (OECD, 2020[3]).

  • Accountability is a relationship referring to the responsibility and duty of government, public entities, public officials, and decision-makers to provide transparent information on, and be responsible for, their actions, activities and performance. It also includes the right and responsibility of citizens and stakeholders to have access to this information and have the ability to question the government and to reward/sanction performance through electoral, institutional, administrative, and social channels (OECD, forthcoming[2]).

  • Citizen and stakeholder participation includes all of the ways in which stakeholders1 can be involved in the policy cycle and in service design and delivery through information, consultation and engagement (OECD, 2017[1]).

Putting the principles of open government into practice, is not simply a technical matter of having the right legislation or systems in place. Rather, it is about transforming the entire culture of governance so that citizens are enabled and empowered to understand how governments work, to scrutinise their action and to participate in the decisions that matter the most to them. This is especially relevant for those citizens whose interests are usually underrepresented in government institutions and processes.

The prevailing governance culture of a country touches upon every institution and every individual public official and has deep implications for the relationship between public institutions and citizens. An open government culture of governance requires governments to be receptive to citizens’ demands and change their daily operations as to include them and serve their needs. In sum, an open government requires a culture of governance that puts citizens at the hearth of any public action and decision. In this sense, open government can produce iterative loops that blur the traditional distinctions between provider and user, representatives and electorate, and allow citizens to co-produce policies and services.

Such a transformation requires cultural changes for both public officials and citizens. This involves changes in individual and institutional values, skills, beliefs, norms of conduct, and expectations, which are materialised in new policies, practices, services and public goods, among others. At the institutional level, it requires a new set of processes to transform the internal ways of working, and new norms and values that integrate open government as an intrinsic responsibility of the State. At the individual level, this new paradigm means new ways of thinking public service and adapted skills to deliver public action in a transparent, accountable and participatory manner. At all levels, the cultural change requires an adapted mind-set that understands the benefit of citizens’ inputs.

Many countries, including Brazil, are already implementing a great variety of innovative strategies and initiatives that aim to connect them with their citizens under the umbrella of the concept of open government. At its heart, open government is about strengthening democracy through renewed government–citizen interactions. Open government reforms are built on the idea that promoting transparency, integrity, accountability and participation enables governments to work more efficiently, deliver the services their citizens want and need, and ultimately enhances trust in the legitimacy of decisions.

Open government reforms improve the traceability of political decision-making processes and enables citizens, civil society and private sector stakeholders to play a more active role in mastering societal challenges through their active participation in different forms. This in turn can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a democratic system and increases trust in public institutions.

In order to better understand open government reforms in Brazil, this Review takes into account the country’s particularities in terms of governance, economic development, as well as social and cultural aspects (see also the Framework for Measuring the Openness of Government (OECD, 2020[5]) below). This chapter does not aim at providing a comprehensive review of the socio-political-economic panorama of Brazil, but rather acknowledge that economic development, wellbeing, social inequalities, trust in government and democratic quality can foster or undermine the impact of a country’s open government agenda.

The Federative Republic of Brazil, situated in South America, is the world’s fifth largest country in surface with a population of 214 million people (IBGE, 2022[6]). The Federal Constitution sets the foundations for the administrative and political organisation of the country. It establishes Brazil as a Federal Republic, divided into 26 states, a federal district (Brasilia) and more than 5,500 municipalities. States and municipalities have autonomous administrations. States are headed by a governor and municipalities by a mayor. Both entities have elected legislative bodies.

The executive power lies in the President of the Republic, who is both head of state and head of government. The president is elected by universal suffrage for a four-year mandate, and can be re-elected. The judicial power is exerted by different organs and courts at national and state level (Europarl, 2021[7]). Brazil's legislative body is the National Congress, which is composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate. Deputies are elected, on the basis of population, for a term of four years. Senators serve 8-year terms, with three senators elected from each of the states. The Federal institutions are based in the capital, Brasilia, which serves as the political centre of Brazil. Following the 2018 legislative elections, at the time of writing, there were 30 different parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies and 21 in the Senate (Europarl, 2021[7]). The federal nature of a country, as well as the geographical extension, can play a role in shaping the multi-level governance of open government. In this scenario, the central government can support and coordinate initiatives with the subnational level, but every State has the prerogative to develop its own legislation and policy.

