UNESCO supports efforts to develop effective ATI oversight body in Armenia

On 12 February 2019 “Access of Information in Armenia: 16 years of practice” Conference was held in Yerevan with the primary aim to summarize the 16 years implementation practice of the Armenian FOI Law, as well as to contribute to the establishment of the Freedom of Information oversight body dedicated to the enforcement of ATI standards.

UNESCO has supported the event, which was organized by the Freedom of Information Centre. Eighty representatives of the government agencies, the National Parliament, CSOs, the media, universities, and international organizations attended the event.

The Conference had two significant achievements: for the first time, the ATI oversight mechanism was widely popularized in Armenia. The conference participants and the wider public got acquainted with the main models, roles, responsibilities, and powers of ATI oversight bodies. The Government and the civil society came up with final agreement to cooperate regarding the outlining the best model for in Armenia.

The Conference provided the community of practitioners and advocates, Government and the Parliament with a forum to exchange ideas for the advancement of access to information, possibility and advantages of an oversight body. Conference sessions explored the features of various international models of oversight bodies.

The international expert Mr. Toby Mendel presented the best practices of oversight bodies worldwide. The conference ensured public discussion on the privacy and ATI, proactive disclosure of government information, as well as exposed participants to both current and practical strategies for providing the successful implementation of Freedom of Information legislation in Armenia.

Before the conference, the FOICA team had consultation meetings with various stakeholders to discuss the problems that multiple requestors face in the process of obtaining information from the government bodies. Participants were discussing possible practical and strategic solutions, in particular, the mechanisms for ensuring the protection of the ATI right, promoting the proactive publication of government-held information, implementing promotional measures for ATI, including education and training of FOI officers and requestors, monitoring of the ATI situation. 

Later on, the FOICA team and the visiting international expert Mr. Toby Mendel had meetings with the Ombudsman of Armenia Mr. Arman Tatoyan and the members of the RA Parliament to discuss the possibility of establishing an oversight body on ATI in Armenia. The visiting expert presented the best models of oversight bodies and highlighted the significant advantages of investing such a model in Armenia.