Campaign for an International Day on Universal Access to Information Gets Huge Boost

Participants at side meeting on the proposed ATI UNGA

The campaign for proclaiming September 28th as the International Day for Universal Access to Information got a major boost on July 16, 2019 when the Republic of Liberia announced that it will sponsor the United Nations General Assembly on the matter. The announcement was made during a coordinating meeting held at the side lines of the High-Level Political Forum convened by Liberia in collaboration with UNESCO, the International IDEA, the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Working Group and IFEX held at Uganda House in New York. 

Commenting on Liberia’s motivation to sponsor the proposed resolution, the Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations, H.E. Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr argued that access to information is essential for the realisation of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Explaining the role of access to information to achieve peace and keep citizens healthy, he observed that, As a country that has experienced conflict and a major public health crisis such as the Ebola pandemic, Liberia appreciates the value of access to information in combating problems of this scale, and knows firsthand what lack of information can mean for a society – the difference between life and death.”

Responding to Ambassador Dee-Maxwell Komiyah’s invitation to support the proposed resolution, representatives of member states fromCuba, Costa Rica, Ireland, Lesotho and Sierra Leone spoke favourably about the initiative.

Speaking at the same event, Prof. Guy Berger, UNESCO’s Director of Freedom of Expression and Media Development said that UNESCO General Conference at its 38th Session held in Paris, France adopted Resolution 38 C/70 on the Proclamation of September 28th as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. He argued that information was necessary for sustainable development.

Mr. Massimo Tommasoli Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the United Nations underscored the role of access to information in promoting public participation and democracy. He also noted that access to information enables everyone including women and other marginalised groups to participate in public life.

Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa, the Executive Director of Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a member of the APAI Working Group and IFEX said that the Day was important to provide a platform at which governments, civil society, citizens and development partners would discuss challenges to citizens access to information and ways in which to advance development through enhanced citizens access to information. He noted that based on the UNESCO General Conference Resolution a zero draft of the proposed UNGA resolution has been drafted.Various speakers from organisations such as the Freedom of Information Advocates Network, Global Forum for Media Development, Free Press Unlimited and Article 19 called for urgent adoption of the proposed resolution.

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