Assessing transparency of environmental information in the Amazon region

Assessing transparency of environmental information in the Amazon region

In 2018, the average active transparency index in the Brazilian Amazon region was measured at only 28%. The passive transparency index stood at 53%. Ensuring transparency in environmental information is essential for fighting illegal practices that threaten the Brazilian Amazon region. Making key information available to society enhances social participation and enables control of public and private activities.

Ensuring transparency of environmental information is essential for the good governance of natural resources and for fighting illegal practices that threaten Brazilian forests. In the public sphere, it makes communication and collaboration possible between the agencies of the executive branch in charge of authorizing and monitoring productive activities and enables control and oversight agencies to cross-examine information more expeditiously. In addition, transparency is a condition for social control of environmental policies and for ensuring not only the integrity of public management, but also the democratic and participatory nature of government decision-making. Unrestrained access to environmental information is also fundamental for private activities, as it enables control of supply chains from funders and primary suppliers to final consumers, ensuring the environmental conformity of the products being marketed.

In Brazil, transparency is ensured by an extensive legal framework that includes the National Environmental Policy (Law 6,938 of 1981), the Law on Access to Information (LAI, in the Brazilian acronym), passed in 2011, and regulatory acts such as decrees, ordinances, and normative rulings, among other legal provisions. These legal instruments ensure the right of citizens to access any document or information produced by the State or under its custody, provided that they are not protected by confidentiality rules.

Despite the existing legal framework, some studies indicate that the LAI is not being fully enforced in states located in the Amazon region 1 and that environmental information is not being fully made available by state and federal agencies as required by law. These results show, for example, how difficult it is to keep track of targets set by government, such as one contemplated in a commitment made by Brazil in 2015 to eliminate illegal deforestation, as data on deforestation permits is yet to be appropriately systematized and made available by all the competent environmental agencies.

The partial access provided to databases such as those of the Rural Environmental Registry and of Animal Transportation Certificates has a negative impact on the performance of the competent agencies and makes it impossible to check in greater detail the environmental conformity of the livestock chain and possible illegal environmental practices. Thus, surveys into the transparency of the information provided by environmental and land tenure agencies are essential for promoting necessary measures and assisting states, the federal administration, and society as a whole in facing the challenges involved in ensuring greater transparency.