UNESCO Amplifies on Plans for SDG Access Indicator

24 March 2016

By Toby McIntosh

UNESCO has provided more information about its plans for measuring access to information as part of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The finalization of a measurement plan for the access indicator remains months in the future, but the planning process is well under way. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.) Indicator 16.10.2 mandates assessment of the “Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information.”

UNESCO is expected to have a key role in defining measurement of the dual indicator, which covers the existence of access regimes and their implementation. An upcoming meeting in Mexico City of the UN Inter-agency and Experts Group (IAEG) (agenda) may shed further light in the process.

In a March 3  submission of “meta-data” to the IAEG, UNESCO has provided additional detail on its 16.10.2 suggestions. UNESCO has said it will seek wider input. The UN Statistical Commission, to which IAEG reports, also has asked (see Decision 13) the Praia Group on Governance Statistics to support the process of SDG indicator development.

UNESCO Sees Many Sources

UNESCO says it will collate data from multiple sources, stating “such information will be gathered, processed and checked by international organisations – UNESCO and World Bank.”

Addressing the “implementation dimension,” UNESCO says, “The practical guarantee of public access may be partially assessed through dimensions such as those unpacked by The World Bank.”

The meta-data document continues with detail that goes beyond previous submissions:

In this way, the practical quality of legal provisions can be established by identifying if there are: 1) proactive disclosure provisions in laws that establish a legal duty to disclose; 2) mechanisms for citizens, firms, and others to request information that has not been proactively disclosed but that is relevant to their interests, 3) narrowly-tailored guidelines on exemptions to disclosure, and 4) institutional structures that support disclosure, such as information commissioners, oversight mechanisms, and complaints mechanisms. In some national cases, there is also information on the sources and numbers of requests and the response time taken to process these requests.

UNESCO says that “within its mandate for the right to freedom of expression, which includes the corollary of the right to freedom of information” it “already monitors progress and issues in this area through its existing submissions to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and regularly issued (sic) research reports on World Trends on Freedom of Expression and Media Development, including its Media Development Indicators assessments.”

Collaboration Expected

“Collaboration with the World Bank is foreseen, as well as drawing upon work undertaken by ARTICLE 19 in this area,” UNESCO says. “All these will be considered important aspects of establishing the existence and implementation of constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information,” according to the UNESCO document, which also mentions other possible sources.

The data will be “disaggregated in terms of the extent to which the residence of citizens affects their ability to access information (e.g. how do rural, peri-rural, urban and peri-urban dwellers access information from public bodies).” UNESCO goes on, “ It can also be disaggregated in terms of whether gender influences ability to access information” and “in terms of the ability by men and women to access public information.”

In a further elaboration of its potential role on lead agency for the access indicator, UNESCO reveals that the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) “has collected information on two aspects in a pilot survey on Media Statistics, reinforcing the ‘judicial processes’ dimension of the indicator: LF17. Is there a legal provision for access to information held by the State? LF18. Is there a constitutional provision for access to information held by the State? Data are currently available for 56 countries after two rounds of pilot surveys.”

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