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TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY THROUGH IMPROVED ACCESS TO INFORMATION. Nana Oye Lithur Coordinator Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) Africa Office. 4 th May, 2005.

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TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY THROUGH IMPROVED ACCESS TO INFORMATION

Nana Oye Lithur

Coordinator

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Africa Office

CHRI – Africa Office

4th May, 2005


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‘the right to information lays the foundation upon which to build good governance and transparency…. It is the key to moving from formal to consultative and responsive democracy’

CHRI

CHRI – Africa Office


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The ‘poverty of information’, Official Secrets Acts, anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

CHRI – Africa Office


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Access to Information: What is it? anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • It is a human right to access information, to seek receive and impart information

  • The fundamental right to freedom of expression and upon which all other rights depend

CHRI – Africa Office


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Freedom of Information: The Context anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

FOI the ‘oxygen of democracy’ gives meaning to participatory democracy

Supports participatory development and a proven anti-corruption tool

Marginalised groups are given a voice and tool to scrutinise development activities

Democracy, equitable economic development and national stability is enhanced

CHRI – Africa Office


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The Rationale for FOI legislation anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

To foster culture of transparency and accountability in public and private bodies to enable the people fully exercise and protect all their rights’

Preamble to SA ATI Law (2000)

CHRI – Africa Office


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T.I’s Corruption Perception Index and ATI anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • Of the ten best countries not less than eight had FOI laws enabling public to access information

  • Out of the ten worst corrupt countries only one had a functioning ATI regime

  • Improving ATI is pro-development, pro-economic growth and pro-national stability

CHRI – Africa Office


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Why is Improving ATI is important? anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • Failure of PRSs and development strategies attributed to ‘behind closed door designs’ and consulting experts that shut out the people supposed to benefit

  • Donors, IFTIs are beginning to open up and review their disclosure policies to enable greater oversight and participation

  • Policies of openness engenders greater public trust

CHRI – Africa Office


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Why ATI is important for transparency and accountability? anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • Marginalised groups given a rightful voice, a powerful tool to scrutinise, engage and access information about their development rights

  • Conflict will be reduced because government secrecy exacerbates perceptions of favouritism and/or exclusion

CHRI – Africa Office


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FOI: as a Human right anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • Related to freedom of expression, right to privacy and political rights.

  • Ensures power is exercised rationally with due process.

  • Based on premise that democracy cannot function without Freedom of Information.

CHRI – Africa Office


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African Union anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • African Charter on Human and People’s rights article 9(1) on right to receive information

  • Adoption of the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa(2002)

  • NEPAD/ Africa Peer Review Mechanism enhancing ATI

CHRI – Africa Office


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Status of FOI legislation in Africa anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • South Africa Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000

  • Ghana Freedom of Information Bill 2002

  • Kenya Freedom of Information Bill 2005

  • Uganda Access to Information Bill 2004

  • Mozambique Access to Sources of Information Bill

  • Nigeria Freedom of Information Bill

CHRI – Africa Office


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Challenges for FOI Legislation in Africa anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • Sustaining a trend in Africa towards FOI legislation

  • Taking note of effective implementation

  • Implementation challenges encountered by South Africa

CHRI – Africa Office


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Further Challenges anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • ODAC Study on monitoring and implementation of SA ATI Law. 100 requests 52% not responded to, 6% oral refusals,17% unable to submit, 2% written refusals 23% fulfilled and answered questions.

  • OSI/ODAC five-country Survey interim results from Ghana 124 requests 56.3% mute refusals only 9.2% responded to.

  • People need to know they have a right to access

CHRI – Africa Office


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Conclusion anti-terrorist laws, criminal libel laws vrs the right of Access to Information

  • FOI is vital for democracy and development

  • There is a trend of adoption of FOI legislation in Africa

  • Development of FOI legislation must be supported must go with awareness creation

  • Will enhance public sector accountability and promote zero tolerance for corruption

CHRI – Africa Office


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‘The great democratising power of information has given us the chance to effect change and alleviate poverty ……………With information on our side, with knowledge a potential for all, the path of poverty can be reversed’

Kofi Annan

CHRI – Africa Office


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