Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator and Designated Official for Security, 

H.E. Rosa Malango

Venue: Kampala Serena Conference Centre

Date:    28 September 2020

Acknowledgements:

Rt. Hon Jacob Oulanyah, Deputy Speaker, Parliament of Uganda

Hon. Justice Dr. Flavian Zeija, Principal Judge of Uganda

Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director UNESCO Regional Office, Eastern Africa

Hon. Jamesina Essie L. King, Africa Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression & Access to Information

Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and Heads of Delegations present,

Hon. Members of Parliament, and representatives of Government,

Representatives of Private Sector

Representatives from civil society including Youth led and women led organizations

Representatives from the media

Colleagues from the UN, including WHO Country Representative

Ladies and Gentlemen;

I am delighted to join you today to commemorate the first ever International Day for Universal Access to Information at a time when the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations General Assembly on 15th October 2019 proclaimed September 28th as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. Therefore, every year starting this year UNESCO, a member of the UN family, will lead the commemoration for this important day.

The theme for this year is: Access to Information in times of crisis”. It’s important to recognize that as we celebrate this day, there are millions of people – women, youth, people with disabilities – who struggle every day to access basic information important for their survival. With COVID-19, access to public information has become critical as it contributes to both preventing the spread and mitigating the impact. Other global crisis include climate change, civil wars and the misinformation pandemic. The only way to overcome these challenges is together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all 193 UN Member States calls on all of us to protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone. The SDGs recognize public access to Information within Goal 16, which addresses the need to promote peaceful and inclusive societies. In addition, the right of access to Information has long been recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, among others. In fact, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides, and I quote “Every individual shall have the right to receive information and the right to express and disseminate his/her opinions within the law”. Access to Information is necessary for the realization of other fundamental rights important for sustainable development and economic growth. It is essential to hold leaders accountable, to increase safety in the fight against COVID19 as well as to ensure access to health, education and justice for all. This is also important to ensure increased citizens’ constructive engagement in public affairs.

Uganda’s third National Development Plan (NDP III), which  contributes to the country’s Vision 2040 to increase household incomes and improve the quality of life of Ugandans, emphasizes the promotion of good governance and democracy, including by guaranteeing access to information on public service delivery. NDP III is also a national vehicle to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as regional aspirations such as the Africa Union Agenda 2063 and the East Africa Community Vision 2050.

As part of the UN commitment to support member states to achieve the sustainable development goals targets by 2030, the UN in Uganda will focus on supporting inclusive partnerships, innovative technologies, robust information systems as well as positive values and principles to achieve the national vision. In this context, the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework recently launched by President Yoweri Museveni was developed to support the implementation of the NDP III, with the 2030 Agenda targets at its core. Our first Strategic Priority is Transformative and Inclusive Governance including promoting access to information.

Before I conclude, I would like to congratulate the Africa Freedom of Information Centre and its partners for tirelessly advocating for recognition of this day. This is an important achievement for Uganda and Africa. There are 130 countries that have adopted specific ATI Laws of which 25 are in Africa. In Uganda, the right to access information is enshrined in Article 41 of the Constitution (1995) which provides that, “Every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the state or any other organ of the state except where the release of the information is likely to interfere with the security of the state or the right to the privacy of any other person”. Uganda was among the first African countries to enact a right to information law, the Access to Information Act (ATIA) 2005 and later the Access to Information Regulations, 2011.The Act was enacted to promote an efficient, effective, transparent and accountable Government and to enable the public to effectively access and participate in decisions that affect them as citizens.

The UN system in Uganda remains committed to working with the Government and people of Uganda as well as development partners to advance the realization of the fundamental right of access to information as a pathway for sustainable development and transformative governance.

Thank you for listening

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