FOI Community Invited to Comment on SDG 16.10

5 October 2016

The freedom of information community has been asked to weigh in on how to measure the implementation of FOI laws.

The answers will inform decision on what benchmarks will be used to determine whether countries are making progress toward achieving the access to information provision in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The process for soliciting comment was explained in a message by Toby Mendel, chair of the Steering Committee for FOI Advocates Network, a consortium of activists which operates a listserve on FOI.

Text of Mendel Message

As many of you know, the SDGs have been adopted and SDG Target 16.10 is as follows: “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”. While the indicators for this target have not yet been finally decided, one is very likely to be: “Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information.”

On 19 Sept., UNESCO held a meeting of experts to discuss how to assess this indicator, with two members of FOIAnet present, myself and Gilbert Sendugwa. They have already determined that it could be broken down into three sub-questions, namely: 1) whether the country has adopted guarantees; 2) the extent to which those guarantees are in line with international standards (based on the language in the target); and 3) the steps the country has taken to implement the guarantees.

A number of methodologies will be used to assess these questions. One will be to ask countries (officials) to respond to a list of questions. At the meeting, Gilbert and myself volunteered to conduct a crowd-sourcing through FOIAnet to try to come up with a set of questions, mainly focused on the question of implementation, and we are now reaching out to you for your suggestions.

A few points:

1) We have been told that there should be a maximum of ten questions.
2) Questions should, in general, be closed/objective rather than open-ended/subjective (so as to keep the exercise as scientific, accurate and comparable as possible).
3) Questions should aim to probe a number of different implementation measures. These could include institutional measures (have you appointed information officers and/or an oversight body), procedural (what percentage of requests are answered within the legal time limits) and more systemic issues (what systems have you put in place to collect information about how implementation is going).
4) The questions should probe both proactive and request-driven implementation measures.

So, we are asking you to provide us with suggestions as to questions or issues that questions should probe. We welcome brainstorming ideas (without going too far outside of the box) and suggestions do not necessarily need to be fully formed (as long as they help us think this through). Gilbert and I will work through the ideas and come up with a suggested list of around 10 questions, on which we will again seek feedback.

This is clearly a very important activity since these questions will guide UNESCO in its annual assessment of whether countries have met SDG16.10.

Can we ask you to respond by 18 October 2016?

Thanks so much for your help with this important task.

Mendel said those not on FOIANet may email responses to him: <toby@law-democracy.org>

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