Transparency of environmental information is essential to Amazon rainforest conservation. Despite its importance, the survey conducted by ICV indicates low availability of public data in the Brazilian states. Articulations with Public Ministry and actions to raise awareness of the lack of information have been carried out to change this scenario.
Problems and Purpose
Transparency of environmental information is essential for the good governance of natural resources and for fighting illegal practices that threaten the Brazilian Amazon. Providing access to key information about forests and productive activities related to deforestation is a condition to ensure a more qualified social accountability. It also allows cooperation between different public agencies, such as state and federal authorities in charge of regulation and control. Lastly, public transparency is a fundamental criterion of the monitoring systems of companies that have committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. It is the official data source to verify that its suppliers comply with Brazilian environmental legislation.
Even though transparency is ensured by an extensive legal framework in Brazil, as in the National Environmental Policy , the Federal Constitution , the Environmental Transparency Law  and the Freedom of Information Law , its implementation still needs to be strengthened and monitored especially at the subnational level. Difficulties in accessing environmental information and the non-existence of systematized data are not rare in the Brazilian states .
Background History and Context
In Mato Grosso, one of the nine Brazilian states in the Amazon biome, and the second highest contributor to deforestation , demands by civil society for the availability of environmental information started with the decentralization of forest management to the states in 2006 . Between 2005 and 2006, there were advances in the availability of information such as authorizations, licenses, and environmental infractions’ data. However, a lack of data updating and setbacks put this transparency at risk .
In 2014, to assist in monitoring the transparency of forest management in the state and to have data to demand improvements, the Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) conducted and published a study that indicated the need to provide information in Mato Grosso state . The results of this first effort revealed a low level of transparency in the state environmental agency. The study was sent to the State Public Ministry (MPE), which supported the opening of a civil inquiry against the state government.
This unprecedented study, and the ongoing investigation created the need for data disclosure in the environmental agency and fostered dialogue between society and state government about what information was relevant to be disclosed.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV)  is a socio-environmental organization operating in the state of Mato Grosso. The organization has been following and working to increase the transparency of environmental information for over 15 years - since the Brazilian states began to play a greater role in the management of the forests. At the beginning of the ICV’s work in this area, there were few studies and assessments that addressed the availability of environmental data, which are essential inputs in monitoring and assisting States and the federal government in solving the challenges relating to greater access to data. One of the main funders of ICV's work on the transparency agenda was the ClimateWorks Foundation  through the Climate and Land Use Alliance .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The civil inquiry by the State Public Ministry to investigate compliance with the Freedom of Information Law by the environmental agency of Mato Grosso caught the attention of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF). Prosecutors from the MPF’s Amazon Working Group asked the ICV to develop a study methodology that would allow them to assess the transparency of Brazilian states belonging to the Amazon biome. To this end, in 2014, ICV prepared an online survey aimed at different groups of the population (universities, civil society organizations, investors, companies, and public bodies) to identify key information for environmental monitoring and what should be open to the entire society. This survey had more than 200 respondents and helped to identify 41 priority databases maintained by federal and state agencies .
In addition to the people who responded to the survey, ICV also held meetings with civil society organizations (CSOs) from five Brazilian states . These states were chosen as they held the highest deforestation rates. The meetings aimed to understand the level of availability and use of environmental information, but also to encourage discussion on the need to increase environmental transparency and to have social accountability actions on this agenda in the different states.
Finally, ICV also raised this discussion in the networks of organizations in which it is a member. As an example, the topic of transparency has become a work axis of the Forest Code Observatory , a network of more than 30 organizations that monitors the implementation of the Law on the protection of natural vegetation in Brazil .
Methods and Tools Used
ICV’s advocacy strategy to influence and increase the transparency of information in Mato Grosso and other states in the Amazon can be divided into three stages:
1) Data collection: structuring an unprecedented methodology to measure the transparency of 41 priority databases related to the main socio-environmental agendas, and developing indexes based on the evaluation of the data available online (active transparency ) and the information provided using an information request (passive transparency) measured every two years;
2) Articulation with control agencies and raising the awareness of CSOs: demonstration of public interest in information transparency and denunciation of non-compliance with the fundamental right of access to information, in addition to the engagement of prosecutors to act in promoting the availability of data;
3) Communication of results: dissemination of research results in the main media and public positions on the opacity of information in the Amazon and the problems associated with it.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Transparency assessments in the Amazon carried out by ICV indicated very worrying results regarding the lack of data availability, especially at the subnational level. Less than 1/3 of the information researched was available with quality to society. This result was used to reinforce the ongoing articulation with prosecutors in the states and to motivate action on the part of the State and Federal Public Ministries. In parallel, the assessments were used to foster discussion in spaces for participation and civil society networks (for example, in seminars and webinars, in the implementation of the Brazilian Action Plan in the Open Government ).
