The legal and institutional enabling environment for open government in Costa Rica: Towards an open state
Robust institutional and legal frameworks are at the heart of the successful implementation of open government policies and initiatives. This chapter analyses the main legal and institutional underpinnings which constitute the basis for Costa Rica’s path towards an open state. The chapter recognises the important progress the country has made through the transfer of responsibility for open government from the Digital Government Technical Secretariat to the Deputy Ministry of the Presidency for Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue and through the creation of the National Open Government Commission and underlines the solid legal basis for open government at the local level. In order to further strengthen the enabling environment for open government, the chapter recommends passing an Access to Information Law and drafting a Law on Citizen Participation.
Over the past two years, the open government movement has gained impressive momentum in Costa Rica. New topics have appeared on Costa Rica’s open government agenda, including an increased focus on citizen participation and transparency and have complemented the ambitious digital government agenda initiated by the previous administration. The shift of responsibility for open government from the Digital Government Technical Secretariat to the Deputy Ministry of the Presidency for Citizen Dialogue and Political Affairs and the creation of the National Open Government Commission, along with the elaboration and adoption of an ambitious second Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan are testimony of the current administration’s great will to move its OG agenda forward.
As discussed in Chapter 1, Costa Rica - led by the Deputy Ministry for Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue of the Ministry of the Presidency - became one of the first countries worldwide, to undertake an ambitious process of collaboration encompassing the various branches of the state to elevate open government processes to another level and move towards an open state (OS). The government is increasingly co-operating with the Judiciary, which has also worked on its own policy for citizen participation and is taking part in the second OGP Action Plan. Elsewhere, the Legislative Assembly has taken its own promising Open Legislature initiative.
Having an appropriate enabling framework in place is important in order to transform open government principles into a reality, carry out open government commitments and ultimately deliver on Costa Rica’s stated aim of harnessing the benefits of open government to improve peoples’ living conditions and make growth more inclusive. This chapter introduces the constitutional framework and the most important laws in areas relevant to open government, including legislation on digital government, anticorruption and transparency. The chapter further discusses the role of Costa Rica’s key open government actors, both from government and civil society, and presents the initiatives taken to foster transparency and citizen participation by the Legislative Assembly and the Judicial Power.