Brazil is also a very diverse country in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion. This diversity is the result of the mix between Indigenous populations, and several migration waves coming from Portugal and other European countries (Italy, Germany), Middle East (Lebanon), Asian countries (Japan), as well as the large waves of immigration coming from African countries. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (2021[8]), in 2018, Brazil’s population officially described as 43.1% “white”, 46.5% “brown”, 9.3% “black”, and 1.1% “yellow” and indigenous. Table 2.2 captures Brazil’s diversity in terms of demographics and religion.

In the past decades (and especially from 2000 to 2011), Brazil has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Brazil is today the 12th largest economy in the world and the largest in Latin America (World Bank, 2021[9]). Brazil is a member of the MERCOSUR trade agreement as well as other South American cooperation organisations, and is the only Latin American country member of the BRICS, the emerging markets group of countries.

According OECD data (OECD, 2020[10]), Brazil has made progress over the last decade in terms of improving the quality of life of its citizens. During the first decade of the millennium, inequality and poverty declined, while improvements in access to education and in social transfers reinforced well-being. 33 million Brazilians have escaped poverty since 2003 (OECD, 2020[10]). However, Brazil remains a country with high social inequalities. According to the OECD Economic Survey of Brazil (2020[10]), large inequalities are one factor affecting well-being and they have been rising again after years of decline. The bottom 40% of income earners receive 10% of disposable incomes, while the top 10% earn more than four times as much. Female workers earn 20% less than men, compared to 13% for the OECD average. White Brazilians earn two thirds more than other ethnic groups, while the latter are 60% more likely to lack access to basic sanitation and more than twice as likely to be illiterate (OECD, 2020[10]). Regional disparities between the northern and southern states are another crucial challenge. For example, labour market informality and illiteracy are three to four times more common in the poorer north-eastern states than in the relatively affluent southeast. High levels of inequalities require great efforts from governments to reach out to the “silent majority” and create the conditions for traditionally excluded groups of society to be informed, and participate (OECD, 2020[11]).

The OECD Better Life Index allows to understand what drives well-being of people and nations and what needs to be done to achieve greater progress for all. It aims at looking to broader indicators beyond the GDP to evaluate a country’s wellbeing beyond economic development. Brazil’s wellbeing is lower than the OECD average, as the indicators in Table 2.3 show. This is especially important with regards to trust in government, gender parity in politics and safety.

Democracy is a layer of institutions, policies, rights, freedoms and practices that put together allow citizens to express their views, elect their representatives and participate in public life. Brazil’s democracy is rather young compared to most OECD countries. Brazil became independent in 1822, and elected its first President in 1894. However, democracy was interrupted by military coups, first in 1930 and then in 1964. Brazil remained under a military regime until 1985 and adopted its current Constitution in 1988, which re-established a democratic form of government. Today, Brazil is considered a functioning democracy that holds regular and competitive elections (Freedom House, 2021[12]). Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 79% during the 2018 presidential elections (IDEA, 2021[13]). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 68%, and reflects the practice of compulsory voting in Brazil (OECD, n.d.[14]). Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Brazil, where 90% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, broadly in line with the OECD average of 89% (OECD, n.d.[14]).

However, in recent years, the democratic quality in Brazil has been gradually decreasing, echoing a regional and global trend. The Democracy Perception Index (DPI) measures public dissatisfaction with democracy by looking at the difference between how important people say democracy is and how democratic they think their country (Latana, 2021[15]). Latin America stands out as the region in the world with the largest dissatisfaction with the state of democracy and Brazil ranks with the highest deficit in the region, only before Venezuela and in 2020, more than 70% of Brazilians considered that their government only served the interest of a small group of people (Latana, 2021[15]). In 2021, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) listed Brazil as one of the ten democracies with the greatest decline in the past decade. This decline refers to a loss in democratic quality, observed through different aspects including the independence of the judicial system, attacks to civic space and media, and high levels of corruption among others (IDEA, 2021[16])

Citizens’ trust in government is a common indicator of public administrations’ performance and a measure of how well democracies are functioning. Trust in government is essential to ensure compliance, legitimacy of public decision-making as well as to secure social cohesion and well-being. In 2020, 36% of Brazilians trusted their central government, a figure two percent lower compared to 2007 (OECD, 2021[17]).

