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Faces of Open Government: Valeria Torres

Rostros de Gobierno Abierto: Valeria Torres

Valeria Torres|

Meet Valeria Torres, Chief Public Management and Open Government Area at ILPES / ECLAC. Valeria has more than 20 years of experience in applied research and international processes related to sustainable development, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this month’s Faces of Open Government, Valeria shares what inspired her to work on these issues and the crucial role that open government and platforms like OGP play in advancing the sustainable development agenda.


What inspired you to work on sustainable development issues in Latin America and the Caribbean? 

The importance of simultaneously and synergistically advancing sustainable development was raised by the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in 1992 at the Earth Summit, and reinforced at the 2012 Rio Summit. This had a profound impact on me and inspired me to work to strengthen the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of development across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The 27 principles of the 1992 Rio Declaration have since guided policies aimed at sustainable development and are present in most, if not all, of the general environmental laws of Latin America and the Caribbean. The adoption of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, states that the best way to deal with environmental issues is through the participation of all. This requires an adequate justice process and access to information about the environment. Many countries have already begun an innovative path for its integration into national legal frameworks. 

Twenty years later, at the Earth Summit, the countries of our region began a path to provide themselves with a regional instrument for the effective application of the rights of access to information, participation, and justice in environmental matters that culminated with the adoption of the Escazú Agreement in 2018. I had the privilege of accompanying the negotiation process of the Escazú Agreement from start to finish from ECLAC. Even before its adoption, the negotiation process contributed to the importance of adding open spaces for the participation of all people to the agenda, including those traditionally excluded in decisions that affect their environment and quality of life.

The Escazú Agreement and the Open Government Alliance recognize the importance of transparency, participation, and collaboration to address current and future challenges and that the rights to information, participation, and justice are essential components of democracy.

What kind of challenges is the region facing to achieve sustainable development, especially when it comes to climate issues? 

Without a doubt, the changes required to confront the current crises of inequality, environmental destruction, and governance demand an expansion of spaces for public participation, greater transparency, and accountability in decision-making at all levels.

 An issue of particular relevance in  our region is protecting the physical integrity of human rights defenders. As various reports point out, Latin America is the continent most affected by murders of human rights defenders. When engaged in environmental matters they are also the most attacked group.

In this context, it is not surprising that the first environmental treaty between Latin American countries and the Caribbean, the Escazú Agreement, deals precisely with these issues.

How can open government contribute to solutions that address these challenges?

Open government can be transformative. It represents a paradigm shift to move from consultation to shared power in decision-making. It can not only ensure the inclusion of civil society at all levels of planning, but also collaboration in decision-making in the early phases of planning, help generate trust, legitimize decisions made by the State in the eyes of the public, and create greater acceptance and awareness among citizens, ultimately leading to fewer conflicts.

Public policies implemented as part of  OGP action plans and the negotiation of the Escazú Agreement demonstrates that the above is true. The key seems to be moving from rather formal consultation mechanisms to deliberative processes where citizens actively participate in the co-creation of public policies.

How can OGP and its community help advance the sustainable development agenda?

There is no doubt that the region has significant room to improve the institutionalization and governance of appropriate response mechanisms to address the tensions of power relations and persistent inequalities. To this end, state and open government approaches are essential to ensure that all people, including vulnerable individuals and groups can exercise their right to participate in an informed and effective manner in public life as rights holders and agents of change.

To achieve this, it is necessary to continue innovating and developing mechanisms to develop the capacities of the public, particularly civil society organizations, to participate effectively in decision-making, training, and raising awareness on procedures and rights.


What is your message to activists and reformers in government working to find solutions to these problems?

In my experience accompanying the co-creation and implementation of open government plans in the region for more than a decade, the attitude that public officials have toward public participation is essential to guarantee that collaboration is achieved. Hence the importance of continuing to strengthen our region’s open government approach.

Comments (1)


Una excelente iniciativa : Presentar a personas …..como Valeria ….que ejercen un liderazgo desde una clara conciencia, respecto a cuales son las principales brechas de la policrisis que enfrentan las comunidades de todos los paises de nuestra region y particularmente lúcida respecto al advenimiento de nuevos paradigmas emergentes, imprescindibles para contribuir a superarlas, mejorando la institucionalizacion y la gobernanza de mecanismos de respuesta efectivos, que sin duda, es necesario y urgente co-crear y co-gestionar, desde la participacion conciente de nuestras sociedades civiles organizadas, para abordar las tensiones en las relaciones de poder y las desigualdades que persisten y se acrecientan…
Relevar la mirada y la convocatoria, de estos liderazgos conscientes, para incidir en el logro a nivel de las comunidades, de avances efectivos en el conocimiento, valoracion y aplicacion del enfoque de gobierno abierto, que permitan reconocer su funcionalidad y contribuyan a instalarlo en forma concreta y practica para materializar, conjuntamente, con las entidades o agencias estatales y las organizaciones privadas productivas, las multiples iniciativas y mecanismos de respuesta efectivos que se necesita hacer realidad, ahora y en todas las latitudes de nuestra region, quizas la verdadera forma de contribuir al logro gradual, pero sostenido y creciente del bien comun, a traves de la agenda de desarrollo sostenible.

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