In Mato Grosso, the civil inquiry opened by the State Public Ministry (MPE) gave way, sometime later, to a Public Civil Action, which led the state government to sign an extrajudicial agreement with the MPE. The agreement signed  provides for a set of actions to increase the availability and quality of information to society. The work plan for this, as well as the periodic monitoring, was carried out with the participation of CSOs and federal and state environmental agencies and MPE. As a result, in 2018 the Secretary of Environment launched an Environmental Transparency Portal , which contained diverse information, much of which was published in the agreement. This improvement increased Mato Grosso's active transparency index from 36% to 56%, becoming the state with the most information available online . Although the process has achieved a significant opening of databases, there are still advances to be made. For instance, increasing the participation of organizations in discussions on transparency. It is necessary to engage other socio-environmental CSOs whose work topics involve other sets of databases from the environmental agency. Further, there is a need to include representations of local communities and indigenous peoples, especially considering that within these groups the use of digital tools is often either not widespread or available and that there may be language limitations .
For the other states, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) sent recommendations so that improvements in data dissemination could be carried out by the agencies. In 2018, with the technical support of ICV, MPF launched a platform called Environmental Transparency Ranking , which contains assessments of the availability of information of more than one hundred public bodies in Brazil. Despite the MPF's engagement, occasional gains were observed, but no significant advance in the general transparency of the states. With the change of the federal government in 2019, the transparency agenda lost momentum at the federal level .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
One of the results achieved was the increase in transparency in Mato Grosso. Although improvements are needed, in this state it is possible to check information such as licenses, deforestation authorizations, and embargoes on illegally deforested areas, among other databases that are not easily accessible in other states. For example, Mato Grosso is one of the few states in the Amazon where it is possible to know how much of the deforestation carried out was illegal because of the level of transparency . Knowing that almost 90% of the destroyed forest areas do not have authorization for this , it is possible to exercise a more qualified social accountability of the policies to combat illegality. Besides that, companies have more information available and can and should use it to avoid purchasing products from farms associated with environmental irregularities (illegal deforestation, lack of environmental permits, etc).
Another positive result was that ICV, along with several other national and international CSOs, helped to promote the discussion on transparency in the socio-environmental agenda. Currently, this is one of the main topics in discussions related to environmental policies. The advances and setbacks in access to information at the federal level have been monitored by different organizations , and mobilizations to avoid "data blackout" and limitations in the availability of data are common and have shown to be able to face threats.
At the state level, on the other hand, there is still room for improvement. It is necessary to strengthen the social fabric and create a network that can monitor and denounce setbacks. Promoting greater articulation between the CSOs working in the states with the Federal and State Public Prosecutors' Offices on this issue of transparency would help to keep the demand for open data on the agenda and achieve greater results.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Since 1992, when the tenth principle of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development recognized the right of each individual to adequate access to information related to the environment held by public authorities, demands for greater transparency and accountability in environmental governance have increased, making this one of the hotspots of climate change politics .
In addition to the traditional forms of activism that have played an important role in forcing politicians to recognize and adopt measures to reduce deforestation in the Amazon, forms of activism related to increasing the transparency of government data have emerged . Despite the widespread belief that it increases engagement among citizens, thus rendering governments more accountable for their actions, Rajão & Jake (2018)  note that data cannot be considered a standalone force able to bring about social change.
In this sense, the evaluation of transparency in the Amazon states shows that it is important to implement processes that lead to a closer dialogue between public agencies as information providers, and citizens and organizations that use this public data . This relationship can foster transparency, based on the demonstration of public interest in making information available, and that the opening of databases tends to be guided by the prioritization given by society, thus holding a greater potential for the use of this information.
Even in Mato Grosso, a state that has shown an increase in transparency, it is necessary to strengthen the implementation of the law on access to information. As other studies demonstrate, systematic failure to meet deadlines for responding to requests impairs Freedom of Information Law in the state . Although awareness-raising workshops for public servants have been held , more constant training and guidance on this topic are needed.
Lastly, the low levels of transparency found at the subnational level in recent years , demonstrate the challenge of advancing the availability and opening of databases. This challenge is even greater when we think beyond "digitally literate citizens", such as some indigenous people, rural communities, and populations with lower income and education . Thus, transparency, accessibility, inclusiveness, and capacity building are dimensions that need to be strengthened for better environmental governance.
 Federal Law n°. 6,938/1981 (http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/l6938.htm) aims to make environmental data available and establishes the national environmental information system and the guarantee of information provision as instruments.
 Access to public information is defined as a fundamental right of the citizen, by the Federal Constitution (http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/constituicao/constituicao.htm).
 In 2003, the Federal Law n° 10,650 was approved (http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/2003/l10.650.htm), which deals with access to public environmental data existing in environmental agencies.
 Federal Law n°. 12.527/2011 (http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_ato2011-2014/2011/lei/l12527.htm).
