UNESCO has released its new report on the state of guarantees of access to information, and international progress on their implementation, assessed these issues in terms of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 Indicator 10.2.
Launched during the 2019 UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development on 17 July 2019 in New York, the report covers 43* developing countries engaged in this year’s Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the UN.
The document presents key findings and recommendations stemming from UNESCO’s global data exercise conducted earlier this year in collaboration with UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).
“This exercise generated a wealth of information about both the data collection process and the state of implementation of right to information (RTI) laws. The findings can therefore serve as a good baseline for tracking future developments,” said Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development.
According to the report, RTI oversight bodies are present in the 26 countries with RTI laws which are covered in the report. The majority of these bodies have binding decision-making powers to enforce information disclosure where it is justified.
Most appeals filed to these bodies are reportedly resolved, and in reasonable time. Meanwhile, roughly 2 in 3 states have transparent annual reports and also carry out awareness-raising efforts. However, the report suggests that both oversight bodies and individual public authorities could do better in terms of implementing right to information laws.
“One of key recommendations is that governments should connect these oversight bodies such as Information Commissions and the central SDG monitoring bodies at the national level. This will help ensure the sustainability of the whole monitoring and reporting process for this SDG target,” said Berger.
According to the Report, for those countries studied that still do not have RTI laws, it is important to consider introducing legal frameworks on access to information within the framework of enabling progress on the Sustainable SDGs, and to improve their records management.
The research for the Report used UNESCO’s monitoring and reporting instruments, which were developed in consultation with Information Commissions, civil society, academia and other UN agencies. Data collection also involved these actors and other local partners in many of countries surveyed.
In some instances, Information Commissioners have shared how they have used the information assembled to identify local weaknesses in implementation and to improve their work to ensure access to information.
“This data collection exercise has proven the potential of the UNESCO’s methodology in terms of collecting information about the status of implementation of right to information laws at the national level. With some adjustments, the methodology will serve as a robust means going forward for annual assessment of progress by the range of UN Members States towards achieving the 2030 Agenda,” said Berger.
The Report summarises trends amongst the countries surveyed, and the underlying data will be made available in an online database later this year.
As the custodian agency for SDG Indicator 16.10.2, UNESCO leads the work on the monitoring and reporting of access to information via its Communication and Information Sector’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). IPDC’s work on SDG 16 has been made possible through generous support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Germany and The Netherlands.
* 43 countries covered in the report: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo (Republic of the), Croatia, El Salvador, Eritrea, eSwatini, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nauru, Pakistan, Palau, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey and Turkmenistan