ARTICLE 19, Campaign for Freedom of Information Launch Report on Access to Information and the SDGs

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

ARTICLE 19 and the Campaign for Freedom of Information have launched a report titled: Access to Information and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report examines the links between the right to information and the fight against poverty, and the progress countries have made since the adoption of the SDGs on implementing the commitment to make access to information available to all people in their countries.

The report seeks to give an understanding of how the Right to Information (RTI) impacts the daily lives of citizens when applied to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also aims to inform stakeholders on various experiences developed in this field, and the means at their disposal to exercise this right and advocate for its effective and measurable realization.

It reviews the current state of RTI in the world and finds that 113 countries have adopted the RTI laws and about 5 other countries have adopted national decrees or policies, instead of legislation, to give people right to information from the government. This gives a total of 118 countries with RTI laws or Policies ad accounts for about 61 percent of UN Member States from the largest countries to some of the smallest. This covers 89 percent of the world’s population who live in countries that have RTI Laws or policies.

In addition, 90 countries specifically include the right to information in their constitution. Many countries are also implementing transparency initiatives such as e-government or open data which supplement the right but generally do not fully ensure the right of access to all information.

There have also been significant developments in the international sphere with RTI increasingly being recognised in declarations by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council, in General Comments and cases before the UN Human Rights Committee and Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights. A number of important multi-stakeholder initiatives which promote transparency including the Open Government Partnership and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative have also emerged given that about 75 countries have joined the Open Government Partnership and 52 countries have also joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

The report also presents case studies on projects where access to information has been used to help communities achieve their rights under the SDGs, promoting health care in Tunisia and Senegal, indigenous women’s participation in Mexico, water in rural Brazil, education in Indonesia, and environmental protection in Bangladesh.

The report was launched at the UN’s High Level Political Forum in New York, where representatives of civil society and governments from around the world met to review the progress of the UN’s anti-poverty initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).