UNESCO 2021 survey on public access to information successfully launched

Are countries pursuing access to information laws and their implementation? How much progress are they making? Where are the gaps? What support is needed? To what can extent data on access to information improve people’s lives? These critical questions were addressed by six experts on governance, democracy and access to information, among an audience of 50 participants.

The 2021 UNESCO survey will generate new data on the adoption of legal guarantees on Access to Information and main tendencies in implementing these guarantees.

Monitoring and reporting on SDG 16.10.2 is important to measure progress achieved on the adoption and implementation of access to information through a standardized mechanism. And it is also overarching to advance transparency, good governance, the rule of law, and enhance people’s capacity to make enlightened decisions.

Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Strategy and Policy in the Communication and Information Sector

In the context of the COVID pandemic, experience in Sierra Leone demonstrated the importance of access to information.

COVID pandemic has disrupted our work, but what we decided was to make use of the opportunity that we had to sensitize the public and the frontline workers responding to the pandemic on the importance of access to information. We issued two ‘Calls for Action’. One was to make sure that public authorities are providing access to information related to COVID, proactively and reactively. The other ‘Call to Action’ was for public authorities to document information about infection and transactions on COVID-related.

Ibrahim Shaw, Chairman, Right to Access Information Commission of Sierra Leone

COVID offers us a crystal clear opportunity to appreciate the role of data, and the role of access to data, especially towards vulnerable groups. Linking access to information with the rights of people with disabilities and women has contributed to a strong level of buy-in from national and international stakeholders.

Sara Hamouda, SDGs & Agenda 2063 Expert for the African Union

A multistakeholder approach in is key to enhancing the efficiency of producing data. CSOs are playing a key role in the monitoring and reporting of access to information. CSOs can bring a different perspective on what has been reported by the government, what has been collected by UNESCO, and can complement this information on what is really happening. By conducting this monitoring, CSOs can also conduct issue alerts, help raise awareness on norms, practices or even legislations that might be impacting access to information.

Claudia Cadena, Senior Program Manager at the Pan American Development Foundation

UNESCO has involved different stakeholders in developing and using the survey’s standardized methodologies to collect data. The survey comprises eight questions assessing both the adoption and the implementation aspects of access to information guarantees. It can be completed by oversight bodies for Access to Information, such as Officers/Commissioners, Data Protection or Privacy Commissioners, Human Rights Commissions, Ombudsmen, and relevant all ministries/departments/agencies – all of whom are encouraged to coordinate their responses with their central SDG bodies.

This global data collection exercise responds to a request made by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) in 2018. The survey results will be included in UNESCO’s Global Report on the monitoring and reporting on SDG 16.10.2, and publicized as a highlight in the commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information on 28 September 2021. The findings will also feed the UN Secretary-General Progress Report on the SDGs.

Equally important, the data used in the survey may be of value for countries at the national level to assess progress towards SDG 16 in their countries. In addition, the information collected through this exercise can feed into the preparation of Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports submitted to the UN High-Level Political Forum on the SDGs, and can be linked to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) processes, as well as be used in national reporting to national stakeholders, such as the country’s parliament.

UNESCO’s work on access to information has been made possible through the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Germany and The Netherlands through the IPDC.

The deadline for submitting data is 3 May 2021.

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