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Blog Standard

The Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), in collaboration with the World Bank Institute, has organized a video conference for civil society organizations (CSOs) from the five Open Government Partnership (OGP) countries in Africa (Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa). The aim of the VC was to facilitate knowledge sharing and peer support for OGP in Africa.

The VC, which took place on January 16, brought together 65 CSO representatives from Africa OGP countries as well as Messrs. Luiz Esquivel of the WBI Access to Information Program and Paul Maassen, the Independent Civil Society Coordinator for OGP. 4 CSOs from Uganda also participated in the conference and were curious to learn from their peers in the other countries how to motivate government to join the partnership. Uganda is eligible but has not yet indicated its intention to join.

Following submissions from participants and the rich discussions that ensued, one can observe a gain in OGP momentum in Africa and recognition of its value in promoting transparency, accountability and trust in government.A report of proceedings is available here Report of OGP Africa VC

Key Lessons

Firstly, Structures are in place for civil society to interface with government in the development and follow up of country action plans. Liberia has an OGP steering committee led by the Ministry of Information. Civil society is represented on this committee and is making input to the action plan being developed. There is a similar trend in Ghana where six of the fifteen members of the OGP Steering Committee come from civil society. Ghana’s action plan is still in the works and this institutional arrangement affords civil society the opportunity to influence the process; especially in ensuring the adoption of the long-awaited ATI law. Tanzania has submitted its action plan. Though weak on ATI, a formal arrangement does exist for civil society to monitor compliance.

The Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) has called on Heads of State and Government of La Francophonie to consider adoption frameworks that promote citizens’ right to information during their summit in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo from 12-14 October 2012.

The call is contained in the Kinshasa Declaration adopted at the end of a Forum for civil society organizations in Francophone Africa that took place in Kinshasa for the 8-12 October 2012. The Forum was organized to precede La Francophonie Summit to draw the leaders’ attention to the multiple governance challenges facing French-speaking countries in Africa in particular and to formulate recommendations for improvement.

AFIC is urging La Francophonie member-states to adopt a declaration on access to information, member states to adopt and effectively implement comprehensive national freedom of information legislations and also recognize September 28 as International Right to Information Day in line with the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Declaration.

Despite the absence of widespread documented evidence on the benefits of access to information (ATI) legislation, its role in advancing the progress of open democracy in countries where the legislation exists cannot be disputed. ATI legislation, appeals to objectives that are directed at good-governance constants of transparency, accountability and informed public participation, which underpin sound democracy.

Most commentators on the subject ranging from, experts, specific interest groups, civil society, ordinary communities, governments etc have contended that, access to information legislation is a tool for empowering citizens, including vulnerable and excluded people to claim their rights by enabling them to exercise their voice, hold government to account and participate in informed dialogue about decisions that affect their lives.

 

ATI Civil Society Coalition study tour

 

Last week, I had the opportunity of participating in a study tour in Kampala, Uganda organised by the Civil Society Coalition on Access to Information. Other members of the delegation included, a representative from Zambia Civic Education Association (ZCEA) and Press Freedom Committee of The Post, respectively.

 

The objective of the tour was to learn from the Ugandan experience with the view to gather insights that would inform the Coalitions input to Zambia’s ATI process. The study tour was coordinated by Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) a Pan-African human rights civil society organisation promoting the right of access to information on the African continent.


The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula has commended Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) and other civil society organisations for the work the organisation is doing in promoting the right to information in Africa. Advocate Tlakula was presenting her activity report during the 52nd Ordinary Session of ACHPR held in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire from October 9-22, 2012.

AFIC has worked with the African Commission in the development and eventual adoption of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) declaration, consultations on the draft Access to Information Model Law for African Union member states, promotion of ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as well as other regional treaties guaranteeing the right to information. Other areas of collaboration have been in reviewing draft bills, analysis of RTI laws, research as well as regional advocacy.

The first ever Global Conference on Open Contracting held in Johannesburg, South Africa from October 23-26, 2012 has concluded

that accessing contract documents is very important for the realization of value for money in public contracting. The hosted by the 
World Bank Institute and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (implemented by GIZ), in cooperation with Transparency International, Oxfam America, Integrity Action, the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative, the government of the Philippines. 

It aimed at

 

  • Profiling and positioning the issue of open contracting in the larger international debate
  • Bringing together a diverse group of innovative actors interested in advancing Open Contracting work around the world
  • Developing the agenda and initial focus for the Open Contracting movement – building on and refining the insights from the design meeting