Many factors can affect public trust in government. The OECD identifies five main drivers: government’s responsiveness, its reliability in delivering public services and anticipating new needs, as well as the principles of integrity, openness, and fairness (Brezzi et al., 2021[18]). Corruption can undermine the efficiency of government, and directly affect trust in public institutions and democracy as a whole. According to the Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International, 2021[19]), the perceived level of public sector corruption in Brazil has increased since in the past decade. In 2019, 54% of Brazilians thought corruption increased in the previous 12 months and a staggering 63% consider that most or all Members of Parliament are corrupt (Transparency International, 2019[20]).

In addition, Brazil faces several challenges in respect to its civic space2 that are undermining trust and democratic quality. Long-standing challenges such as discrimination towards afro-Brazilian populations and violence against woman and LGBTI persons, are combining with more recent trends. Police violence, attacks to the media, killings of activists and an increasingly complex environment for civil society organisations to operate are among the recent challenges cited by several international organisations such as Amnesty International (n.d.[21]) , CIVICUS (2021[22]) and Human Rights Watch (2020[23]).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by February 2022 there had been more than 626 000 deaths due to the COVID19 pandemic in Brazil (2022[24]). Measures taken to contain the spread of the virus have impacted the economic development of Brazil, with OECD projections of a GDP decline by 5% in 2020 (OECD, 2020[10]). Since the beginning of the outbreak, Brazil – as many other countries -has also observed a sharp rise of mis- and disinformation regarding the virus, the treatments and the vaccine (Ricard and Medeiros, 2020[25]). As noted by the OECD (2020[26]), disinformation can affect countries' responses to the global pandemic by undermining trust, amplifying fears, and sometimes leading to harmful behaviours.

As in many OECD member and partner countries, the COVID19 pandemic has had both a direct and indirect impact on the open government agenda of Brazil. It has directly impacted it by postponing or affecting certain participatory mechanisms such as elections or participatory budgets. Notably, the 2020 municipal elections were postponed due to COVID19 related restrictions and the turnout was six points below the previous municipal election in 2016 (Gabriela Tarouco, 2021[27]). In addition, several participatory budgets were postponed, or their scope reduced to only virtual session as in the State of Maranhao (2021[28]) or the Municipality of Duas Estradas (2021[29]). The pandemic also affected the public’s access to information, especially on the management of the pandemic and the emergency procurement by the government. Civil society groups have warned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) about the Federal Government’s violation of access to information and transparency during the COVID19 pandemic and a coalition led by Open Knowledge Foundation published evidence pointing to inconsistencies in the published information and an inadequate handling of access to information requests related to the vaccination campaign (Article 19, 2020[30]) (Open Knowledge Brasil, 2021[31]). Finally, the pandemic has impacted the confidence of citizens in government, and has put more pressure on an already shrinking civic space (Amnesty International, n.d.[21]).

Brazil has a long history of implementing reforms that aim to foster the transparency and accountability of government and at improving the relationship between government and citizens. Brazil is seen as a leading actor in the open government community and has been recognised as a champion in certain areas.

Brazil’s path towards building an open government can be traced back to the 1989 Federal Constitution which marked the transition to democracy. The Constitution aimed at creating safeguards to protect the democratic system and culture in Brazil by creating strong independent institutions and empowering citizens and non-governmental stakeholders. It includes a large number of articles related to the open government principles of transparency, accountability, integrity and participation, as well as the protection of the civic space (freedoms and liberties). A complete overview of the provisions on the open government principles in Brazil’s Constitution can be found in Chapter 3.

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, accountable and participatory for decades. This is the case for example of the National Health Council created in 1944, the participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre established in 1989, the Law on administrative improbity passed in 2000 and the creation of the Transparency Portal in 2004.

Open government policies and practices, while not always called as such, are today widely spread in Brazil. For example, according to results of the OECD Survey on Open Government in Brazilian Public Institutions (OECD, 2021[32]), more than 80% of public institutions regularly – ‘always’ or ‘often’ – publish information on the implementation of policies or provide clear and accessible communication about the development of new policies. Similarly, 82% indicate that they always or often provide citizens and stakeholders the opportunity to provide easily feedback on the implementation of policies. However, initiatives that aim at increasing citizen and stakeholder participation are less frequent as shown in Figure 2.3.

