UN Body Advances Proposal For International ATI Day

The Executive Board of UNESCO Oct. 19 adopted a resolution recommending that Sept. 28 be recognized as International Access to Information Day.

The resolution next heads to the 38th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference, which will take place in Paris from Nov. 3 – 18. UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The resolution was formally sponsored by the Permanent Delegations of Angola, Morocco and Nigeria to UNESCO but it was proposed by the Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) based on the APAI Declaration adopted on Sept. 19, 2011.

The explanatory introduction for resolution begins by pointing out that “the universal right to information is essential for societies to function democratically and for the well-being of each individual.” It continues, “Freedom of information or the right to information is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. It is established as a right in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1966, which stipulates that the fundamental right to freedom of expression encompasses the freedom “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The explanation says, “Despite the fundamental importance of this right in the facilitation of all other rights and the creation of a fair and equitable society, there are still countries that do not have national legislation on access to information as a specific expression of the law.” One of the resolution sponsors, Morocco, is one of those countries without a law. There are 104 countries with freedom of information laws.

“The establishment of a specific date provides a coherent message at the international level and facilitates coordination of joint initiatives on public awareness and elucidation by organizations in the coherence of a universally recognized day,” according to the explanation.

“Right to Know Day” was created in 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria, at a conference of freedom of expression advocates from 15 countries. The event also spawned the Freedom of Information Advocates Network.

The resolution explanation outlines ideas for how the celebration will take place and says, “The day will also give greater authority, visibility and acknowledgement to the issue of access to information and will make sure that it is taken more seriously by the stakeholders concerned, particularly national governments.”

“The date of 28 September is already marked by a series of activities, including conferences, workshops, marches, concerts, publications on access to information and petitions calling on governments to adopt and implement laws on access to information,” according to the explanation.

Credit: UNESCO

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