• 28 September 2020

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    Access to information, the cornerstone of an egalitarian society

    FIIAPP celebrates the International Day of Universal Access to Information and works towards this right through its projects

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    The International Day of Universal Access to Information is a day of global recognition designated by the General Conference of UNESCO which has been observed since 2016. The resolution, in part promoted by civil society groups in search of greater transparency, states that “the right to seek, receive and impart information is an inseparable part of the right to freedom of expression”. This same document points out that both freedom of expression and universal access to information are cornerstones for building inclusive knowledge societies.

    Freedom of expression is a right recognised by Resolution 59 of the United Nations General Assembly, approved in 1946, as well as by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which provides that the fundamental right to freedom of expression includes the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. In this way, freedom of information can be defined as the right to have access to information that is not classified as restricted and that is in the hands of public entities.

    For this reason, having laws that guarantee access to information is an essential factor in any democratic society, since it guarantees greater transparency in the internal processes that take place within it. The right to information grants greater freedom and empowerment to citizens.

    This day is especially significant for the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 16, which requires guaranteeing public access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms. In line with this objective, FIIAPP projects seek to contribute to this universal right.

    One of the projects in whose management the Foundation participates is EUROsociAL+, through which it seeks to support the improvement of social cohesion in Latin American countries, as well as their institutional strengthening. Specifically, the project’s governance area, which works towards transparency and access to information in Latin America, will launch the “Legislative Transparency Toolbox” which is carried out through collaboration between the Transparency and Access to Information Network (RTA) and Parlaméricas.

    Also in the region, the project Support for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Paraguay is in operation, which aims to promote the country’s sustainable development through the acceleration of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. To achieve this, two main objectives have been set: on the one hand, that the country has an efficient governance system that includes official statistical data to facilitate monitoring and evaluation, and on the other, that there are better public policies to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDGs 13 and 15 (protection of the environment).

    On the other hand, on the African continent the Supporting Transparency and Anti-Corruption in Ghana project aims to reduce corruption and improve accountability in the country. The project is supporting the Ghanaian Government in developing the Ghana National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACAP). Also, together with Ghanaian civil society organisations, it has participated in forums that have aimed to promote the approval of the Access to Information Act in Ghana.

    How is it possible to empower citizens through access to information?

    What these projects have in common is that they guarantee transparency by strengthening good governance, and if we understand the right to information as being a human right, this turns out to be the basis for the development of many other civil and universal rights since it does not just guarantee that citizens are fully aware of the truth, but also requires that government procedures are transparent. Therefore, having a law on access to information turns out to be a key factor for every society and country that claims to be egalitarian as it helps to prevent acts of corruption, crimes against humanity and to reduce inequalities.

    The former director of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, explained access to information as a “commitment by governments to formulate, approve and apply policies and laws on the right to information in order to ensure respect for this human right. This requires efficient enforcement mechanisms and a culture of transparency in all institutions”.

    For this reason, at FIIAPP we commemorate the World Access to Information Day every day through our work and we will continue to fight so that all regions across the world, especially those most disadvantaged, can fully enjoy all their rights and belong to a more informed, fair and free society.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of the person who write them.