Brazil has played a protagonist role in the global open government movement. In 2011, Brazil was part of the countries3 that endorsed the Open Government Declaration and founded the Open Government Partnership (OGP), setting the scene for an 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 a very active member of the Partnership, delivering five Action Plans including 122 commitments.

In addition to the OGP, Brazil is also an active partner of other international coalitions and organisations that promote the principles of open government. Since 2010, Brazil has been part of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group. The CGU has equally collaborated in working groups of the World Bank, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the United Nations (UN) to ensure adherence to the respective conventions. In preparation of the Access to Information Law’s approval, Brazil concluded a technical cooperation agreement with UNESCO in 2010 and a complementary agreement specifically on the issues relating to Open Government was signed with UNESCO in 2018.

Brazil is also an important partner of the OECD in the area of open government. The country adhered to the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government in 2019, is an active member of the OECD Working Party on Open Government and is the co-chair4 of the OECD Network on Open and Innovative Government in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to the OECD Recommendation, Brazil is a signatory of more than fifteen international treaties and conventions that aim to contribute to building an open government culture (Table 2.4)5.

The OGP process has delivered important results in support of greater transparency, stakeholder participation, integrity and accountability in Brazil. In the preparation of the different OGP Action Plans, the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) has benefited from the participation of more than 839 actors, including 130 civil society organisations, 86 public authorities at the Federal level, as well as actors representing the subnational level, the Legislative and Judiciary powers, researchers, citizens and private sector representatives (Government of Brazil, 2021[34]).

Brazil’s participation in the OGP is regulated through the National Policy on Open Government (Política Nacional de Governo Aberto) established through Decree 10.160 (Government of Brazil, 2019[35]). This document provides the CGU with the mandate to co-ordinate the design of the biannual OGP action plans. Chapter 3 describes the policy, legal and institutional frameworks for open government in Brazil, and provides recommendations to increase its ambition and integration. In addition, the OGP process is coordinated by several bodies, including the Interministerial Open Government Committee (CIGA) and the Civil Society Working Group for Open Government. Chapter 4 discusses the governance mechanisms of the open government agenda and provides recommendations to improve its functioning.

The OGP-process has been among the key drivers of open government in Brazil. Some commitments included in Brazil’s action plans have established the building blocks for key open government areas, namely:

  • To promote transparency and access to public information, as both the Federal System for Access to Information, and the Federal open data platform were initially commitments in Brazil’s First National Action Plan.

  • To increase citizen and stakeholder participation, as the digital platform for participation (Participa platform – now running under the name Participa Mais Brasil) was created as part of a commitment in Brazil’s Second National Action Plan.

  • To move towards an Open State, as Brazil’s Third National Action Plan included several commitments to increase support open government reforms at the subnational level and in the Legislative power.

Chapter 3 includes a detailed analysis of Brazil’s OGP Action Plans, as well as their contribution to move from a technical and compliance-driven perspective of open government towards a more transformative perspective that recognises the value of open government for wider policy objectives.

Civil society has been an integral part of the democratic life in Brazil for decades, contributing to essential public policies and services such as the creation of the Unified Health System or the protection of the Amazonas. Brazilian civil society is vibrant and diverse, with expertise on a wide range of issues. Partnering with the government of Brazil, it has played an increasingly important role in improving policies, engaging in participatory mechanisms, delivering services and helping to increase transparency.

The participation of civil society in public life and the collaboration with public authorities in benefit of the wider society is a core element of an open government. Chapter 5 provides a detailed analysis of the civic space in Brazil, and Chapter 6 provides examples of the value of government-civil society collaboration for better public policies and services.

Brazil has implemented several actions to increase the transparency of its government. In particular, the country has taken effective steps to develop a robust legal and institutional framework for access to information (ATI), including through the 2011 Law on Access to Information and the 2016 Open Data Policy. In addition, the Federal government has created platforms such as the open data portal and Fala.br to support the publication – and request – of government information and data, and created the TIME Brazil program to support subnational authorities in their transparency efforts.