 A newspaper article presents the lack of transparency of environmental information in Amazonian states and relates this to the interests of agribusiness. Available in: https://oeco.org.br/reportagens/lobby-do-agronegocio-reduz-transparencia-ambiental-de-estados-e-favorece-desmatamento/.
 The TerraBrasilis platform (http://terrabrasilis.dpi.inpe.br/), from Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), the federal agency responsible for the annual mapping of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, indicates 32% of all deforestation mapped in the biome occurred in Mato Grosso.
 The decentralization of forest management in Brazil was legally established in 2006, through art. 83 of Law n°. 11,284.
 Thuault, A., Ferreira, J., Micol, L. Avaliação da transparência das informações florestais em Mato Grosso. Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), n° 3, Year 3, February 2014. Available at: https://www.icv.org.br/drop/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Transpar%C3%AAncia-Florestal-Mato-Grosso_n%C3%BAmero-31.pdf.
 Thuault, A., Fernandes, E., Valdiones, A., Micol, L. Transparência das informações ambientais na Amazônia. Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), n° 6, Year 4, November 2015. Available at: https://www.icv.org.br/drop/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Transparencia_informacoes_Amazonia.pdf
 Acre, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Pará and Rondônia states.
 Federal Law n°. 12.651/2021 (http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_ato2011-2014/2012/lei/l12651.htm).
 Active transparency is the disclosure of information at the initiative of the public body itself, usually through the internet. Passive transparency is the provision of information by the public power upon requests made by the citizen or organizations.
 Extrajudicial agreement available at: http://www.sema.mt.gov.br/transparencia/index.php/acordo-judicial.
 Valdiones, A., Thuault, A. Avaliação da transparência das informações ambientais na Amazônia. N°. 6. Year 6. February 2019. Available at: https://www.icv.org.br/drop/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2019-transparenciaflorestal-amazonia.pdf.
 In addition to this information being in very technical formats, there are indigenous groups that do not speak Portuguese, the official language in Brazil.
 A newspaper article covered 13 steps taken to reduce transparency in the current government between January 2019 and June 2020. Available at: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2020/06/gestao-bolsonaro-acumula-ao-menos-13-medidas-para-reduzir-transparencia-oficial.shtml.
 Valdiones, A. P., Bernasconi, P., Silgueiro, V., Guidotti, V. Miranda, F., Costa, J., Rajão, R. & Manzolli, B. (2021). Desmatamento Ilegal na Amazônia e no Matopiba: falta transparência e acesso à informação. Available at: https://www.icv.org.br/website/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/icv-relatorio-f.pdf .
 Instituto Centro de Vida. 2021. Características do desmatamento na Amazônia e Cerrado mato-grossense em 2020. Available at: https://www.icv.org.br/website/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/mapa-desmatamento-no-cerrado-2020-v3.pdf.
 Imaflora, ISA and Article 19. Mapeamento dos retrocessos de transparência e participação social na política ambiental brasileira: 2019 -2020. Available in: https://www.imaflora.org/public/media/biblioteca/mapeamento_dos_retrocessos_de_transparencia_e_participacao_social_na_politica_ambiental_.pdf.
 Rajão, R., & Georgiadou, Y. (2014). Blame games in the Amazon: Environmental crises and the emergence of a transparency regime in Brazil. Global Environmental Politics, 14(4), 97–115.
 Rajão, R., & Jarke, J. (2018). The materiality of data transparency and the (re)configuration of environmental activism in the Brazilian Amazon. Social Movement Studies, 17, 318–332.
 Imaflora, Jun 2020. Dados abertos em clima, floresta e agricultura: uma análise da abertura de bases de dados federais (2017-2020). Available at: https://www.imaflora.org/public/media/biblioteca/1592504683-perspectiva_dados_abertos_ambientais_final.pdf ; Valdiones, A., Thuault, A. Avaliação da transparência das informações ambientais na Amazônia. N°. 6. Year 6. February 2019.
 OPAN & Transparência Internacional – Brazil. Acesso a Informações sobre licenciamento ambiental em Mato Grosso. Nov 2021. Available at: https://observamt.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/21-OPAN-rel-ACESSO-A-INFORMACOES-SOBRE-LICENCIAMENTO-AMBIENTAL-MT-final-em-alta-1.pdf
 Valdiones, A., Amaral, C., Thuault, A. Transparência das informações ambientais na Amazônia Legal: o acesso à informação e a disponibilização de dados públicos. N°.13, Year 8, Feb 2021. Available at: https://www.icv.org.br/website/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/transp-n13-f.pdf.
 OPAN & Transparência Internacional – Brazil. Acesso a Informações sobre licenciamento ambiental em Mato Grosso. Nov 2021. Available at: https://observamt.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/21-OPAN-rel-ACESSO-A-INFORMACOES-SOBRE-LICENCIAMENTO-AMBIENTAL-MT-final-em-alta-1.pdf .