Transparency, participation and accountability in the Justice sector
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)
The Government of Argentina is implementing transparency, participation and accountability in the judiciary through two flagship initiatives from the Ministry of Justice: Open Justice and Justice 2020. Open Justice is an open data portal, and Justice 2020 is a civic engagement platform. Through these initiatives, the government is seeking to improve the relationship between society and the justice sector as well as justice service delivery.
The innovation consists of the synergy of two different Programs: Open Justice and Justice 2020.
Open Justice is focused on transparency and accountability in the justice sector. The program developed and maintains an Open Data Portal (datos.jus.gob.ar) that publishes datasets with relevant information from a wide range of justice-related topics (access to justice, fight against corruption, human rights and criminal justice, among others), following the philosophy of open data. Additionally, as Argentina is a federal country, the Ministry promoted a wide agreement with over 50 national and sub-national judicial institutions to standardize and publish judicial statistics and information.
On the other hand, Justice 2020 (justicia2020.gob.ar) consists in a digital platform for civil society participation in justice-related issues through an innovative approach. Initiatives and projects submitted by the Ministry are presented to 20 work teams. Participation is open to civil society: anyone is allowed to debate any topic in virtual debates and in-person workshops. Officials responsible for the initiatives are the ones who read and reply to every online contribution. The results of the participative process are already being taken as flagship initiatives by the Ministry to promote institutional reform in the country's Justice system.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Justice sector has traditionally been among the least willing of public institutions to implement policies in the direction of openness and accountability. At least in developing countries, the Justice sector has become an information silo, where the low levels of transparency and accountability are not in line with the critical role it plays in delivering an essential social service and safeguarding the rule of law. The implementation of this innovation means expanding the principles of open government to institutions that have been so far reluctant to change.
In the specific case of Argentina, the federal nature of our government requires reaching agreements and gaining support not only from other central state agencies but also from 24 different judicial branches (one for each province our country is divided into). This hurdle has however not been considered as an impediment, but as an extra challenge that boosted our resiliency and creativity for championing cultural change.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Civil society has long acknowledged the need for structural change in our country’s institutions in terms of more transparency, participation and accountability. When the new national Government took office in 2015, it strongly promoted transparency policies by creating the necessary governmental and administrative tools. This renewed political will for openness gave place to the enactment of a National Plan for Data Opening and the creation of a Ministry of Modernization in charge of state reform based on open government values, among other measures. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the main sponsor of this innovation, also undertook structural reforms by creating new openness-related Programs and adopting a novel, more open approach to Justice. Regarding the Open Justice Program, agreements previously reached with judicial institutions at the national and subnational levels regarding the management of judicial data are being implemented and the open data portal is online.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Other national agencies (both within our Ministry and the Ministry of Modernization) have been key partners by providing data and expertise, as well as political support for the innovation. CSOs also played a significant role by placing their demands and challenging us to deepen our commitment to the innovation, both in the discussion of justice reform initiatives as well as in the discussion for the elaboration of the Open Government Partnership’s National Action Plan.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Citizens play a relevant role, and are expected to play an even bigger role as we keep advancing in the implementation of the innovation. Although Argentina is still lacking a solid culture of open data usage, we are encouraging them to make use of the data. Individuals, both with and without a legal background, have also taken part in the discussion of judicial reform initiatives. In the future of the innovation, we plan to keep working closely together with them.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Partly due to this innovation (i.e. the opening of databases on company registration and on national laws), Argentina has moved up 37 places in the Open Data Index last year. More national databases are now available to the public in open formats. The Open Justice data portal currently holds a total of 30 datasets containing freely downloadable and constantly updated, relevant data on transparency and the fight against corruption, criminal justice, human rights, etc. Meanwhile, thousands of users are also active in the Justice 2020 forums, where judicial reform is being discussed. Some of the proposed changes (effective orality in civil trials, modernization of registry processes, simplified processes in cases of flagrancy, e.g.) are already being implemented. The expected impact of this innovation is to make more judicial data available as well as to engage a larger number of society users in making use of that data.
Challenges and Failures
Challenges are mostly related to cultural issues regarding the Justice sector and a prevalent organizational culture that sees data as a private property that should be kept hidden, not made public. We are opening data for a huge number of different Judicial institutions, and this requires fine-tuning our demands for data to fit their ‘political momentum’. The same can be said about many government agencies, with which coordination has proven sometimes to be difficult. Good dissemination of data has also been tough to achieve. The lack of sufficient technical and human resources has also become a challenge.
Conditions for Success
Conditions for success are strong institutions that can respond to cultural change, an engaged civil society and an unequivocal and bold political will to support the agencies in charge of innovations.
This innovation has a high potential to be replicated anywhere, especially in contexts where more transparency and openness are needed. We believe that other developing countries could make a good use of this experience and carry out innovations similar to this.
There is the importance of political leadership to push things through, especially when it comes to innovations that endorse cultural change such as this one. The importance of working with stakeholders has also proven to be essential: a unilateral and top-to-down approach often leads to failure, especially when introducing innovations.