These actions have resulted in a significant volume of information becoming available alongside a simplified process to request information at the federal level. According to the OECD Survey on Open Government for Brazilian Public institutions (OECD, 2021[32]), 94% of the surveyed institutions are currently implementing – or have implemented in the last three years – initiatives to publish government information and data.

Chapter 7 covers the open government principle of transparency and provides an in-depth assessment of the legal and institutional framework for access to information, the mechanisms and tools for proactive and reactive disclosure, as well as recommendations to take this agenda forward. A dedicated analysis of Brazil’s open government data agenda can be found in Chapter 9.

Brazil has a long history implementing citizen and stakeholder participation processes in public decision-making. The processes led both by the Federal government as well as subnational authorities have been ambitious in the scope, degree of citizen empowerment and in the use of innovative approaches to participation, including deliberation, direct decision-making, as well as online participation. These experiences have placed the country as a democratic innovator, with global recognition from other countries, as well as international organisation such as the United Nations6. Notable innovations include for example:

  • Collegial bodies (colegiados) – including the National Conferences and the National Policy Councils - are permanent bodies, at the Federal and subnational levels, with both governmental and non-public stakeholders with the mandate to participate in the prioritisation of topics in the policy agenda, as well as in the formulation and evaluation of public policies.

  • Participatory budgeting which are mechanisms that allow citizens and stakeholders to influence public decisions through the direct allocation of public resources to priorities or projects. It is organized usually at the subnational level and can include several stages such as deliberative assemblies, digital voting platforms and co-creation workshops.

  • Digital participation – such as the E-democracia platform in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies which is a digital participatory platform allowing citizens to follow the legislative process (interactive hearings), co-draft legislations (WikiLegis), and influence the agenda setting (participatory agenda).

Chapter 6 analyses in detail the different participatory practices in Brazil as part of the open government agenda and provides recommendations to increase the level of inclusion and the impact of these processes.

Brazil implements several good practices in the area of transparency, participation and accountability beyond the central Federal government. This Review covers the open government agenda of the Federal government, but acknowledges that the subnational level and the Legislature are also contributing to the country’s openness 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. Beyond the famous case study of Porto Alegre, several municipalities in Brazil have developed initiatives of transparency, open government data, citizen participation and accountability. For example, the city of Sao Paulo has implemented a civic education program to increase awareness and literacy on open government. 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.

As described in this section, open government initiatives have been a reality in Brazil for several years. Consequently, Brazil has been ranked in several indices on the topic.

  • The Rule of Law Index(World Justice Project, n.d.[36]) sub-dimension “Open Government” assesses the “extent to which a government shares information, empowers people with tools to hold the government accountable, and fosters citizen participation in public policy deliberations”. Brazil achieves 0.6 points, placing it above the global (0.53) and the regional (0.52) averages.

  • In terms of Rule of Law, a necessary precondition for the success of open government, Brazil achieves a score of 0.5 out of 1 in 2021 according to the World Justice Project (World Justice Project, n.d.[36]). This places Brazil on the 77th rank out of 139 countries globally and on the 16th rank out of 32 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • The Civil liberties index (Pemstein et al., 2021[37]) evaluates the “absence of physical violence committed by government agents and the absence of constraints of private liberties and political liberties by the government” (Coppedge et al., 2021, p. 292[38]). On a scale of 0 to 1 – with 1 representing the maximum – Brazil scores 0.70 in 2020, translating to rank 104 out of 179 countries.

  • The Global Right to Information Rating evaluates Brazil’s legal framework on access to information with 108 out of 150 points, placing it on rank 29 out of 134 countries (Centre for Law and Democracy, n.d.[39]). Not considering potential problems in the implementation of relevant legislative provisions, this indicates that there is a solid basis for a state transparent to its citizens.

  • The Government Transparency Index (ERCAS, 2021[40]) combines elements of de jure and de facto transparency. Out of a maximum of 100 points, Brazil achieves 84 in regards to freedom of information legislation and international agreements with transparency provisions. The country scores 72 in respect to transparency in practice, e.g. the availability of all laws and regulation in online searchable form. In total, this places Brazil 6th in the LAC region and 30th globally.

