In her remarks, Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, the UNESCO Director for Multi-Sectoral Office and Regional Representative for East Africa, highlighted that the commemoration of IDUAI 2020 is anchored within the framework of the right to access in times of crisis and highlights the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
“At UNESCO, we firmly believe that access to information must be recognized as a norm in sustainable development, and as a prerequisite for countries to respect, promote and protect human rights for all.” She said.
She further emphasized that as we rebuild and readapt our societies to the “new normal”, the right to information must be at the center of efforts to ensure a more informed and resilient tomorrow. Amidst this global health crisis, the crucial role of access to information for human rights, and in particular its role as the critical component of the right to health was recognized.
“Indeed, during this pandemic, we have learned that timely access to official information to all can make a difference between life and death. This day therefore provides us with a crucial opportunity to reflect, discuss, and identify good practices and guidelines on the right to access information during this pandemic and beyond.” She added.
This underpins the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Universal Periodic Review, which underline the importance of countries passing access to information legislations. It is important that we continue to provide support to Information Commissions and similar Access to Information bodies in charge of overseeing access to information legislation. As these are critical institutions which ensure keeping citizen informed, strengthen social cohesion, and reduce the spread of rumor and misinformation.
“On this occasion, we therefore reiterate our call on governments to enact and fully implement Right to Access to Information laws and demonstrate their unique value during times of crisis.We encourage that state institutions to continue displaying leadership by proactively disclosing information that fundamentally interests citizens, who in time of crises are looking for trust, reassurance, and clarity.”
Governments must commit to the common good–by developing the innovative use of digital technologies for building resilient information infrastructures, and by creating enabling environments for safe and transparent data collection mechanisms that strengthen record keeping and enable accurate analysis of issues in the public interest.
Being well informed builds up trust in institutions and enhances the feeling of belonging.
At UNESCO, they continue to reaffirm the importance of upholding the right to access information, in particular amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Our intergovernmental programs, such as the International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC) and the Information for All Programme (IFAP), remain relevant platforms and frame for all the stakeholders to take part in international discussions on policy and guidelines on access to information.
These programs enable a positive environment for ATI to flourish through the development of projects aimed to strengthen open science, multilingualism, ICTs for disabled and marginalized, and media and information literacy.
The commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information which was organized by Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in collaboration with UNESCO, the UN family and other partners provides a critical opportunity to emphasize on the importance of Access to Information in saving lives and mitigating the impact of crises such as the current pandemic, as well as in shaping sustainable policies.