The APAI Working Group is a network of civil society organisations (CSOs) working to promote access to information (ATI) in Africa. APAI came into being in 2009, in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, with a meeting of like-minded organisations. Advocates passionate about media freedom and democratic development in Africa came together to plan the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, which was adopted in 1991 by a group of African journalists intent on promoting an independent and pluralistic African press. The idea behind the formation of the APAI Working Group was simple, and remains simple: every person in Africa should have – and be able to enjoy – the right of access to information.
A unique coalition was formed, consisting of industry experts, many of whom worked in management positions in various organisations and had substantial experience in the promotion of open and transparent democracy, access to information, media freedom, freedom of expression and civic participation on the continent at national, regional and continental levels. The group shared a belief that ATI could transform Africa and had a strong spirit of collaboration right from the beginning.
The campaign has registered considerable achievements in past years, and is known for its advocacy for the adoption of ATI laws:
- Since its adoption, the APAI Declaration in 2011 has had a positive influence on the policy environment in Africa. Regionally, between 2011 and 2016, the number of countries with access to information laws has almost quadrupled. Increased commitments have been made by governments with regard to the effective implementation of such laws or the drafting of new access to information legislation, to enable them to realise their full potential in accordance with the principles stated in the declaration and international standards.
- A campaign milestone was achieved in May 2012 when the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights adopted Resolution 222: Authorising the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to expand Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression to include access to information and recommending that the AU officially recognise September 28th as International Right to Information day in Africa.
- In May 2013, the Pan African Parliament adopted the Midrand Declaration on Press Freedom in Africa, which further recognises the APAI Declaration, and calls on AU Member States to review and adopt access to information laws.
- In November 2015, the 38th General Conference of UNESCO adopted a resolution declaring 28 September of every year International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).
The APAI campaign lobbied strongly and carried out several lobby missions for the placement of several issues on the agenda of the Executive Board, requesting that UNESCO, through its General Conference to affirm 28 September as International Right to Information Day and to endorse the APAI Declaration. The Working Group was established to create a platform for joint activities with two key outcomes:
- The adoption of a comprehensive instrument to advance the right of access to information in all its dimensions, regionally and internationally
- The recognition of 28 September as International Access to Information Day to serve as an annual event for combining forces in multi-stakeholder advocacy actions.
These outcomes are currently achieved through advocacy, technical expertise, capacity building, research and publications, and monitoring and evaluation.