  • Brazil ranks 6th out of 117 countries in the 2019 Open Budget Index (International Budget Partnership, 2020[41]), certifying an “extensive amount of information available” on the central government’s income and spending.

  • Brazil scores 0.63 out of 1 in OECD’s OURData Index in 2019 (OECD, 2020[42]). This score is the third highest in Latin America and above the OECD average (0.60). According to this index, Brazil’s strength in the area of open government data lies in Availability (0.69) and Accessibility (0.78). Challenges exist in Promoting Awareness and Re-Use of open government data (0.42).

  • In the OECD Indicators of Regulatory Policy and Governance (iREG), Brazil scores 2 out of 4 points regarding stakeholder engagement during the development of subordinate regulations (OECD, 2019). This indicates that Brazil is above LAC average, but slightly below OECD standard in relation to the adoption of good practices to engage with interested parties when developing new regulations.

  • The Accountability Index (Lührmann, Marquardt and Mechkova, 2020[43]) assesses accountability understood as “constraints on the government’s use of political power through requirements for justification for its actions and potential sanctions” (Coppedge et al., 2021, p. 285[38]). According to this Index, Brazil achieves 0.87 out of the maximum of 1 in 2020, meaning rank 56 out of 179 countries.

  • The OECD Digital Government Index (OECD, 2020[44]) evaluates, among others, the extent to which the open by default principle is realised, i.e. whether a country makes government data and policy-making processes available to the public. A score of 0.61 out of 1 places Brazil on the 14th rank out of 33 OECD and selected non-member countries.

OECD Open Government Reviews (OGRs) support national and subnational governments in their efforts to build more open, participatory and accountable governments that can restore citizens’ trust and promote inclusive growth. OGRs are based on the ten provisions of the OECD Council Recommendation on Open Government (OECD, 2017[1]).

Open Government Reviews provide in-depth analysis of countries' open government policies and practices coupled with actionable recommendations to help embed the principles of open government in the policy making cycle and to evaluate their impact. They usually cover multiple aspects of open government and benefit from different relevant areas of OECD work, including digital government, public sector innovation, public sector integrity, budgetary governance, territorial development, amongst others.

Because they are developed in partnership, OGRs are tailored to the needs of the requesting government. Accordingly, OGRs are sensitive of the specific context, such as cultural, historical and legal specificities, and inclusive of all relevant actors outside and within government (Box 2.1).

While initiatives to foster open government principles have been a priority on countries’ policy agendas during the past decades, it is only in recent years that governments have started to move towards a more holistic and integrated approach to the promotion of openness (OECD, 2020[5]). The OECD has been at the forefront of this development and established the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government in 2017 (OECD, 2017[1]). This document is the first internationally recognised legal instrument in the area. It contains ten provisions that cover all relevant elements of open government reforms and guide countries in their quest for more transparent, accountable, and participatory government (Box 2.2).

As the global open government movement has become more mature, an increasingly loud call for performance indicators to measure their contribution to broader policy goals such as trust in government and, more generally, to socio-economic outcomes has evolved. The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government recognises “the need for establishing a clear, actionable, evidence-based, internationally recognised and comparable framework for open government, as well as its related process, output, outcome and impact indicators taking into account the diverse institutional and legal settings of the Members and non-Members” (OECD, 2017[1]).

The OECD Secretariat elaborated the OECD Framework for Assessing the Openness of Governments (OECD, 2020[5]), proposing a roadmap for the development of open government indicators. The framework clarifies the interplays between all the elements necessary for an open government culture of governance. The result is a systematic overview of how the inputs of open government can lead to increased openness and in turn contribute to the achievement of broader policy goals, such as trust in government (Figure 2.4).

This Review reflects the Framework for Assessing the Openness of Governments (2020) through its different chapters. The first three chapters focus on inputs and processes of open government:

  • Chapter 3: The enabling environment for open government in Brazil: From multiplicity to integration discusses the legal framework, strategic policy documents, and institutional coordination mechanisms necessary for the implementation of open government initiatives.

  • Chapter 4: Strengthening governance processes and mechanisms for an integrated open government agenda in Brazil focuses on key processes that should be led by any government that aims to promote a coherent approach to the creation of a culture of open government, including fostering open government literacy and monitoring and evaluation of open government policies and practices.

