Carter Center Holds International Conference on Women and Access to Information in February

Laura Neuman, Global Access to Information Program
Laura Neuman, Global Access to Information Program

The Global Access to Information Program of the Carter Center will convene an international conference on Women and the Right of Access to Information on February 14 and 15, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States to raise awareness around the world on the obstacles and value of information for women.

The Conference, with the theme: “Inform Women, Transform Lives”, will bring together about 100 stakeholders from various sectors, representing governments, donors and international financial institutions, the media, civil society, private sector, and academia, among others, to consider how to make the right of access to information more equitable and ensure that information reaches the most disadvantaged in society.

Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, is expected to lead the concluding plenary of the conference in building consensus around a plan of action implementing the conference outcomes as well as monitoring and reporting on progress.

The conference is informed, in part, by the recognition that access to information, entrenched in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is critical for the exercise of civil, political, social and economic rights, and is instrumental in improving governance, transparency, and accountability.

According to the Carter Center, a genuine right of access to information is particularly important for women, as it allows for more effective decisions regarding education, land ownership, business opportunities, and the promotion and protection of other rights.

In addition, access to information enables women to participate in public life, have meaningful voice, and hold governments and service providers accountable.

Regrettably, the Center notes that despite the over 115 countries with access to information laws and the increased emphasis on transparency, accountability, and participation, the benefits have not reached many women due to the myriad socio-legal, institutional, and structural factors that prevent the meaningful exercise of this right.

It also observes that to date, little attention has been paid to gender-based information asymmetries and its causes and impacts, as evidenced by a recent three-country study on women’s ability to exercise the right to information, undertaken by the Carter Center, which found the existence of significant disparities.

With these results in mind, the Carter Center says it is convening the international conference, with participants representing all the key stakeholder groups, to undertake a critical examination of the gendered inequities facing women in the right of access to information.

The conference will seek to raise awareness about the obstacles and value of information for women; identify entry-points; and establish priority actions for ensuring an effective, meaningful, and universal right of access to information, particularly in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The conference will reflect on existing frameworks and current themes in the field of gender, transparency and access to information and we will engage group work, with participants strategically placed into five groups to consider various aspects of the issue.

The five areas to be examined are: International Conventions and Instruments: Opportunities for engagement; Intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations: Promoting transparency and access to information; National law and institutional frameworks: Possibilities for inclusion, revision, and reform; National enabling environment: Considering culture and leveraging partnerships; and Strategies for overcoming obstacles and determining impact, including use of ICTs.

The multi-stakeholder working groups, with diversity of geography and expertise, will explore the challenges, opportunities and pathways for progress and will be tasked with developing a set of concrete findings and recommendations.

Under President Carter’s leadership, the concluding plenary will seek consensus around a plan of action, identify specific actors to advance the recommendations, and consider means of monitoring and reporting on progress.