Sesame: Looking for the Right to Information in the Commonwealth
Please note that some advance copies of the Report
were distributed with an error. At p.14 and p.78 of the Report,
Botswana was described as having no laws on access to information.
However, s.12 of the Botswana Constitution protects the freedom
to receive information and ideas without interference as part of
the right to freedom of expression. At p.14 of the Report, The Gambia
was listed in Column 3 of the RTI Status Table, but should have
been listed in Column 4 because it has no laws on the right to information.
We apologise for these inadvertent errors.
Summary (1.3 MB)
Report (1.7 MB)
To Information: Touchstone For Democracy And Development
A Liberal information-sharing
regime guaranteed by law is the practical answer to the Commonwealth's
present search for deeper democracy and people-centered development.
Access to information is both a practical short cut to achieving
the goals of poverty eradication and good governance that the
Commonwealth strives for and a long recognized human right. Human
beings need information in order to realize their full social,
political and economic potential. It is a public resource, garnered
and stored by government in trust for people. The challenge is
to share it equitably and manage it to the best advantage of all
society. But, the human right to access information remains undervalued
in the Commonwealth both by member states and the Secretariat.
Only a handful of member countries promote and protect this right,
the institutions of the Commonwealth do not yet have disclosure
policies. This situation needs to change as a matter of priority.
The Scales Of Power: Legislating For Access
Commonwealth countries must put
in place domestic laws that entrench the right to access information.
Key principles, which should be reflected in all access to information
laws, along with examples from throughout the Commonwealth provide
direction to law-makers and activists to evolve people-friendly
laws. The Commonwealth has some of the best-crafted laws to draw
upon. International standards and guidelines also provide assistance.
it work: Entrenching Openness
Legislation is a valuable first
step towards putting in place an access regime, but it is not
enough. Opening up government requires complementary systems that
support administrative reform, protect whistleblowers and encourage
wide consultation. Conflicting laws must be amended. Removing
obstructions to open government needs independent arbiters to
monitor performance, adjudicate conflict, educate the public and
promote good practice and training within bureaucracies. Most
of all open government needs political will to overcome long-standing
cultures of government secrecy because experience shows that changing
mind-sets has proved very difficult, even in places that have
long established laws.
Power: Civil Society Advocacy Experiences
Whether working at grassroots
to support demands for economic justice, exposing scandals that
save nations millions of development dollars, helping governments
to craft laws, or working across jurisdictions to promote best
practice, the spur for open government has come from civil society.
The techniques and strategies these groups have used and their
success and setbacks are sources of inspiration, as well as practical
ideas, for other groups across the Commonwealth.
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