GLOBE INTERNATIONAL CENTER JOINS THE OPEN TALKS ON IDUAI 2019

Open Talks 2019: Leaving No One Behind

Article written by ZULZAYA Nyamkhuu from Globe International Center (Mongolia). 

The Globe International Centre (GIC) and the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO joined this year’s Open Talks, on the occasion of the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). The event, held on September 27, 2019 aimed at raising awareness and reinforcing social dialogue on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.10.2 to ensure public access to information. The event was supported by the Dutch  and Canadian Governments, BMZ, UNESCO, Beijing Cluster and the Asia Foundation.

Context

On November 17, 2015, UNESCO adopted resolution (38 C/70) declaring 28 September of every year as the “International Day for Universal Access to Information”. The objective of marking IDUAI is to promote universal access to information through all platforms, as an essential means to achieving the 2030 Development Agenda and the SDGs.

Freedom of expression and access to information, which fall specifically under SDG target 16.10 (Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms), are both a target and a driver of sustainable development; These play a crucial role in the awareness and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: only informed citizens are empowered to participate in, advocate for and monitor meaningful progress towards positive change. That is why the involvement of media is a precondition for the implementation of SDG 16 and the wider 2030 Agenda. 

Purpose

The Mongolia Sustainable Development Vision 2030 was approved by the State Great Khural of Mongolia in February 2016. In this context, there is a strong need for increased awareness on the SDGs among policy makers and the general public, so as to ensure its implementation, and in particular target 16.10, as public access to information and fundamental freedoms are key to achieving the SDGs in their totality.

The public’s right to access information is guaranteed by the Constitution of Mongolia and the Law on Information Transparency and Right to Information (LITRI) enacted in June 2011 after seven years of advocacy and lobbying by the civil society. The Mongolian government also has been taking significant steps towards ensuring access to public information, by disclosing the public budget transparency and adopting the Law on Glass Account (Budget Transparency Law) in 2014.

The importance of inclusion is often overlooked when considering other (national) priorities. Mongolia’s first Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) held in July 2019 does not include specific analysis on the SDGs 16.10.2. The report only mentioned that “it is needed to guarantee the transparency of the public activities and enhance the access to information and information transparency” http://nda.gov.mn/backend/files/WPzFZwDaebnpM4M.pdf). Therefore, efforts are needed to advocate for its inclusion as well as highlight its significance to the overall implementation of the SDGs.

The Mongolian civil society accumulated great experiences in promoting the LITRI, using the law to monitor the government transparency and public services. However, Mongolia still needs to foster access to information as an important human right, necessary for the enjoyment of other human rights. The efforts should be strengthened to promote awareness on the right to information is essential for transparent and accountable governance and sustainable development. The right to information is a prerequisite for public involvement in formulating social policies and in the decision-making processes of governance.

The public awareness raising campaigns should highlight that the right to information can only be effectively exercised and implemented on the basis of laws, regulating this right in accordance with international standards. Public debate on the amendment to the existing law is necessary to educate the public on access to information as a necessary and complementary dimension to the right to information, by encouraging the adoption of ICT, open access policies, and stimulating the independent, pluralistic and free media.  

The specific objectives:

  1. To raise awareness and knowledge among policy-makers, media professionals and citizens at large on the right to information as a fundamental human right;
  2. To promote government commitment towards transparency and openness, strengthening norms, policies, legal and regulatory provisions on access to information.

Topics

Access to information held by public bodies is one of the essential issues to make the public institutions more transparent and open. Information gives power to the citizenry; it is a crucial tool in order to increase public participation and public control. It ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance. Media with better public information is able to exercise its “checking function” and to play its role as a public watchdog.

The Open Talks 2019 focused on three specific topics:

  • Implementing access to information law in Mongolia on international standards;
  • Restrictions in the practice and use of secrecy legislation;
  • Open Information and Government Transparency.