Right to know: Providing access to Public Information

Sep 29, 2017

Denys Yastreb from State Commission for Regulation of Financial Services Markets of Ukraine, was awarded with a certificate for Openness on behalf of his state agency. Photo credit: ©Andrey Krepkikh / UNDP in Ukraine

Kyiv, September 28, 2017As September 28 marks the International Right to Know Day, the UNDP Ombudsperson’s Office and the Council of Europe in Ukraine held a conference to promote transparency and openness of local and national authorities. Active leaders of civil society organizations and officials gathered to exchange thoughts and practical experience on ways to enforce public institutions’ openness.

Why “International Right to Know Day” is so important?

Welcoming participants, Ms. Van Nguyen, Deputy UNDP Country Director in Ukraine, a.i., pointed out that, “Access to public information is one of the key principles, underlined in the Declaration of Human Rights. The Right to Know Day was initiated in 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria. From a small initiative, it becomes a global event that is recognized and acknowledged globally. Nowadays, nearly one hundred countries are committed to providing access to public information. This is a great achievement we should be all celebrating.”

Furthermore, the recognition of the importance to protects civil rights is essential for societies to function democratically, and to the right of freedom of expression, as established in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (1966). Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals 16, the desire to reduce the number of violations has driven civil society organization to collaborate with the UNDP Ombudsperson’s Office and the project of the Council of Europe in Ukraine to play a key role as an effective watchdog.

Monitoring as a tool for change

Ms. Valeriya Lutkovska, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed that “The celebration of the Right to Know Day became an international tradition. However, even the best-written laws in this regard do not give us a ground for celebration; only successful implementation of the law does. For the last three years, we actively work to achieve this. Proactive civil society interested in the implementation of the law is a formula for success.”

As a matter of fact, in 2011, Ukraine adopted a law which grants access to public information, but its implementation still faces a lot of challenges. Therefore, in 2016, the Office of the Ombudsperson partnering with UNDP and leading Ukrainian CSOs specialized in sustainable monitoring developed a unified approach to evaluate access to public information in the country. Association of Ukrainian human rights monitors on Law Enforcement, Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM), the Eidos Centre for Political Studies and Analysis and Human Rights Platform NGO, supported by the UNDP in Ukraine and the project of the Council of Europe in Ukraine conducted several monitoring campaigns to evaluate how state institutions across the country provide access to public information. The effect of this collaboration is significantly positive because it contributes to engage civil society organizations and promote implementation of the recommendations at the national and local level.

Reflecting on the engagement of key actors

This event was an opportunity to celebrate organizations on their openness rating that proved to have applied the recommendations to be more transparent. The results of the monitoring campaign on Access to Public Information were presented during the conference, and the Office of the Ombudsperson congratulated the state agencies on their openness rating by handling certificates. These monitoring campaigns will be conducted on regular basis to ensure sustainability of results. All these actions are aimed to make public institutions more transparent and to increase the level of trust. This dialogue between representatives, CSOs and medias aspire confidence in bettering public institutions practices by promoting accountability and represents democracy in action.

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