NRTI 2023: Transparency and accessibility of public water, forest and fisheries information
18 enero, 2024
It has been five years since the organizations Causa Natura, CartoCrítica, the Fund for Environmental Communication and Education and Reforestamos México started working together for a common interest: to have more and better data and public information on the management of natural resources because, with the accessibility to official, complete, accurate and reliable data, we can protect, restore and defend them.
As a result of this work, the first Natural Resources Transparency Index (NRTI) was implemented in 2020 as part of the 4th Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership, with the purpose of measuring the transparency of information on forests, water and fisheries and to promote its improvement in a collaborative work with government agencies. In 2021 we reapplied the methodology, achieving significant progress in all three sectors1.
Notwithstanding the above, and with a sense of progressiveness, in 2023 we decided to make modifications to the NRTImethodology to give greater weight to the accessibility and quality of the information. That is, in addition to evaluating the completeness of the information, the new NRTIconsiders for all its variables, the adherence to open data characteristics: machine readable, primary, timely and permanent; as well as the possibility of being able to locate it in the territory through its georeferencing.
Based on the above criteria, the ITRN 2023 analyzes the following four aspects for each sector:
Here is a summary of the results, the most noteworthy aspects, as well as those that need to be further strengthened:
Results by sector:
The forestry sector obtained an overall score of 0.24/1.00. Although the result is not very high, the availability and accessibility of information on the Support Program for Sustainable Forestry Development is noteworthy, as it has the highest score in the three criteria evaluated. In addition, the National Forest and Soil Inventory, which was incorporated into the 2023 evaluation, contains public utility information and geo-referenced data. It should also be noted that the sanction resolutions of PROFEPA and ASEA, related to forestry authorizations, are available.
In order to improve the transparency of the sector’s information, the publication of forest harvesting and land use change authorizations is required, considering that currently only two of nine variables are available, which obtained a completeness score of 0.20/1.00. It is also essential to work on the availability of georeferenced information on forestry, given that only the Support Program and the Inventory have this data published.
The fisheries sector achieved an overall score of 0.58/1.00, the highest score of the three sectors. This is mainly due to the publication of new information such as arrival notices, and to the fact that most of the databases in this sector are reusable, updated and with historical data. Likewise, the reduction from six subsidies in 2020 to only one in 2023, the support of Bienpesca, helped to simplify the transparency of information in this area.
However, there is still a long way to go in terms of resource characterization, since the main sources of information, the National Fishing Charter and the Management Plans still lack complete and updated information to know the state of fishery resources. Likewise, there is an enormous opportunity to make transparent how permits and concessions are assigned and the time the authority takes to respond to this requirement, as well as to show information on sanctions and the use given to infractions and seized product, which would increase society’s confidence in the state’s capacity to enforce the rules and combat illegal fishing.
The water sector obtained an overall score of 0.36/1.00 which resulted from the evaluation of 15 variables with 53 components. The average annual availability of national waters was the variable with the best evaluation as we found significant information containing historical, permanent, open format and georeferenced data. For its part, the Registro Público de Derechos de Agua (REPDA) variable also presented a passing grade based on the existence of the necessary inputs to obtain a water concession and water discharges. Similarly, the Programa de Agua Potable, Drenaje y Tratamiento (PROAGUA) has a passing grade because the necessary information to access it is available.
On the other hand, there is information that is not available, such as that corresponding to the traceability of concessions, since no data was found that reflects the administrative, technical, verification and transfer of rights for each water concession. In REPDA, only static information is shown, but not cancellations or changes in volume or holder that may exist, data that, for example, can help to understand how water markets work. It is also necessary to disclose dynamic information, which is crucial to prevent corruption and accountability in water management.
Overall results of ITRN 20232
Considering the results for each sector, advances in information transparency and improvements in data availability that have been generated are observed, compared to previous ITRN assessments. However, similarities in the challenges of natural resource transparency are also identified.
First, in the review of the completeness of information, we found that, despite the fact that there is more public data than in previous years, there are still information gaps in the three sectors that are fundamental for their good management.
In terms of open data, several databases evaluated are available in tabular formats that are easy to download and reuse, and are disaggregated to the maximum level, although these advances are not generalized in all the evaluated axes. The most relevant aspects to consider in the improvement of open data are the updating and history of the information.
Finally, the aspect with the lowest score in the three sectors is georeferenced information. This situation requires special attention, by virtue of the fact that there is no public data that allows us to locate the management of natural resources in the territory, and, consequently, does not allow us to identify, for example, priority areas for the conservation of forests, water and fisheries. It is necessary to provide geographic coordinates or precise locations where harvesting, inspection and surveillance activities, illegal activities, among others, are carried out.
While we appreciate the efforts made so far to open data related to natural resources such as water, fisheries and forests, there is still much to be done in terms of systematizing transparency and strengthening citizen participation in decisions that directly impact the environment; therefore, we call on the authorities and agencies involved in the protection and accountability of natural resources to give continuity to open government initiatives and promote transparency monitoring exercises with civil society. Specifically, we identified four lines of action:
- Enrich Transparency: Increase the quantity and quality of information available on natural resource management, ensuring that data is integrated into a single portal according to topic, is accessible in short data search and download paths, is in open formats, is understandable by the majority of information users, and is updated on a regular basis.
- Encourage Citizen Participation: Implement effective mechanisms that enable the active participation of society in decision-making related to natural resources, ensuring an inclusive and representative dialogue. Facilitate and promote access to and understanding of information so that it can be used to identify the needs of each community and improve the environmental perception of their territories.
- Strengthen accountability: Establish robust mechanisms to evaluate the impact of policies and actions on natural resources and be accountable in a transparent manner to citizens, disclosing and paying special attention to information corresponding to compliance with obligations, inspection and surveillance, and not only permits granted.
- Promote Collaboration: Actively seek alliances with civil, national and international organizations and other relevant actors to promote joint initiatives and roundtables that promote transparency and benefit the sustainable management of our natural resources.
Download the ITRN 2023 results here.