Information Commissioners Emphasize Importance of Access to Information, Transparency in Overcoming Crisis Situations

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The International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC), a global network of commissioners, ombudspersons and other bodies overseeing the implementation of freedom of information (FOI) laws, has emphasized the importance of access to information and transparency in overcoming any crisis situation, saying that the “right to know” is essential to strengthening the rule of law and the exercise of other fundamental rights.

In a Joint Statement issued on October 6, 2023, the Executive Committee of the ICIC said within the framework of the global development agenda and the progressive protection of human rights, its members consider that “full respect and promotion of the ‘right to know’ is essential to strengthening the transparency of public management, accountability, and the rule of law, as well as the exercise of other fundamental rights of freedom.”

Describing the ICIC as a permanent cooperation network which connects information commissioners around the world in order to foster the protection and the promotion of access to information as a fundamental pillar of social, economic and democratic governance in accordance with the Johannesburg Charter, the members of the ICIC’s Executive Committee said they are committed to the mission and objectives of the network.

The Johannesburg Charter was adopted on March 13, 2019 by resolution of the information commissioners present at the closed meeting of the ICIC in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The Charter establishes the governance framework of the ICIC and sets out the guiding principles, the vision and the mission, the values, the goals, the role of the Conference, its membership, its governance structure and the rules governing the participation of its members.

They expressed concern that Armenia and Azerbaijan are “facing a complex scenario of confrontation and an impending humanitarian crisis.”

The ICIC’s Executive Committee said considering the importance of access to information and transparency to overcome any crisis situation, its members are calling on “all parties to build spaces for dialogue and negotiation aimed at guaranteeing effective mechanisms that promote the disclosure of reliable and timely information regarding this situation”.

This, in their view, would help to counteract disinformation, hate speech and the violation of human rights, while promoting freedom of expression and informed public debate.

The goals of the ICIC include to protect and promote access to public information; promote and support dialogue and mutual cooperation; encourage the development and sharing of information and best practices, including peer-learning; undertake and support research on issues integral to access to public information; facilitate reflection and learning from case work on systemic issues; act as a collective voice in the international community to raise awareness of issues that impact upon access to public information; and promote the development and adoption of international standards in access to public information in all regions across the world, including the establishment of independent oversight bodies.