Wrap-up: July 2014 Discussion

Publish Date: 
Monday, August 4, 2014

A special thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion on using litigation as a strategy to get data for ESCR monitoring. We had many insightful comments and questions around the potential of this tool. There was agreement overall that without adequate and open data on the status of ESCR, civil society is unable to effectively track the progress of states’ compliance with their ESCR obligations.

ACIJ discussed a report it had published on access to education among persons with disabilities that highlighted inadequacies in available data on the issue. Although the government has yet to acknowledge their findings, the press has highlighted the report in recent weeks, promoting greater awareness among the general public. Keeping in mind the need to promote accountability and to hold the Argentinean government to their obligations, Hakijamii emphasized the importance of setting a hard deadline for government authorities or civil servants to produce the new data.

The case study referenced, in which CAinfo successfully used litigation to demand the Uruguayan government produce data on pre- and primary schools that possess authorizations from the fire department, sparked robust discussion. Working in collaboration with two other Uruguayan NGOs, CAinfo could pinpoint the specific departments within specific state agencies, which had explicit obligations regarding data production, and the precise scope of these obligations. This was a key factor in the success of the claim.

The diverse contributions also fostered fruitful dialogue about some of the tensions regarding ESCR data—and the obligation of states to produce and disseminate this data in appropriately disaggregated ways. Examples were shared from Mexico, Uruguay and the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fundar explained their past and present role advocating for the right to access information in Mexico, where an institution dedicated to facilitating public access to information has been established. ACIJ observed that there is no equivalent institution in Argentina. In the case of Mexico, Fundar’s advocacy for greater data collection demonstrated the ways in which the right to personal privacy has impeded, or frustrated, open data initiatives. CAinfo suggested that it is sometimes useful to make visible the informational gaps, particularly in the media. They explained how, in their case, the Uruguayan government felt pressure to produce data as a result of this new public attention, as well as their legal obligations.

While exploring the potential benefits of litigation, several comments stressed the need to explore all viable options before resorting to litigation, and recognized that legal strategies are one among several tools that can be employed in order to achieve full access to relevant information about ESCR. Fundar recommended exhausting all channels, including the opportunity to make institutional reforms around access to information, in recognition that litigation may not be the most productive avenue.

Dalile Antúnez