Joint Letter Regarding UNESCO’s Access to Information Policy

21 December 2016

Irina Bokova
Director General

Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General
Eric Falt, Assistant Director General for External Relations
Frank la Rue, Assistant Director General for Communication and Information

Dear Irina Bokova,

We are writing to you as organisations and individuals working on the right to information, i.e. the right to access information held by public bodies. This has been clearly recognised as a human right under international law, as well as in all three regional systems for human rights in Africa, the Americas and Europe.

We believe that, just as States need to adopt laws to give effect to this right, inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) also need to adopt right to information policies. This flows from the obligation of IGOs to respect human rights guarantees, as well as the benefits that flow from transparency, including building public trust, combating corruption and mismanagement, and fostering democratic engagement and accountability. We are, therefore, pleased to hear that UNESCO is currently developing an access to information policy. This follows developments at a number of other IGOs and is clearly better practice.

We would, at the same time, like to highlight the cardinal importance of engaging in genuine consultations with external stakeholders as part of the process of developing a policy in this area. Such consultations are important for a number of reasons, including to ensure that the final policy reflects the concerns of those for whose benefit it has been developed and to take advantage of the considerable expertise that exists globally on this issue. For such a consultation to be genuine, it must take place early enough in the policy development cycle for the comments received during the consultation to be reflected in the final policy.

We therefore urge UNESCO to release a draft version of its access to information policy as soon as possible rather than trying to reach consensus internally before releasing it, at which point the document would be unduly ‘fixed’ or final for the consultation to be genuine. We, in turn, commit to engaging fulsomely during the consultation process with a view to ensuring that the final policy is as robust as possible.

Yours sincerely,


  1. Access Info Europe, Spain
  2. Access Now, United States
  3. Access to Information Programme, Bulgaria
  4. Advocacy Academy of Timisoara, Romania
  5. Advocacy and Policy Institute, Cambodia
  6. Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Uganda
  7. AfroLeadership, Cameroon
  8. Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información, the Americas
  9. ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom
  10. Asociación Nacional de la Prensa, ANP, Bolivia
  11. Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, ADC, Argentina
  12. Cainfo, Uruguay
  13. Cameroon FOIA Coalition Voice
  14. Campaign for Freedom of Information, United Kingdom
  15. Carter Center, United States
  16. Center for Independent Journalism, Romania
  17. Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law, Ukraine
  18. Centre for Law and Democracy, Canada
  19. Centre for Media Freedom, Morocco
  20. Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, Pakistan
  21. Citizens’ Campaign for Right to Information, Nepal
  22. Code for Croatia
  23. COLLECITF 24, Democratic Republic of Congo
  24. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, India
  25. DATA Uruguay
  26. Directorio Legislativo, Argentina
  27. Diritto Di Sapere, Italy
  28. Espacio Público, Venezuela
  29. Forum Informationsfreiheit, Austria
  30. Foundation Open Society – Macedonia
  31. Freedom of Information Center, Armenia
  32. Fundación Democracia sin Fronteras, Honduras
  33. Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Nicaragua
  34. Fundamedios, Ecuador
  35. Fundar, Mexico
  36. Fusades, El Salvador
  37. Global Forum for Media Development, Belgium
  38. GONG, Croatia
  39. Hungarian Civil Liberties Union/Társaság a Szabadságjogokért
  40. Info House Slovenia
  41. Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development, Pakistan
  42. Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental, IDEA, Paraguay
  43. Integrity Action, United Kingdom
  44. Lex Enterpreneur, Nigeria
  45. Life Line to Citizen, India
  46. Moroccan Access to Information Network
  47. n-ost, Germany
  48. National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, India
  49. Open Knowledge Foundation Germany
  50. Open Society Foundation, Serbia
  51. Palestinian Center For Development & Media Freedoms, MADA, Palestine
  52. Privacy and Access Council of Canada — Conseil du Canada de l’Accès et la vie Privée
  53. PRO MEDIA, Macedonia
  54. Research Initiatives, Bangladesh
  55. Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association, Canada
  56. Satark Nagrik Sangathan, India
  57. Transparencia por Colombia, Colombia
  58. Transparency International


  1. Muhammad Aftab Alam, Legal Expert, Media Law and RTI, Pakistan
  2. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Information Commissioner Punjab, Pakistan
  3. Linda Austere, RTI Activist
  4. Staffan Dahllöf, Freelance Journalist, Denmark
  5. Dr. Fatima Diallo, Academic, Senegal
  6. Shushan Doydoyan, RTI Expert, Armenia
  7. Said Essoulami, Morocco
  8. Francesca Fanucci, Lawyer – Consultant on Freedom of Expression, United Kingdom
  9. Dr. David Goldberg, Director Project Forsskal, United Kingdom
  10. Dwight Hines, Ph.D., United States
  11. Gabriela Edith Morales Martínez, Specialist on Access to Information and Accountability, Mexico
  12. Lourdes Morales, Accountability Network, Mexico
  13. Venkatesh Nayak, RTI Activist, India
  14. Sharon Polsky MAPP, Privacy & Access-to-Information Advocate, Canada
  15. Dr. Jeannine Relly, The University of Arizona, United States
  16. Dr. Andrew Scott, Associate Professor, LSE, London
  17. Yahia Shukkeir, Media Expert and RTI Activist, Jordan
  18. Santosh Sigdel, RTI Activist, Nepal
  19. Peter Timmins, Lawyer, Open and Shut, Australia
  20. Professor Kalim Ullah, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Commission, Pakistan
  21. Roger Vleugels, Legal Advisor and FOI Lecturer, the Netherlands
  22. Dirk Voorhoof, Human Rights Centre, Ghent University, Belgium
  23. Dr. Mark Weiler, Librarian, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada