Alternative Dispute Resolution Research
Kevin Dunion and Hugo Rojas "Alternative Systems of Dispute Resolution and the Right to Freedom of Information" Kevin Dunion and Hugo Rojas TRANSPARENCIA & SOCIEDAD, No. 3, 2015, pp. 69-91
“Sistemas alternativos de resolución de conflictos y derecho de acceso a información pública: análisis de las experiencias escocesa, inglesa e irlandesa” Kevin Dunion y Hugo Rojas TRANSPARENCIA & SOCIEDAD, No. 3, 2015, pp. 69-91
Arising out of research jointly conducted by Kevin Dunion, Honorary Professor, Dundee Law School and Hugo Rojas Professor of Sociology of Law, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile this article explains the negotiation and facilitation models applied by the Information Commissioners in Scotland, England, and Ireland to informally resolve, at an early stage, freedom of information complaints or appeals. The first part describes the alternative dispute mechanisms used in these countries. The second part discusses the merits and effectiveness using of informal resolution in freedom of information cases. A critical review of those models is made to identify elements that may be useful for comparable Latin American public agencies which protect the right of freedom of information.
(Article is published in Spanish, http://188.8.131.52/consejo/site/artic/20150109/asocfile/20150109124018/t_s_n3___articulo4.pdf
International Survey of Information Commissioners 2014
International Survey of Information Commissioners, conducted by the Centre for Freedom of Information, published November 2014.
How well do authorities comply with Commissioners decisions?
85% of Commissioners, who can order disclosure or otherwise require compliance with their decisions, say that authorities always comply or compliance occurs in a significant majority of cases.
By contrast, none of the Commissioners who can only make recommendations reported that their decisions were always complied with, and only 45% said that compliance occurs in a significant majority of cases.
Are requests using social media valid?
Commissioners have widely varying views as to whether requests made using social media can ever be regarded as valid. 35% felt that generally such requests would be valid; 30% said they could never be valid. Many Commissioners had not yet had to deal with an appeals regarding refusal of such a request, which perhaps explains why 25% said they did not know if they were valid or not.
Should some private bodies/NGOs be made subject to access to information laws?
Nearly two thirds (63%) of Commissioners said there were private bodies/NGOs carrying out public functions or receiving public funds in their country, which should be made subject to the access to information law. The report details some of those bodies specifically identified in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, and the UK. Often they are bodies providing education, energy, or health care.
The full report, which also deals with the volume of appeals, adequacy of Commissioners resources, investigative powers of Commissioners and unreasonable requests is available here.
Open Government Partnership
Professor Dunion was commissioned by the Open Government Partnership's (OGP) Independent Reporting Mechanism to produce a progress report on the UK Governments OGP action plan 2011-13. (The OGP is comprised of the governments of 63 countries committed to open government reform. Action plans developed in consultation with civil society are required. Progress on the commitments given in the plan are assessed by the OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism.)
The report found that the UK action plan "focused on innovations in open data and online service delivery. The majority of commitments were achieved, although some ambitious commitments around open data remain to be implemented. The UK consultation, initially lacking, saw significant improvement since the development of the first action plan."
The full report can be downloaded at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries/united-kingdom
'In the experience of Commissioners' survey results published
Key findings from surveys of information commissioners, have been published by the Centre for Freedom of Information. (September 2013)
The report entitled 'In the Experience of Information Commissioners' sought views on a variety of issues, ranging from workload and resources to applying freedom of information laws in their jurisdictions. More than 50 Commissioners in 23 countries participated.
Applying the law
An emerging issue concerns information relating to government business which is exchanged or stored by Ministers and officials on personal devices or e-mail accounts. The extent to which this information is subject to access to information laws is being debated. Just over half of the Commissioners (52%) thought the law applied to such information, over a quarter (27%) said it did not, with the remainder unsure.
The scope of access to information held by private bodies carrying out public functions was also explored. 56% of Commissioners said that their access to information laws did apply to companies, charitable trusts and other non - public bodies which provide public services or functions.
However where this was the case 48% of Commissioners were of the view that such companies or charitable entities generally complied poorly with their obligations compared to public bodies. A further 15% were of the opinion that such entities were generally unaware of or ignored their obligations.
On the matter of charging fees for making requests, this was done in only 3 countries surveyed - Australia, Canada and Ireland. Overall the survey shows that 84% of Commissioners are not in favour of fees being charged for making a request.
Workload and resources
Commissioners had mixed expectations as to their financial budget this year. There was a broadly even division between those who expected their budgets to increase (33%), stay the same (30%) or decrease (36%).
However the overwhelming majority of Commissioners (84.5%) were of the opinion that their financial and staff resources were insufficient for fulfilling the responsibilities of their office.
Overall 76% of Commissioners expected the number of appeals which they will receive this year (2013) to 'increase substantially' (27%) or 'slightly' (49%). None expect the number to decline.
The surveys were carried out in February / March and July / August 2013 by the Centre for Freedom of information which is based in the School of Law, University of Dundee, Scotland.