Posts Tagged monitor

2011 Knight Open Government Survey Finds Freedom of Information Change

The truth is many US federal agencies lag in fulfilling President Obama’s Day One Openness Pledge.  Modeled after the California Sunshine Survey and subsequent state “FOI Audits,” the Archive’s series of Knight Open Government Surveys started in 2002 and use open government laws to test whether or not agencies are obeying those same laws.  Recommendations from previous Knight Open Government Surveys led directly to laws and executive orders which have: set explicit customer service guidelines, mandated FOIA backlog reduction, assigned individualized FOIA tracking numbers, forced agencies to report the average number of days needed to process requests, and revealed the (often embarrassing) ages of the oldest pending FOIA requests…

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Breaking the Information Bottleneck – From Requesting to Accessing Information

NYTimes thomas fuchsThe New York Times reported this weekend that a handful of legislators and government agencies in the U.S. are trying to break the information bottleneck.  “All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure,” President Obama wrote in a memorandum about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  But two and a half years after the president’s call for openness, only 49 of 90 federal agencies have reported making concrete changes to their FOIA procedures, according to a recent analysis by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which collects and publishes declassified government documents.  Long backlogs of requests for information, along with responses that take a year or more, are common.

The Justice Department has introduced a Web site, foia.gov which shows which agencies last year had the biggest backlogs of FOIA requests (State and Homeland Security) and which had the most full-time FOIA staff members (Defense and Justice).  Long delays, however, can render once-timely information irrelevant.  And the real causes of the hold-ups may not only be limited staff resources but may also include an agency’s desire to control its public image, says David Sobel, the senior counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for government transparency and consumer digital rights.  To tackle the problem, the Senate passed a bill last month, introduced by Mr. Leahy and called the Faster FOIA Act , whose goal is to expedite the way agencies process requests.

The new frontier in government accountability is not faster responses to information requests.  It is an era of open data in which government departments put their information online in usable, searchable formats.  That would eliminate the need for many people to file individual FOIA requests — and for agencies to undertake the labor-intensive process of answering them…

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Crunching Numbers for Human Rights: The Promise and Perils of Data and Statistics

Last fall, Benetech was featured here for its role in the  convictions of two former Guatemalan police charged with human rights violations in the 1980s.  Patrick Ball, VP of the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) human rights monitoring, gave a talk to the Open Society Foundations last month as part of the foundation’s Information Program.

Human rights monitoring consists primarily of receiving information from witnesses and conducting investigations. The resulting information is often stored in databases. However, the statistics generated from databases collected in this way may tell us more about the functioning of the organization doing the monitoring than about the violence being monitored.

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Documenting Truth – an ICTJ publication

Documenting Truth gives practicing information specialists practical insight into monitoring and documenting violations.  Here is some of what HURIDOCS has said about this publication:

This report draws on the experience of six diverse NGOs that came together as the Documentation Affinity Group (DAG). The purpose of this publication is to share some of the lessons which they learned from their collaboration. The goal is to provide useful information and ideas for organizations that are facing similar challenges. In short, these are reflections on best practices for documentation projects to combat impunity, establish truth and build democratic and just societies.

The document describes cross-cutting themes in documentation work as well as practices in collecting, using, analysing, managing and storing documents.

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