UN Rapporteur Exploring Access to Info Among IOs

11 September 2016

In an unprecedented “call for submissions,” intended to lay the basis for a major report in 2017, a UN Special Rapporteur has asked all UN bodies and other international intergovernmental organizations about their policies on public access to information.

The request came from David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, is seeking information that will be the basis for a major report in 2017.

“Access to information is an integral component of the right to freedom of opinion and expression…, Kaye wrote, asking for responses by Oct. 15.

He asked for information about what access polices exist, how they came about and how well they work.

The study has a broad scope. Kay has asked for information from “United Nations departments, funds, programmes and specialised agencies, as well as other international organizations.” Upwards of 30 organizations fit the description and have been contacted, but the list is not defined.

The Special Rapporteur also has called on nongovernmental organizations and others “to share their perspectives and experiences when gaining access to information from UN agencies or other IOs.”

The study will explore whether international norms on access to information “create any obligations for international organizations,” according to the announcement.

Submissions are to be sent to freedex@ohchr.org no later than 15 October with “UN Freedom of Information Policies” in the header. Questions go to freedex@law.uci.edu.

Specific Questions Posed

Text of the call for submissions:

The UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is conducting a study to be completed in 2017 exploring the scope of the right of access to information within international organizations, including those within the United Nations system.

Access to information is an integral part of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, enshrined in a wide number of international and regional human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Clear obligations on Governments around the world resulted in the adoption of laws and policies to guarantee the public right of access to information held by public authorities. This report will study how international organizations respond to these international standards.

The Special Rapporteur calls on United Nations departments, funds, programmes and specialised agencies, as well as other international organizations, to provide information on the following:

1) Does your organization have an access to information policy? If so, please provide a link or copy of it. Please also respond to the following questions, as appropriate:

  1. What are or were the key considerations supporting your organisation’s decision to develop an access to information policy?
  2.  Please describe the process that led to the adoption of the policy, including any internal processes and external consultations. To what extent have your organization’s Member States and Observers, and the general public, been involved in its development? Did your organization face any constraints or challenges in creating the policy?
  3. If your policy does not provide such information, please indicate the practical arrangements made by your organisation to ensure that the right of access to information can be effectively exercised. For instance, who or what office in your organisation has the responsibility to respond to the requests made by the public?
  4. Please provide any data related to the implementation of the policy, including information on (i) the number of requests your organisation has received under the policy; (ii) the type of applicants seeking information (e.g. individuals, organizations, private sector, etc…); (iii) the type of information requested; and (iv) the percentage of requests that are denied.

2) If your organization has not yet developed an access to information policy, please explain why it does not have such a policy in place. Please also indicate the measures your organisation has adopted, or intends to adopt, if any, to make available or otherwise disclose information in the public interest.

Comments From NGOs Invited

Kaye’s request for advice from others, posted on his website, specifies:

We are very interested to hear the views of non-governmental organizations, journalists, activists and other members of civil society on the questions that have been asked in the call for submissions. We encourage all interested non-governmental stakeholders to share their perspectives and experiences when gaining access to information from UN agencies or other IOs. Specific information may include examples of good or bad practices across different UN agencies or IOs, references to concrete situations which exemplify the challenges faced by civil society in gaining access to information, and recommendations to improve the current situation.

2014 Report by Another Rapporteur

United Nations human rights Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai on Oct. 28, 2014, issued a report calling on multilateral organizations to be more transparent and inclusive. (See FreedomInfo.org report.)

Access to information was one of many topics addressed by Kiai, who pointed out that the United Nations has not yet adopted a general comprehensive policy on public access to information.

 

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Filed under: IFTI Watch

ABOUT IFTI WATCH

In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
Contact: freeinfo@gwu.edu or
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