Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) is a pan-African NGO and resource centre that promotes the right of access to information through comparative research, coordinating regional advocacy, facilitating information-sharing and capacity building.
AFIC (Africa Freedom of Information Centre) is a membership civil society organization promoting the right of access to information. We strive to become a reliable, dependable and all round freedom of information support centre on the African continent.
Created by the Lagos Declaration
On 22-23 September 2006, representatives of 30 civil society organisations from 16 countries in Africa met in Lagos to discuss ways to promote the right of access to information held by public authorities and, in particular, to share experiences regarding strategies for advancing the adoption of laws that fully protect this right.
The Regional Workshop on Freedom of Information in Africa was organized by Media Rights Agenda (MRA) in collaboration with the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and received expert presentations from Freedom of Information advocates from Albania, Bulgaria, and the United States.
Regional Freedom of Information Centre
In order to provide a platform for cooperation and collaborative activities among civil society organizations in the region, the participants agree to establish a regional Freedom of Information Centre in Africa, where experiences garnered in the different countries can be pooled and shared among civil society activists and which will provide technical assistance to organizations involved in any stage of Freedom of Information advocacy or implementation.
Observations and Resolutions
The participating organizations expressed concern that Africa is lagging behind in the global movement towards the adoption of Freedom of Information Laws.
The organisations hereby:
- Recall African instruments such as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, which requires States Parties to adopt measures that guarantee access to information; the Treaty of ECOWAS, which encourages the free flow of information within national borders as well as regional cooperation in the area of information; and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, issued by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, which affirms that "public bodies hold information not for themselves but as custodians of the public good and everyone has a right to access this information";
- Call on governments to guarantee and respect the right of access to information consistent with African and international law and best practice;
- Note with concern the increasing tendency to view access to information as a threat to public safety and security;
- Affirm that access to information is essential for the protection of other human rights and contributes to accountability, social stability, security and economic development;
- Note the value of access to information in the fight against corruption, as recognized by international treaties;
- In particular, urge all countries in Africa to sign and ratify instruments such as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and the UN Convention Against Corruption, which require States Parties to adopt measures that guarantee access to information.
Research and Knowledge Production
Research on access to information in Africa is still at a very nascent stage. The importance of credible information in developing effective advocacy strategies cannot be over emphasized. As a result, AFIC is conducting studies to strengthen Africa-based knowledge on access to information and enhance the quality of right to information policies, laws and programs.
Promotion of Ratification and Domestication of Regional Instruments
The African Union recognizes the right to information through different treaties including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, the Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration and the African Youth Charter.
These instruments provide important opportunities for the advancement of the right to information on the continent. AFIC and its members advocate for their ratification, domestication and effective implementation by African states.
AFIC's work on promotion of ratification and domestication of regional treaties has been supported by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights –East Africa Office, the Deepening Democracy Program (DDP) and the Right to Information Fund of the Open Society Foundations.
To advance right to information at regional level, AFIC in collaboration with other members of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Working Group championed the development and adoption of APAI Declaration.
Support to Regional Multi-stakeholder Public Contracts Monitoring
Public Contracts Monitoring is one of the most challenged areas in terms of transparency despite being at the heart of delivering public services in Africa. Working with public, private and civil society actors in Eastern and West Africa,
Access to information being at the heart of contract monitoring and based on its experience in facilitating coalition building, AFIC is providing technical support to the multi-stakeholder contracts monitoring coalition in Uganda and the region. In Uganda focus is on promoting contract transparency in seven thematic areas priorities: Education, health, extractives, water and environment, agriculture, public works and ICTs. Funding for scaling up this initiative in the region is being sought.
Promotion of Legislation and Implementation of FOI frameworks on the African Continent
The objective of this programme area is to improve the legal and policy environment for African citizens' enjoyment of their fundamental right of access to information. Since 2010, eight more African Union member states have adopted national access to information laws, bringing the number of countries with such laws to thirteen all of which are facing different implementation challenges. AFIC is supporting national ATI coalitions to create public awareness, monitor the status of implementation and compliance.
Where laws are yet to be adopted, AFIC supports national coalitions in strengthening national campaigns. With more countries adopting national access to information laws and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights taking more interest in RTI issues, AFIC's work is shifting towards helping its members and national coalitions to hold state parties accountable through the use of the African Union Human Rights mechanisms.
Technical Assistance and Capacity Strengthening of Members and CSO Partners
There are few known organizations on the continent working exclusively on RTI advocacy. This presents an important opportunity to help them mainstream RTI in their work in sectors such as health, natural resources, education, agriculture, elections, anticorruption activities and rural development among others. AFIC's experience with trade unions, media, political parties and civil society organizations across the continent shows that this area needs urgent attention, as information is central to the realization and enforcement of every other right. With support from Friedrich Ebert Foundation, AFIC has assisted civil society organizations to apply access to information in their various activities with positive results. Funding to scale up this work among AFIC's members and partners across the continent is being sought.
AFIC is member of the following organizations or partnerships:
- African Union CSO Steering Committee on Africa- Europe Partnership since December 2011
- Observer Status with African Commission on Human and People's Rights since April 2012
- IFEX – International Freedom of Expression Exchange since June 2013
- IANRA – International Alliance of Natural Resources in Africa since February 2013
- AFEX – Africa Freedom of Expression Exchange since December 2013
- GPSA – Global Partnership for Social Accountability since September 2013
- OC – Open Contracting since 2012