Unveiling UNCAC: An Access to Information Campaign to Track Transparency in UNCAC Implementation
The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the world’s only binding anti-corruption mechanism, emphasizes the importance of civil society participation in anti-corruption efforts. In the Convention’s text, States are called upon to be transparent in their fight against corruption. One way of doing so is by following the UNCAC review process’ recommendations to publish all of the key documents: the executive summary, the self-assessment checklist and the full country report, related to reviewing implementation of the UNCAC in the specific country. Public access to such information would reflect a true commitment by States to the transparency principles enshrined in the UNCAC.
Following this, the UNCAC Coalition has launched an Access to Information Campaign in collaboration with civil society organizations (CSOs) across the globe to submit formal Freedom of Information requests to their respective governments and relevant authorities, appealing for the release of crucial UNCAC documents. This campaign is an opportunity for CSOs to make their voices heard, and to hold their governments to account in terms of the fundamental right of access to information.
What is this campaign about?
The UNCAC Coalition invites civil society organizations from around the world to join a campaign that asks national governments to release key documents and information about what they have done to implement the provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
The information is requested by CSOs through formal requests under national access to information legislation. Where no such laws exist, CSOs can submit requests to their national government and reference the transparency principles enshrined in the UNCAC (in particular Articles 10 and 13).
The campaign is tracking the requests filed around the world as well as the responses provided by governments on the UNCAC Coalition website, documenting how responsive and transparent different countries are when asked to disclose information about their anti-corruption efforts. The Coalition is publishing the responses and findings, making them widely accessible, and tracking how responsive governments are in light of their obligation to respond to freedom of information requests.
Why is this important?
The UNCAC is the only binding global anti-corruption mechanism. Almost all countries in the world have ratified the UNCAC. The UNCAC also emphasizes the important role of civil society in anti-corruption efforts and calls on States to be transparent about their anti-corruption efforts. Through our campaign, we want to find out if governments are truly committed to those principles.
The UNCAC review process is weak: countries are not required to publish the key documents of the process (the self-assessment checklist and the full country review) – only an executive summary of approximately 10 pages has to be published. The UNCAC review process is a very resource intensive process, and full country reports are often 300 to 500 pages long, containing relevant details on how countries have implemented provisions of the UNCAC – details that are not included in the executive summary.
Additionally, governments are not required to involve civil society and other non-governmental stakeholders in the review process. However, numerous countries do involve civil society and some also voluntarily publish key documents from the review process. This campaign is an opportunity for CSOs to appeal to their national governments to release all documents and make them publicly available.
What do we want to achieve?
The campaign highlights the importance of conducting the UNCAC implementation review in a transparent manner that involves all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations. Through this Access to Information campaign, we would like to achieve the following:
What information is requested?
We request the following documents and information:
We are asking for this information for the first cycle of the UNCAC review (which covered Chapters 1 and 4 of the UNCAC, on criminalization of corruption and international cooperation) and has been concluded in almost all countries, as well as for the second cycle (covering Chapters 2 and 5 on prevention of corruption and asset recovery) which has been finalized in some countries but is currently still ongoing in many countries. Thus, some of the requested documents and information may not yet exist for the second cycle in several countries.
Use of formal requests
The aim is not to get the information at any cost (e.g. through personal connections), but to test whether it can be obtained in formal ways through the exercise of the right to information.
By obtaining information through formal channels, we can ensure that the information is accurate and reliable. Furthermore, we can observe if governments act in line with the principles of the UNCAC, which highlights the importance of transparency regarding anti-corruption activities, and the important role of civil society.
Whom should the request be addressed to?
The request for information should be directed to the State authority in charge of coordinating the first and second cycle of the UNCAC implementation review. The request should be addressed to the authority rather than an individual (it may be helpful to also send the request to the government focal point – the person coordinating the government’s review process).
It is not always clear who the government focal point is, but for numerous countries the UNCAC Coalition has this information and can share it with you. The Coalition will also provide a template for sending your request, with guidance on how to fill it out.
What are the expected contributions?
We expect that the effort will take a commitment of two to three hours in total.
We ask that you use the request template prepared by the UNCAC Coalition for the submission of formal requests. You may need to translate it into the national language (if necessary) and slightly adapt it to fit the context of the relevant country.
In case you would like to contribute but do not want to submit a request for information yourself, the campaign coordinator would be happy to submit the request, if you can assist with preparations and translation.
Further reads and resources
- Our own information page on Access to Information
- For general information on the right of access to information and its legislative framework, take a look at the RTI Rating website and Right 2 Info
- The Right to Information around the world, Article 19
- GIJN’s Global Guide to Freedom of Information: Resources
- Article 19’s Guide on using Access to Information to combat corruption
- Open Government Partnership’s RTI resource pool and commitment tracker
- MySociety’s tools, platforms and guides about FOI
- Browse the UNCAC Coalition’s second submission to the UN General Assembly Special Session against corruption (UNGASS 2021) which highlights challenges and shortcomings in policy areas key to fighting corruption, including key asks on access to information
- For journalists requesting information at the national level, check out the LegalLeaks Toolkit (specific toolkits for several European countries also available)
- For EU countries, consult this Guide on Access to EU Documents
- Check out networks and regional access to information organizations such as Access Info Europe, Article 19 and The Global Network of Freedom of Information Advocates
- If interested in requesting information across Europe using a platform like AsktheEU.org, take a look at the different Alaveteli platforms. More information about these platforms is also available here.
Who can join the campaign, and how?