  • Chapter 5: Civic space as an enabler of open government in Brazil explains the role of civic space as a facilitator of inclusive and effective open government initiatives. It includes a review of the key institutional, legal and policy frameworks governing civic space in Brazil, followed by an analysis of current implementation challenges and opportunities.

The following chapters primarily take into consideration the outputs and outcomes of open government, each dealing with a distinct area:

  • Chapter 6: Citizen participation in Brazil: Involving citizens and stakeholders in policy making and service delivery analyses participatory practices in Brazil. It examines the existing frameworks that create the enabling environment for participation and reviews the implementation of participatory processes at the Federal level.

  • Chapter 7: Transparency for Open Government in Brazil provides an in-depth assessment of the legal and institutional framework for access to information, the mechanisms and tools for proactive and reactive disclosure, as well as the role of transparency policies to enable stakeholder engagement in policy-making.

  • Chapter 8: Towards a more accountable and responsive government in Brazil focuses on the current status of accountability in Brazil and seeks to identify ways to improve its implementation within a broader integrated open government agenda. It elucidates the main web of public bodies with a mandate for accountability and suggests recommendations to improve upon their autonomy, independence, and responsibilities.

  • Chapter 9: Open Government Data in Brazil offers an assessment of the availability, accessibility and government suppport for data re-use in Brazil. It highlights current challenges and next steps to advance Brazil’s open government data agenda.

While the Open Government Review of Brazil is the first, all forthcoming OECD Open Government Reviews will include a chapter dedicated to the protection and promotion of civic space. 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. To support this, the OECD has adopted an analytical framework for civic space (OECD, 2020[49]) which forms the basis of its recommendations in the area of civic space (see Chapter 5).

OGRs involve peer reviewers from OECD Member and Partner countries. These are public officials, experts in the field of open government, which enable peer dialogue and share their experiences. Throughout the process, this Review benefitted from the input of peer reviewers from:

  • Argentina: Ms Carolina Cornejo, Director of Open Government, Subsecretariat of Open Government and Digital Country, Secretariat for Public Innovation, Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers.

  • Colombia: Mr Armando José Navarro Burgos, Coordinator of Open Government, Anti-Corruption Innovation Lab Group, Presidency of the Republic of Colombia.

The OECD Secretariat and the CGU selected the peer reviewers in close coordination. The selection is based on the experiences Argentina and Colombia had in respect to their countries’ open government agenda and the value added this presents to Brazil. The concerned public officials kindly volunteered for their involvement.

These two peer reviewers were constantly engaged during the collection of evidence and the drafting of this review. They actively participated during the interviews conducted with a variety of stakeholders (see Interviews below). Further, they provided feedback on (intermediate) findings and recommendations by the OECD secretariat. With their comments, they enriched the present analysis from a practitioner’s perspective.

Brazil’s size and the complexity of its social, economic and political structures demand setting a clearly defined scope for this review. In close consultation with the Brazilian government, the Secretariat therefore decided to focus primarily on the open government agenda of the federal level. Consequently, a range of open government frameworks and practices at other levels of government could not be considered in detail, especially at subnational level.

Notwithstanding the focus on the federal level, the Open State Approach remains highly relevant to this OECD Open Government Review. All chapters take a holistic perspective on open government that – to the extent possible – includes all relevant public stakeholders. Therefore, the analyses make reference not only to the executive branch and its entities, but also Parliament, independent public institutions and others.

Brazil has been actively designing and implementing open government initiatives. However, the approach has not always been fully effective as the open government agenda appears to be fragmented. A consolidated and holistic open government ecosystem would contribute to delivering full impact. This enabling environment encompasses a policy for open government, responsible institutions, and co-ordination processes between them. Paired with a high-level political commitment and a compelling definition of open government, this presents the basis for more fruitful open government initiatives. In particular, chapters 3 and 4 on the “inputs” of open government outline recommendations on how Brazil could move closer to an integrated open government agenda.

