UNESCO Announces Theme for 2020 International Day for Universal Access to Information

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)has announced the theme of the 2020 edition of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI)as  “access to information in times of crisis.”

The theme is commemorated around the slogan “Access to Information – Saving lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope!”, the event will contribute to the exchange of good practices and guidelines on the right to access information. It will highlight the key role of access to information in saving lives and mitigating the impact of crises such as the current pandemic, as well as in shaping sustainable policies.

Additional IDUAI themes for national commemorations are:

  • Public information and its role in addressing disinformation, especially in times of crisis.
  • The right to information and prerequisites to protect personal information.
  • Open data, data usage and the right to information.
  • The role of access to information in reducing inequalities (the right to information as a precondition for persons with disabilities to overcome exclusion in times of crisis).
  • The role of Media and Information Literacy in combatting the COVID-19 “infodemic”.

The year 2020 will be the first commemoration of the IDUAI since its proclamation at UN level by the 74th UN General Assembly. Prior to this, IDUAI had been proclaimed by UNESCO’s General Conference in 2015.

The aims of the IDUAI 2020 Commemoration are:

  • To advocate for the adoption and implementation of sound constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for access to information in times of crisis;
  • To endorse principles of the right to information in times of crisis and underline the role of multiple stakeholders in that view;
  • To highlight the impact of proactive sharing of information on health and education, as well as of inclusive and gender-sensitive initiatives, focusing on vulnerable groups, for prosperity and sustainable development.

In the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic, people in many countries have learned that access to accurate and timely information can be a matter of life and death. Access to information also makes it possible for citizens to follow responses to the crisis, such as confinement rules, regulations of travel and schooling, virus testing, medical equipment supplies, and economic aid or stimulus packages etc.

This year’s celebration of September 28, 2020 will serve as an opportunity to call on the Member States to enact and fully implement Right of Access to Information laws, by showing the unique value of access to information in times of crisis.

In view of the current measures in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19, several events planned around the world will be held online. An international conference is also being planned in Tashkent, with the support of the Government of Uzbekistan. Additional information on the dates of the international conference will be announced later this year.

To inform the worldwide commemorations this year, UNESCO reiterates five fundamental points relevant to the right to access information amid the COVID-19 outbreak namely, Legal guarantees of Access to Information; International Standards; Access to Information implementation and procedures; Proactive disclosure; and Privacy.