Access to Information Needs More Legal Protection

30 October 2013, by Lydia Medland.

Access to information is a key component of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and a logical precondition for ensuring accountability in decision-making. The right of access to information consists of two basic elements: the obligation of governments to publish information and the right of citizens to make requests for information. Both of these make government more open.

So what does it really mean in the context of the fight against corruption?

When the public and civil society have access to information about government activities, there are fewer chances for corruption and mismanagement. Such transparency may also sometimes enable the public to detect corruption and call on authorities to address malpractice and other offences.

Spreading the word in Papua New Guinea’s forests.
Alice Harrison/FOIAnet photo competition

More than 90 countries have access to information or freedom of information laws. There has been great progress in the last 10 years, and it is time for this trend to become universal. The UNCAC States Parties should encourage states that do not have such laws to take the transparency requirements in the convention seriously. States with such laws should also ensure they are implemented.

To properly implement the articles in the convention that reference access to information (e.g., Articles 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 13), we are asking the Conference of States Parties in Panama in November to move the issue of access to information up the agenda in three ways:

  • For the 2015 review cycle on Chapter II (corruption prevention),

    • States should report whether they have a comprehensive law guaranteeing access to information; and
    • The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should clarify that states need to report on whether they have a functioning access to information law or equivalent when they respond to the self-assessment questionnaire.
  • The Working Group on Prevention should include the issue of “ensuring that the public have effective access to information” (per Article 13), in its work plan.

» Read the Coalition’s briefing note here

About Lydia Medland

Lydia Medland is the UNCAC Coalition Regional Coordinator for Europe and a member of Access Info Europe.