The Republic of Zambia will from September 25 to 27, 2013 host the second regional ACTION (Access to Information) conference titled Leveraging Continental Developments to Enhance the Adoption of Access to Information Laws in Africa. The conference is being organized by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI).
The ACTION-Zambia Conference will be officially opened by the country’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Honourable Mwansa Kapeya. Participants expected at the conference include Zambian Members of Parliament, policymakers, representatives of UNESCO, the Southern African Parliamentary Trust, the Pan African Parliament, ATI advocates, civil society groups, local community leaders, private sector representatives, stakeholders and media practitioners.
Zambia was been chosen as the location for the 2013 ACTION conference because it is at a critically important stage in its advocacy for access to information law. It is therefore envisaged that the convergence of regional and national advocates speaking around this issue will demonstrate how a country’s development and progress can be enhanced through the enactment of enabling access to information laws.
Organisers hope that the conference, along with mapping the way forward for regional and national efforts around access to information, will reinvigorate efforts in Zambia to adopt an access to information law as it is important for Zambia, as well as for the whole Southern African region.
The conference will also explore the multi-sectoral importance of access to information, in accordance with the principles of the APAI declaration. The APAI Declaration stresses the importance of access to information at the most practical level as an essential tool for the enjoyment of a number of basic rights such as health, education and employment.
Southern Africa has lagged behind other African regions with respect to enacting access to information laws in recent years. It is hoped that the adoption of access to information legislation will have a positive ripple effect in the region, encouraging those who do not have such legislation in place to follow in the footsteps of their neighbours.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) convened the first ACTION conference in Namibia in an attempt to domesticate the principles of the APAI Declaration to give greater impetus to Namibia’s campaign to enact access to information law.
It was attended by groups representing various sectors, including business, ICTs, civil society and media, who joined forces to produce recommendations prior to the drafting of a new access to information bill in Namibia.
ACTION-Zambia conference is expected to represent the largest gathering of access to information experts since the first Pan African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI) was held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2011. The PACAI Conference brought together a number of experts around the issue of access to information to reflect on the achievements of the past two years, and more importantly, to discuss how such achievements should be harnessed to ensure that regional and national campaigns build upon the successes of the past.
On September 19, 2011, the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Declaration was adopted at the summit of the Conference, known as AIMS. The APAI Declaration represents regional consensus on Access to Information as a Human Right and as a right that is essential to development, democracy, equality, and the provision of public service. Since its adoption, the APAI Declaration has had a positive influence on the policy environment in Africa.
PACAI achieved a campaign milestone in May 2012, when the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights took note of both the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) and the Model Law on Access to information in Africa. It passed Resolution 222, authorizing the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to expand Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression to include Access to Information, and further recommended that the AU officially recognize September 28 as International Right to Information day in Africa.
In May 2013, the Pan African Parliament adopted the ‘Midrand Declaration on Press Freedom in Africa’, which further recognises the APAI declaration, and calls on AU Member States to review and adopt access to information laws in accordance with the model law.
Organisers hope the ACTION Zambia conference will contribute significantly to improving national campaigns on the African Continent.