UNESCO Council Furthers Plans to Monitor Access to Information Laws

Plans for monitoring national implementation of access to information laws were advanced at a recent meeting of a United Nations body.

A standard template for governments to use on a voluntary basis is expected out soon, according Guy Berger, Director of the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO.

“UNESCO with the UNESCO Institute of Statistics hope to pilot a finalized version of the template, and to issue a call for proposals in the coming week for consultancies to implement this,” Berger told eyeonglobaltransparency.net.

UNESCO is the lead UN agency concerned with measuring national progress toward fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 which asks that governments: “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” The associated “indicator” (SDG 16.10.2) states: “Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information.” (See most recent previous EYE story on the subject.)

SDG 16.10.2 was discussed at a Nov. 21-22 meeting of the 31st Council Session of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

The Council largely endorsed efforts already underway.  In “decisions” reached, the Council:

  • Encourages the IPDC Secretariat, Council and Bureau to keep supporting grass-roots projects that will help Member States in data-collection and reporting on SDG indicator 16.10.2 on access to information;
  • Encourages the IPDC Secretariat, in cooperation with UNESCO’s Information For All Programme, to develop a mechanism that could involve and support UNESCO Member States in data-collection and reporting on SDG indicator 16.10.2 on access to information;
  • Invites the IPDC Secretariat to explore the possibility of publishing, in cooperation with UNESCO’s Information For All Programme, a biennial report on worldwide progress towards SDG indicator 16.10.2 on access to information, with a view to giving visibility to national efforts to monitor and report on access to information and to further sensitizing relevant stakeholders on the important role played by access to information in achieving development goals;
  • Encourages Member States to monitor and report progress on SDG indicator 16.10.2 on access to information, through 2019 Voluntary National Reviews on SDG 16 and/or other processes, as part of their commitments to advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda;
  • Requests the IPDC Secretariat to report to the IPDC Bureau in 2019 and Council in 2020, taking into account the results of the UN High Level Political Forum which will be held in New York, July 2019, about the progress made on the above.

See minutes of meeting here.

Template Still Work in Progress

UNESCO has been slowly developing a template for governments to use in measuring implementation of their access laws.  Berger said it is almost ready.

The most recent version, circulated in early October to an information group of consultants, has more detail than the so-called “lite” version discussed with the experts at a Paris meeting in early September. (See text of  revised template.)

The draft template  was not considered by the Council.

Scoping Study Planned

On Nov. 21, the Institute of Statistics issued a call for applications (Deadline Dec. 12) to conduct “a scoping study to determine the breadth and depth of data availability to advance the implementation of a global data collection to monitor and report on SDG indicator 16.10.2 …” and the “priority thematic areas” of the Communication and Information  (CI)  Sector.

The Institute’s study will be distinct from the “piloting” planned by UNESCO.