UNESCO showcased forward-looking initiatives that are improving people’s access to information globally and leaving no one behind during a series of Open Talks, prepared to celebrate this year’s International Day for Universal Access to Information.
The international event to celebrate IDUAI took place in Lima, Peru on 27 September, jointly organized with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Peru. Two regional Open Talks were held in Malaysia and Mexico and more than 20 countries held events to celebrate the international day.
The Open Talks at Lima brought together representatives of access to information regulatory bodies, civil society, media and justice systems from around 25 countries to draw lessons about how to achieve sustainable development through the right to access information from the experienced international organizations, as well as journalists, government authorities and digital pioneers.
“We need information to end poverty, to achieve good health and wellbeing, to take action on climate change and ensure peace, justice and strong institutions. Guaranteed by law and well implemented, access to information means that no one is let behind in ignorance about the issues of development and democracy” said Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, during the opening of the Open Talks Lima, Peru. Mr. Fernando Castañeda, Peru’s Vice-minister of Justice, also opened the event and noted Peru’s law with specific transparency obligations in the judicial system, as an effort to combat corruption and foster access to information within the judiciary.
According to the UNESCO In Focus report on the latest trends in access to information, there is an increasing interest in passing access to information laws given the surge in the number of countries adopting related laws in recent years. Yet, efforts are still needed to improve implementation, and support countries to perform proactive disclosures in order to enable citizens to request and expedite official documents and data.
UNESCO’s Open Talks in Lima Peru showcased the organization’s convening power to bring together representatives from civil society and government, such as Open Government Partnership, Transparency International and the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) network, which are important actors recognized for setting standards to foster government transparency and accountability.
“The right to know cannot be based on a mere promise. It needs oversight and appeal bodies specially when citizens demand access to politically sensitive or high-profile information. Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Elizabeth Denham, Chair of Working Group of the ICIC, addressing participants in a video message.
The Open Talks also served to raise awareness on how public access to information fights corruption. “We need to defend the right to access information and end the culture of secrecy,” said Delia Ferreira, Chair of Transparency International Board, as she highlighted cases in which access to data was used to prevent corruption and get information about how public resources were spent.
Other interesting initiatives presented by speakers at the Open Talks included how to prepare regulatory bodies for the impacts of emerging technologies; how to harness these technologies to improve life conditions and how to empower women and girls by making access to information a driver to diminish gender inequalities.
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Watch the Live Transmission of Open Talks Lima, Peru