Reporting on SDG 16.10.2 serves as an incentive for countries to improve their legal regulatory frameworks, their implementation and/or their enforcement of Access to Information (ATI). In this regard, the UNESCO survey, which provides a standardised approach to monitoring SDG 16.10.2, has proven useful for countries and territories in measuring and reporting progress on ATI at the national level, including through the Voluntary National Reviews, the Universal Periodic Review that concerns the human rights records, the Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (Mecanismo de Seguimiento a la Convención Interamericana contra la Corrupción, MESICIC), and parliaments.
Having a specialised oversight institution helps perform better
The findings of the survey in this report suggest that having a specialised ATI oversight institution is fundamental to ensure ATI law implementation and enforcement. This was made evident by the higher scores obtained by countries that have such a specialised institution. Experience around the world shows that these institutions play key roles in advocating for standards and good practices, as well as helping to address challenges in ATI implementation.
Record-keeping: one of the major areas of improvement
The low level of data availability for 2020 reinforces the need for the ATI oversight institutions to improve their record-keeping systems. Fortunately, ATI oversight institutions in some countries and territories provide good examples in reorganizing their working methods during the pandemic, which can be replicated by other countries and territories. Since what cannot be measured, cannot be improved, it is vital to ensure adequate and reliable records of the requests and appeals received, so that evidence can be generated to track progress. Good evidence-based reporting can also help ATI oversight institutions in negotiating for financial and technical resources with policymakers and other stakeholders, which in turn would help address the challenges related to management and limited resources.
The importance of a networks of oversight institutions
Emerging from the 2021 survey process, it is important that central bodies responsible for the SDGs involve ATI oversight institutions and their networks in SDG processes at the national and regional levels. UNESCO’s experience shows that these networks are indispensable in the improvement of ATI monitoring and reporting processes. As also implied by SDG 17, the power to drive change is vested in alliances and partnerships. The International Conference of Information Commissioners, Red de Transparencia y Acceso a la Informacion and the International Ombudsman Institute have all demonstrated successful collaborations in replicating and scaling-up initiatives that have accelerated both the adoption and the implementation of ATI guarantees.
Advancing a multi-stakeholder approach
Equally important is to strengthen the involvement of civil society in the monitoring and reporting on SDG 16.10.2. While the UNESCO survey provides an opportunity for governments to make a self-assessment against their own performance, monitoring and reporting by civil society can offer alternative data and perspective. Having a direct access to the grassroots level, civil society can also help ensure that women and vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, are included in the ATI agenda.
Access to information as a main lever to achieve the 2030 Agenda
With nine years left to achieve the SDGs, and with global challenges becoming more interconnected, the message is clear that access to information should be the thread that binds together the diverse actions in rebuilding communities and strengthening public institutions towards 2030 and beyond.