Public participation can change the way public policies are developed, reducing capture by special interest groups, and ensuring that decisions take into account the views and needs of affected communities. Although information alone is not sufficient—additional mechanisms are necessary for receiving input from the public, reviewing it, and providing feedback on how this input was taken into consideration—meaningful participation exercises are contingent on the public having timely access to the same data as the officials making the decision. Participation cannot be effective or equal if individuals have to file requests and wait for an answer.
The role of transparency in facilitating participation has been confirmed by international human rights bodies. In the Americas, the Heads of State of the Organization of American States declared in 2004 that: “Access to information held by the State, subject to constitutional and legal norms, including those on privacy and confidentiality, is an indispensable condition for citizen participation and promotes effective respect for human rights. The right to participate is contingent on the right of access to information, and that participation can only be satisfactorily achieved through proactive disclosure of information.