October 16th 2019, Madrid, Spain - UN General Assembly proclaimed September 28th as the International Day of Universal Access to Information.
The right to information is recognized as a fundamental right by all major international human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights.
The establishment of the International Day of Universal Access to Information was preceded by the decision to celebrate and promote September 28th as the International Right to Know Day (RTK day) during a Freedom of Information Litigation Workshop held on 26-28 September 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Representatives of Freedom of Information (FOI) organizations from 15 countries, including Georgia participated in the conference and pushed forward the idea of celebrating the RTK day. The purpose of establishing the RTK day was to raise awareness on the right of information and collectively campaign for open and democratic societies with empowered citizens, actively participating in the process of governance. A further step in the direction was taken in 2015 when UNESCO recognized September 28th as an International Day for Universal Access to Information.
On October 16th 2019UN General Assembly proclaimed September 28th as the International Day of Universal Access to Information. The resolution emphasized the importance of seeking, receiving and imparting information, as an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. The resolution reaffirmed the leading role of universal access to information in the formation of inclusive knowledge societies. It further reinforced the need for the development of access to information as a fundamental pillar of human rights and reaffirmed the significance of all other International acts adopted on this matter.
The Draft Resolution was introduced to the UN General Assembly by the Ambassador of the Republic of Liberia and the chair of UN General Assembly Special Political Committee (also known as the Fourth Committee) – Mr. Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah. Mr. Kemayah emphasized that access to information is essential for the functioning of a democratic society. He further stressed the importance of access to information for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noting that recognition of September 28th as the International Day of Universal Access to Information will have a positive impact on the implementation of Agenda 2030.
It should be noted that access to information is a part of the SDGs, being an indicator under SDG 16 which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Furthermore, the Open Government Partnership (OGP), founded in 2011, is based on one of the core pillars of transparency and accountability, achieving of which would be impossible without respecting the right to information.
It is unfortunate and problematic, that Georgia is not among the list of sponsor or co-sponsor states of the resolution declaring September 28th as the International Day of Universal Access to Information.
Since its establishment, IDFI has been promoting the values of access to information, supporting the establishment of an informed and empowered society, promoting the principles of open government and working towards improving transparency and accountability in the public sector. To this end, for years IDFI has been advocating for the adoption of the Law on Freedom of Information in Georgia. The commitment to adopt a stand-alone law on Freedom of Information was undertaken by the government under the previous years’ action plans of the Association Agenda as well as the OGP action plans from the past years. However, the commitments have not been fulfilled by the country and till to-date Georgia has not adopted an independent law on Freedom of Information.
IDFI shares the values and principles of the resolution adopted on September 28th and fully supports the proclamation of September 28th as the International Day of Universal Access to Information, which will further facilitate the process of strengthening the standards of freedom of information at the global level.
We hope that Georgia will ensure the protection of the right to information at the national level and will adopt a stand-alone law on Freedom of Information without further delay.
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