Our Access to information programme advocates for the realisation of people’s basic human right to access information from government and other public bodies in Commonwealth countries. Currently, only 20 of the 54 Member States have national level right to information legislation in place. Bills drafted by either Governments or civil society advocates are pending in more than 10 countries across the Commonwealth from Barbados in the Caribbean to Papua New Guinea in the Pacific.
Without access to information, also known as the right to information (RTI), governments cannot be held accountable for their actions, a democracy cannot be established, a free press that intelligently monitors and critiques government actions will not take shape and an uneducated, unaware and disempowered people will be prone to suffering brutality, corruption and the powers in charge unaccountable for their actions. RTI is the first step towards combatting corruption and demanding accountability for violation of human rights violations. RTI impacts upon people’s well being in myriad ways on a daily basis.
Access to information was the foundation on which CHRI’s other programmes were later established. Without the initial knowledge to hold governments to account, justice cannot be served. CHRI believes that the RTI is fundamental to the realization of economic and social rights as well as civil and political rights. Informed participation by all must therefore be guaranteed by a strong legislation and the process of law-making itself must be participatory and informed by the realities of the community concerned. CHRI works to raise public awareness about the value of the right to information. It collaborates with policy advocates and community based groups, catalyses the development of networks of concerned CSOs and provides advice and technical expertise to governments and civil society actors to draft RTI laws and implement them effectively.
CHRI believes in engaging with both the supply side – namely – the Government and the demand side – namely the citizenry through civil society organisations and the media for the promotion of transparent government. To this end, CHRI provides its technical expertise on law-making and implementation which is honed over the years in the crucible of its experience of being deeply involved in such processes in India and South Asia.