No access, no democracy. Image courtesy of Techweez.
WACC underlines this concept in its Strategic Plan 2017-2021, which speaks of the need for “unfettered access to the information and knowledge essential to democracy, empowerment, responsible citizenship and mutual accountability.”
Now, the independent human rights organisation ARTICLE 19 has produced a report linking the right of access to information to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and proposing a framework for the UN to use in order to monitor progress.
“Open Development: Access to Information and the Sustainable Development Goals” was published in June 2017. It argues that the right of access to information held by governments and other powerful bodies empowers individuals and communities to be able to engage and participate in decisions that affect their lives.
Freedom of information has been widely recognized around the world as a fundamental human right, as well as an important tool for promoting the rule of law, fighting corruption and ensuring other rights.
In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), access to information held by public bodies is recognised as a vital enabling mechanism for public engagement across the goals and is specifically incorporated into Goal 16 as well as implicitly in many other goals and targets.
ARTICLE 19’s report “reviews the current state of the right of access to information across the world to provide a baseline for future assessments over the lifetime of the 2030 Agenda. It finds that there has been significant incorporation of the right in well over half of UN Member States.”
The report notes that, “The right has now been adopted into law or policy in 118 countries around the world (61 percent of UN Member States) from the largest countries (China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico) to some of the smallest (St Vincent and the Grenadines, Vanuatu) covering 89 percent of the world’s population.”
It says that, “In addition, 90 countries have adopted explicit constitutional guarantees. Many countries are also implementing transparency initiatives such as e-government or open data which supplement the right but generally do not fully ensure the right of access to all information.”
Despite such positive achievements, the report concludes that, “The practical experience in many countries is that the laws themselves are not adequate in ensuring that all people have access to the information they need. Much more effort is needed to ensure that the frameworks are adequate and that the information is reaching the people who need it most.”
ARTICLE 19 makes the following recommendations: