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Right to Information: International



Report on the South Asia Conference on Right to Information
Dhaka, 5th 6th and 7th July,1999

The background

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an international NGO presently headquartered in India and working for the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth.

CHRI has been working on the Right to Information as part of its commitment to democracy, goods governance and freedom of speech and expression. CHRI   believes that the right to information is at the core of accessing a myriad other rights, and in the context of the developing world, basic rights like adequate food, shelter and livelihood. It is also a potentially potent tool for minimising corruption and ensuring accountability and transparency in governance. We therefore believe that a right to information legislation is a must in a democratic set up and that such legislation must be framed through the widest possible debate in all constituencies. 

CHRI has therefore been working on the issue of right to information with the twin aims of generating mass awareness on the issue and on fine tuning aspects of the right qua policy makers, based on peoples expectations from the law. We have been doing this through wide dissemination of simple publications on the issue, as well as by holding workshops with different groups consisting of NGOs, bureaucrats, media persons and even students. Last year we held nine such workshops in different rural and urban parts of India. 

The feedback from organisations in other countries in the region and from our recent conference on human rights advocacy in Africa, suggested a high level of interest in the developments on the right to information, especially the unique nature of and different strands taken by the Indian campaign. We therefore decided to initiate a sharing of issues, strategies and possible concerted action such as suggesting guidelines to SAARC on right to information legislation in the Commonwealth South Asia region. [1]