IPDC Council welcomes UNESCO’s first global report on public access to information

The Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) noted the utility in providing evidence-based analysis for the improvement of access to information as a factor for sustainable development.

The Council’s decision thanked “those Member States that provided information on their national progress on access to information through responding to UNESCO´s 2020 Survey on SDG indicator 16.10.2, noting the positive developments reported therein; and encouraging additional measures to address identified gaps.”

The 2020 report found that of 62 countries responding to a UNESCO survey, almost 70% at least have oversight institutions with the power to make binding decisions on releasing information.

However, only 65% of them could provide statistics about the number of requests for information.

The report points out that the discrepancy highlights that good record-keeping is vital for Access to Information oversight and appeals bodies.

As emphasized in the document, without adequate and reliable records of the requests and appeals received and how they are processed, it is difficult to produce evidence and measure progress.

In the decision adopted at its 32nd session on 25 to 26 November 2020, the IPDC Council thanked Member States that provided information on their national progress on access to information through responding to UNESCO´s 2020 Survey on SDG indicator 16.10.2.

The Council recognized that the indicator had been upgraded from Tier II to Tier I —the highest level in the classification system – in October 2019 by the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs).

Within the UN system, UNESCO has been designated as the custodian agency for SDG Indicator 16.10.2 on public access to information. Indicator 16.10.2 looks into “number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information”. This contributes to target 16.10, which aims at ensuring public access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

The report gives visibility to national and regional efforts on access to information, and to further sensitizing relevant stakeholders on the important role played by access to information in achieving the SDGs. In this regard, it presented two case studies in Sri Lanka and the Latin America region, drawing a linkage between access to information and the SDGs.

During the IPDC session, several members of the Council expressed appreciation of a documentary film produced on the basis of the case study in Sri Lanka, which captured the impact of access to information on the daily life of the citizens at the grassroots level.

In its decision, the IPDC Council also encouraged Member States to enhance legal regulatory frameworks on access to information at the national level as well as the effective implementation of these frameworks, as part of their commitments to advance the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

As of today, as many as 127 countries have adopted access to information guarantees. During the IPDC deliberations, some member states emphasized the need to encourage the adoption of such guarantees by those countries that have not done so.

Appreciating Voluntary National Reports (VNRs) to the UN General Assembly which have included analysis based on Indicator 16.10.2, the IPDC Council further encouraged Member States to continue monitoring and reporting progress on SDG indicator 16.10.2 through forthcoming VNRs.

The Council encouraged that Member States respond to “UNESCO’s annual survey, and to engage – where applicable – the oversight bodies responsible for access to information in the collection of data”.

The Council also invited the IPDC Bureau to continue supporting grass-roots projects that will help Member States in data-collection and reporting on SDG indicator 16.10.2. Since 2018, UNESCO, through the IPDC, has been providing technical support and strengthening the capacity of governments, civil society and the media in monitoring and reporting progress on access to information in several countries.

With support of The Netherlands and Germany’s BMZ, these efforts have included Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia, and the Latin American region. New initiatives in Honduras, Liberia, Sierra Leonne and Sri Lanka are currently in the pipeline.

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