Inclusion of Access to Information in the SDGs
Access to information is crucial for individuals and groups to make informed choices, hold their governments to account and interact with their environment. It is also a key enabler in the context of people’s access to development initiatives. Without access to information, individuals are not aware of services and programmes being provided and cannot participate in their development and implementation.
Two significant developments in 2015 put people at the heart of development. First, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals with a target for achievement by 2030 that recognise citizens’ access to information under Goal 16 target 10. Second, in November 2015 UNESCO adopted Res. 38 C/70 declaring 28 September to be International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) and recommending that the UN General Assembly do the same.
Development of indicators – a consultative process
The UN Statistics Division (UNSD) has published a compilation of “metadata” (information about data, data production and use) for the proposed global indicators for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN metadata for SDG 16.10 describes it as:
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
Indicator 16.10.1: Number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months
Indicator 16.10.2: Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information
It also provides existing data for the prior and only indicator for SDG 16.10 at the time, based on input from UN agencies, funds and programmes, other UN offices and entities, regional commissions and other international and regional organizations.
UNESCO has been identified as the UN entity that will collect data for this indicator. Other information provided are: the definition and method of computation; sources and data collection; disaggregation; comments and limitations; gender equality issues; data for global and regional monitoring; supplementary information and references; and current data availability.
The development of the methodology took account, among other inputs, of the 19 September 2016 technical workshop organized by UNESCO and the Global Forum for Media Development in Jakarta, Indonesia which aimed at developing ‘data partnerships’ around Indicator 16.10.2. Members of the FOIAnet Steering Committee attended and provided feedback from the FOI community. During this event, Indicator 2 to measure SDG 16.10 was discussed and its key outlines were agreed upon.
Indicator 16.10.2 seeks to establish the state of public access to information in terms of three key variables:
- Whether a country (or at the global level, the number of countries) has constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information;
- The extent to which such national guarantees reflect ‘international agreements’ (e.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc.); and
- The implementation mechanisms in place for such guarantees, including the following variables:
- Government efforts to publicly promote the right to information.
- The capacity of public bodies to provide information upon request by the public.
- Independent redress mechanism.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.10.2 calls on all States to adopt and implement RTI laws.
Based on the central methodological framework developed in the UNESCO metadata for SDG 16, and given the importance of independent civil society input into the assessment of the achievement of the SDGs, FOIAnet took the initiative to develop a concrete methodology that would guide it members to capture data on SDG 16.10.2 and provide a baseline for following years.
Existing resources such as the RTI Rating, already provide a tool which illustrates whether States have adopted RTI laws and how strong (or weak) those laws are. However, progress in measuring implementation of RTI is not as advanced and this is of course far more complicated.
To assist its members, FOIAnet Steering Committee, developed a simple methodology for civil society organisations to use in assessing implementation of RTI for purposes of measuring compliance with SDG16.10.2.
In 2017, the first year of the study, the methodology is not assigning scores or comparing or rating. Instead, it provides a basic tool to be tested. In the future, FOIAnet intends to refine the methodology based on the feedback of those who used it in 2017. In subsequent phases, FOIAnet will develop particularly the section on requesting information, for example as to the types of authorities to approach and possibly even standardised questions to provide points of comparison between countries.
Current plans of some FOIAnet members in the process of conducting the study
Download the methodology