December 2015 discussion: forging strategic links between human rights indicators and right to information advocacy approaches

Publish Date: 
Thursday, December 3, 2015

Welcome to our December monthly discussion! I’m Alejandra Umpiérrez from the Center for Archives and Access to Public Information (CAinfo), a Uruguay-based civil society organization advocating for the right to information, freedom of expression and citizen participation. I’m pleased to facilitate this month’s online discussion, which will be our last conversation of this year on human rights indicators, building on the previous consecutive discussions of October and November regarding the potential use of indicators in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and country reviews of treaty bodies.

Recently, CAinfo together with the Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ) co-organized a regional workshop to which we brought various civil society groups and human rights practitioners from the Latin American region with a view to building collective analysis and strategies around the right of access to public information (API) as a tool to advance the enforcement of ESCR. While developing a joint API-ESCR advocacy agenda among the organizations participating in the workshop, we identified several obstacles that are common across the countries in the region, including:

  • a prevalent culture of secrecy, a spectrum of different legal and policy frameworks relating to API across the countries, and the non-existence or poor quality of data and information held by States (i.e. not adequately disaggregated, incomplete, outdated or unreliable in many cases);
  • low level of using API-related mechanisms in general, particularly by human rights groups working in the field of ESCR (difficulties may be associated with the lack of internal system within the human rights groups to incorporate API as part of their intervention strategies, for instance, by allocating time, resources and expertise for developing and monitoring API inquiries, complaints or litigation);
  • an information gap and lack of connections between the communities of, respectively, API, development and human rights advocacy groups (giving rise to diverse but rather fragmented efforts in relation to recent regional and international developments in identifying indicators, promoting the so-called “data revolution”, etc.)    

Do these obstacles resonate with the experiences of other members of the Monitoring Working Group around the world? If so, I’m eager to hear your ideas, thoughts or any other strategies we may collaborate on in order to address them through our work.

Here, let me also share a bit about a new initiative that CAinfo has developed in using access to public information as a strategic tool, which we believe is key in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies on ESCR. In Uruguay, among other public policy agendas, right to health is a major issue of concern. As part of its “health reform” policy, the Uruguayan government created the National Integrated Health System (NIHS), but serious challenges continue to exist, particularly in relation to securing infrastructure and human resources in the public sector and regulating private health institutions. While the government has made progress in ensuring universal health coverage for the population, full access to health care for various marginalized groups still has a long way to go. Meanwhile, in Uruguay, the right to information is widely recognized from a regulatory point of view, being established as a human right through constitutional and legal protection with the adoption of the 2008 Law on Access to Public Information, as well as through several international treaties ratified by Uruguay, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, article 19), the UN Convention against Corruption (article 10) and the American Convention on Human Rights (article 13).

With such context in mind, CAinfo decided to develop an advocacy project using the API related legislation and mechanisms, for the purpose of addressing the absence of effective public policy around three specific areas of the right to health: i) mental health; ii) access to health care for persons with disabilities; and iii) sexual and reproductive health of women. In September 2015, we launched a new website,, which aims to systematize health-related data and information held by public agencies and serve as a repository of current legal and policy frameworks, requests for disclosure of public information made by civil society organizations, and relevant reports and recommendations from regional and international human rights bodies. We hope that this website will allow us to increase and strengthen our demands for quality data and information on the right to health in Uruguay.

I note that several important opportunities have emerged recently in connection with the growing interest in, and efforts to develop, ESCR-related indicators. In addition to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the U.N., in the Latin American region a set of progress indicators has been developed for measuring and monitoring the implementation of the 1988 Protocol of San Salvador (Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). The IACHR Working Group mandated to examine the periodic reports of States Parties already presented indicators for the first cluster of rights (right to health, social security, and education) in June 2014. The development of indicators for the second cluster of rights (right to work, food, environment, and culture) has been underway, and States are expected to submit their reports containing the information on such indicators by June 2019. Are there any similar regional-level initiatives in Africa, Asia Pacific or Europe towards indicator-based state reporting? How do members of the Monitoring Working Group plan to maximize these regional and international momentums in their ESCR monitoring and advocacy work for 2016?

Alejandra Umpiérrez (CAinfo)