Public access to information is at the heart of the work of the United Nations System. Whether it is fighting poverty and corruption, promoting health and well being, education for boys and girls, gender equality, conflict prevention and management or climate justice, access to information is central
Our Executive Director, Gilbert Sendugwa had an opportunity to address UN Resident Coordinators at the United Nation regional workshop on Freedom of Expression, access to information, and safety of journalists.
This was during a two-day roundtable meeting held in Victoria Falls, #Zimbabwe on 21th, April 2023.
Mr Sendugwa made a presentation on AFIC’s experience and strategies to collaborate with UN agencies to foster realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.AFIC’s experiences, existing challenges and what UN agencies could do to promote the right to information from their respective mandates.
Among the challenges, AFIC highlighted the following;
Half the number of countries in the continent lack access to information laws
Implementation is challenged where they exist. Access is not inclusive women, PWDs and displaced persons in particular face more difficulty in accessing public information. This he said is an interest for all UN agencies.
Sendugwa added that during election times, lack of Access to Information leads to low trust and participation, low voter turn up & disproportionate number of spoilt votes, Misinformation and disinformation escalate, creates a climate for impunity of violence & other electoral crimes and a lack of accountability on election crimes breeds a culture of impunity.
This he said is important especially for UNDP and UNESCO.
In regard to health and wellness, Gilbert explained that access to information helps in prevention of infections, management of cases & care for the sick and accountable use of resources.This he said is important for WHO, UNICEF and UN Women as well.
With gender, he noted that women face great challenges and myriad barriers in accessing government-held information”- The Carter Center. Lack of access to information & participation increases diversion of resources- AFIC monitoring & case studies.
“According to a recent study carried out by AFIC in five countries of East Africa, it was found out that Governments spend over 60% of national budget through procurement yet women owned businesses take less than 1%. A critical area of interest for both UN Women and UNDP but also for UNICEF and WHO as informed and empowered women are major players in the health and education status of families.”
Gilbert revealed that most conflicts and unconstitutional change of governments in Africa arise from disputed elections, opaqueness of processes, misinformation and disinformation.
“Lack of ATI undermines not just peace building but also makes accountability difficult. UNDP and UNESCO can play critical roles to promote information integrity in electoral processes and advance peaceful societies.”
AFIC & partners ATI requests in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda reveal high levels of corruption in health and education sectors but most importantly, authorities force contractors to make good
AFIC study on procurement and use of digital technology systems in Liberia, Nigeria and Uganda reveal corruption and lack of safeguards
In Spite of ILO convention on decent work conventions and programmes, lack of ATI deny citizens benefits and migrant women and other workers lack protection
What UN can do
These are some of the recommendations AFIC made to UN
- Use of joint celebration September 28th to promote the need for ATI from different dimensions
- country thematic on the status of ATI report from respective mandate perspective
- Designate ATI focal point persons in each agency
- Collaborate in motivating & supporting NVR under SDG framework
- Support to the African Network of Information Commissioners
- Support ATI advocacy and research of CSOs based on different UN mandate priorities
- Support CSO and stakeholder to follow up on recommendation of the various UN mandates to address the huge implementation gap
- Include ATI in election observation checklist