Jimmy Carter left the Oval Office in January of 1981.  While the previous four years had been challenging at best, I would argue that Carter has set the standard for the positive impact and influence that a former president can wield.  In 1982, Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded the Carter Center to advance peace and health worldwide.  Since its creation, this nongovernmental organization has bettered the lives of people in more than 80 countries around the world.  I’m particularly interested in their work on access to information, which has been a focus for the past 15 years.  They cite Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and conclude that “access to information is crucial in the effort to increase accountability and transparency, improve governance, and give people a meaningful voice.”

As a part of its Global Access to Information Initiative, the Carter Center has announced its creation of an Implementation Assessment Tool (IAT), “which serves to diagnose the extent to which the public administration is capacitated to respond to requests and disseminate information.”  They specify four objectives for this tool:

  1. Establish a comprehensive set of access to information implementation benchmarks;
  2. Identify the extent to which a ministry/agency has implemented its law;
  3. Provide a roadmap for improvements; and
  4. Contribute to scholarship on implementation and to the understanding of implementation successes and challenges.

This tool has been employed on a set of 11 pilot countries to judge the extent and quality of their implementation of access to information.  The Carter Center will publish in the coming months a final report that will include lessons learned and overall findings.

For more information, see:

  • video entitled “Carter Center Roadmap Drives Better Access to Information”
  • poster on measurements used in IAT
  • poster on IAT findings and deliverables
  • opening session from 2008 International Conference on the Right to Public Information
    • Carter says his victory in the 1976 presidential election was due to an absence of adequate and accurate information to the American people (e.g., after the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King; Vietnam War; CIA machinations, etc.) — whereas Carter promised always to tell the truth
    • Carter points to his 1978 Executive Order 12065 that tried to limit the amount of government documents that can be classified
    • Carter wrote an editorial in 2006 on the 40th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act
    • Carter criticized Executive Order 13292 for its blanket extensions of classification on presidential documents [this was later revoked by EO 13526]

Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. President!