UN Agencies Seek Consultant to Evaluate National Access to Information Laws

The international effort to evaluate national access to information laws and their implementation is poised to take a significant step.

Two United Nations agencies are seeking a consultant to collect data and information from 43 countries. (See text of announcement.)

The effort aims to measure progress toward fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goal 16.10.2 on access to information. The study will affect countries that will be producing Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) in 2019 concerning their progress on this goal and other SDGs.

In advertising for a consultant, the UN agencies unveiled the latest version of a somewhat controversial template for assessing action on SDG 16.10.2. The template has been under discussion for several years. (See most recent EYE article.)

The instrument, still labeled “draft,” is considerably enlarged from the narrower version discussed in September at a consultation with experts, many of whom urged its expansion.

Countries will be asked to detail how many requests they get and how many they answer. They also will be queried about what mechanisms exist for appealing denials of information and what the results are of that process.

The “rapid data collection” is being sponsored by the Communication and Information (CI) Sector of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

“The questionnaires are in draft because they may still be tweaked slightly before being piloted, and then after the pilot exercise, they will likely be further honed,” according to Guy Berger, Director of the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development . “The current versions result from two rounds of consultation with various experts, and we anticipate that there will still be room for additional improvement as universally valid research tools,” he further told EYE.

Bids are sought by Dec, 28 and a final report will be due April 15, according to the announcement.

The affected countries are: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Republic of the), Côte D’Ivoire, Croatia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Eswatini (Swaziland), Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nauru, Pakistan, Palau, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Republic of Tanzania, and Vanuatu.

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Twenty 20 of 34 UN agencies lack access to information policies. See EYE report.