Democ­racy and Trans­parency

Democ­racy & Trans­parency

mailife - - Contents -

Demo­cratic so­ci­eties try to pre­vent elected of­fi­cials or group of peo­ple from mis­us­ing or abus­ing their power. One of the most com­mon abuses of power is cor­rup­tion which oc­curs when gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials use pub­lic funds for their own ben­e­fit or ex­er­cise power in an il­le­gal man­ner More gen­er­ally, cor­rup­tion weak­ens gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions by dis­re­gard­ing of­fi­cial procedures, si­phon­ing off re­sources needed for de­vel­op­ment, and select­ing or pro­mot­ing of­fi­cials with­out re­gard to per­for­mance. For gov­ern­ment to be ac­count­able, peo­ple must be aware of what is hap­pen­ing in the coun­try. They must be able to see and un­der­stand what is go­ing on in gov­ern­ment. This is re­ferred to as trans­parency in gov­ern­ment. A trans­par­ent gov­ern­ment holds pub­lic meet­ings and al­lows cit­i­zens to at­tend. In a democ­racy, the press and the peo­ple are able to get in­for­ma­tion about what de­ci­sions are be­ing made, by whom and why. Demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions are gen­er­ally ex­pected to prac­tice trans­parency. This in­cludes the pos­si­bil­ity for (groups of) cit­i­zens to see doc­u­ments pro­duced by rep­re­sen­ta­tives or civil ser­vants, or the pos­si­bil­ity of wit­ness­ing how de­ci­sions are dis­cussed and reached, for in­stance in par­lia­men­tary ses­sions. Democ­racy works if you get the in­for­ma­tion that al­lows you to prop­erly take part in pub­lic life. When gov­ern­ment agen­cies work se­cretly and don’t make their ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able for peo­ple to see and un­der­stand, they deny them their right to know about pub­lic af­fairs. In this sit­u­a­tion, the me­dia can’t get the fac­tual in­for­ma­tion and can only re­port ru­mours and spec­u­la­tion in an ef­fort to tell peo­ple what is hap­pen­ing. Poor pub­lic ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion feeds cor­rup­tion. Se­crecy al­lows back-room deals to de­cide on spend­ing tax­pay­ers money to ben­e­fit just a few rather than for the com­mon good. Lack of in­for­ma­tion af­fects cit­i­zens’ abil­ity to find out about de­ci­sions of their lead­ers, and even to make in­formed choices about the in­di­vid­u­als they elect to serve as their rep­re­sen­ta­tives. There­fore, ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion laws must al­low in­di­vid­u­als and groups to un­der­stand the poli­cies of gov­ern­ment on health, ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing and other mat­ters. When they have that in­for­ma­tion and knowl­edge, or­di­nary peo­ple can de­mand change and help make it hap­pen to im­prove their liv­ing stan­dards and bet­ter their lives. In­creas­ingly, gov­ern­ment and civil so­ci­ety are see­ing ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion as the key to fight­ing cor­rup­tion and im­prov­ing peo­ple’s abil­ity to in­sist on their rights. The right to have this in­for­ma­tion from gov­ern­ment is usu­ally per­mit­ted be­cause it is a way to al­low peo­ple to take part in pol­i­tics. Ac­cess is nec­es­sary for peo­ple to use their ba­sic right to take part in the gov­ern­ing of their coun­try and live un­der a gov­ern­ment sys­tem which must have the peo­ple’s agree­ment to rule.

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