The Review was formally launched during a high-level event with more than 300 participants from the Brazilian public administration and civil society on September 2, 2020, by Mr. Wagner de Campos Rosário, Minister of the Office of the Comptroller General, Mr. Walter Souza Braga Netto, Chief of Staff of the Presidency and Mr. Jeffrey Schlagenhauf, Deputy Secretary-General, OECD. This has also marked the beginning of the data collection process including a scoping mission as well as a fact-finding mission followed by several follow-up interviews The OECD presented initial findings and related recommendations to the Brazilian government and the peer reviewers during sounding board missions in July and October 2021. The full draft report then shared the Brazilian government in December 2020.

The OECD Secretariat collected evidence from three main sources: desktop research, interviews and surveys.

The OECD conducted a scoping mission as well as a fact-finding missions and follow-up interviews. These events had the purpose to consult with a broad range of stakeholders. The interviews were held under Chatham House rules. All interviews took place virtually. In total, the OECD conducted 42 interviews with a length of 60 – 90 minutes each (Table 2.5 and Table 2.6).

An extensive Background Report was compiled by the CGU – the main counterpart of the review process – in January 2021. The Background Report was based on a detailed questionnaire provided by the OECD. The CGU also answered the 2020 OECD Survey on Open Government. Additionally, five targeted surveys were sent out to different types of stakeholders (Table 2.7), namely:

  • public institutions that are part of the executive branch;

  • the legislative branch;

  • the judicial branch;

  • sub-national governments at both state and municipal level; and

  • non-public stakeholders.

Brazil and the OECD have been co-operating since 1994 and Brazil has been invited to all OECD meetings at Ministerial level since 1999. The OECD Council at Ministerial level officially recognised and strengthened this partnership by signing the Resolution on Enlargement and Enhanced Engagement (OECD Council at Ministerial Level, 2007[52]) on 16 May 2007. This document defines Brazil as a “Key Partner” of the OECD besides China, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Consequently, Brazil can:

  • access Partnerships in OECD Bodies;

  • adhere to OECD instruments;

  • integrate into OECD statistical reporting and;

  • access sector-specific peer-reviews.

As a result of this long-standing relationship, Brazil today supports the work in various OECD Committees and participates in several bodies and projects. For example, Brazil has been part of the periodical OECD Economic surveys since 2001 (OECD, 2001[53]).

In May 2017, Brazil officially expressed its interest in becoming an OECD Member. Thereafter, the cooperation has been intensified to ensure a convergence in standards between OECD countries and Brazil concerning a broad range of governance issues. In January 2022, the OECD Council decided to open accession discussions with six candidates to OECD Membership, among them Brazil.

In respect to Open Government and public governance more generally, Brazil has become co-chair of the OECD Network on Open and Innovative Government in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2018. It adheres to the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government (2017) since 2019.

The Open Government Review Brazil is anchored within a broader Co-operation Agreement on Public Integrity and Open Government between the Brazilian government and the OECD. This cooperation has led to a first Review on “Mainstreaming Integrity Policies in the Federal Executive Branch” (OECD, 2021[54]) and will be complemented by a full-fledged Integrity Review of Brazil. All Reviews that are part of this Co-operation Agreement are fully coordinated and aligned with each other. Recently, Brazil has further been subject to a Centre of Government Review (OECD, forthcoming) and a Digital Government Review (OECD, 2018[55]).


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← 1. The Open Government Recommendation (OECD, 2017[1]) defines “stakeholders” as “any interested and/or affected party, including: individuals, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, religious and political affiliations; and institutions and organisations, whether governmental or non-governmental, from civil society, academia, the media or the private sector”.

← 2. 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. Chapter 5 on civic space covers Brazil’s efforts in facing the mentioned challenges, as well as the areas of opportunity for Brazil to promote a healthier and vibrant civic space in favour of open government.

← 3. The other countries were Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

← 4. Colombia is the other co-chair of the OECD Network on Open and Innovative Government in Latin America and the Caribbean.

← 5. Specific discussions on these documents can be found in the respective implementation chapters of this Review. For example, Chapter 7 on Transparency discusses that Brazil has signed but failed to ratify the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Escazú Agreement.

← 6. IN 1996, UN Habitat recognized Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting as the Best Practice for Urban Management, and since then has supported the spread of this practice through its Participatory Habitat Initiative.

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