Caribbean FOI Network Formed at Jamaica Meeting

25 March 2013

A Caribbean network on freedom of information was created at a conference held recently in Kingston, Jamaica.

Governments, civil society, and media announced plans to launch the Caribbean network  “to support processes to improve standards for access to information in the region,” according to a statement. Representatives from 11 Caribbean countries attended a two-day “Regional Conference on Freedom of Information in the Caribbean: Improving Management for the Environment” that ended March 21.

At the meeting, countries reviewed the status and effectiveness of freedom of information laws, the number of requests for information being made in each country, and institutional structures for implementation and enforcement, according to the statement. Seven Caribbean countries have FOI laws: Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Cayman Islands.

Five countries have draft laws pending, and Bahamas and Guyana have passed laws but they are not yet in force, according to the statement. It added, “Gaps in implementation were noted in Belize, Antigua, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, which have laws that have not yet fully been utilized by the public.”

The event was a follow-up to the Rio+20 sustainable development conference in May of 2012, where ten countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) signed a declaration to work towards a legally binding, regional instrument to promote the implementation of the rights of access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters. Jamaica was the first Caribbean country to sign the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Declaration on Principle 10, and Trinidad and Tobago joined in 2013.

The conference was funded by The Commonwealth Foundation, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Information Commissioner’s Office of the Cayman Islands. Organizers included the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), World Resources Institute (WRI), The Access Initiative (TAI), Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), The Mona School of Business and Management, and the Access to Information Unit of Jamaica.

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