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Author: Olga Komarova | 21. September 2018

The 28th of September each year marks the International Right to Know Day, officially known as the International Day for the Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) or also known as the Access to Information Day.

On this day, freedom of information (FOI) advocates and access to information champions around the globe organise a variety of events and initiatives in order to raise awareness on the right of information and to campaign for open, democratic societies in which there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government.

The decision to celebrate and promote 28 September as the International Right to Know Day was taken on the last day of a Freedom of Information litigation conference held 26-28 September 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 2015, The UNESCO General Conference voted to designate the day as the International Day for the Universal Access to Information.

Why is the Right to Access of Information (RTI) important?

The right of access to information held by government and other powerful bodies empowers individuals and communities to be able to engage and participate in decisions that affect their lives. It has been widely recognised around the world as a fundamental human right, as well as an important tool for promoting the rule of law, fighting corruption, and ensuring other rights.

International standards and jurisprudence have confirmed that this information belongs to the public. It has also been recognised as a fundamental human right by the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

How are the SDGs relevant to the Right to Know Day?

The right to information has been a key element of sustainable development since the 1992 Rio Declaration. In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), access to information held by public bodies has been recognised as a necessary enabling mechanism for public engagement across the goals and specifically incorporated into SDG 16 as well as implicitly as into many other goals and targets.

An indicator adopted by the UN Statistics Commission in 2016 and approved by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) considers that at least initially this should be measured by review of the legal instruments – laws, policies, and constitutions in place in countries and their implementation.

Target 10 of SDG 16 calls on all states to adopt legislation or policies guaranteeing the right to information, which is essential not only for the achievement of Goal 16, but is also an enabler to achieving other SDGs. ARTICLE 19 has been monitoring progress on 16.10 since the adoption of the goals in 2015. In 2018, 123 countries comprising 90% of the world’s population have an RTI law or policy.

What is GFMD’s position on SDGs?

GFMD played a central role in advocating for the SDGs to include a governance goal inclusive of the role of independent media, access to information, and freedom of expression. In September 2015, the UN General Assembly approved the SDGs, which included target 16.10 (“ensure public access to information and respect of fundamental freedoms”).

GFMD saw this new UN-endorsed global goal as a potentially historic opportunity to strengthen the role of independent news media in current and future emerging democracies, with journalists at the vanguard with civil society leaders in the regular use of these access-to-information tools, and as watchdogs pressing governments to provide and protect the free flow of information required for all of the new global goals.

News organisations can usefully collaborate in these efforts with public-interest lawyers and specialised civil society groups, such as those pressing governments for greater fiscal transparency or environmental protections. The need is great: in many countries such laws have been ratified recently, but not yet been put into practice, with local media lacking the basic information needed to access these new access to information tools.

Our commitment to SDG 16.10 was further strengthened in July when ECOSOC formally granted GFMD special consultative status. This offers the GFMD secretariat as well as our members the ability to be even more engaged in UN processes, such as those related to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

What are we doing?

We at GFMD are mobilising our members’ network to organise awareness raising events that will call on governments, civil society, and citizens to exercise their legal right to information and, where appropriate, use the results to inform local reporting efforts.

GFMD’s Navya Hebbar will also be in Tunis, Tunisia, on 27 September for UNESCO’s #IPDCtalks conference.

For additional information about our member’s RTK Day activities as well as resources relevant to SDG 16.10, access to information, and sustainable development, see our SDG 16.10 Resource Centre page.

If you would like to share your International Right to Know Day initiative, please get in touch with us at: learning@gfmd.info


Read about Navya’s experience in Tunis here, and also check out the video we made about the connection between the SDGs, press freedom, and access to information:


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