ATI reporting in Voluntary National Reviews
Countries present the VNRs, on a voluntary basis, at the UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, an annual meeting under the auspices of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
In 2021, SDG 16 was again subjected to a detailed review. Out of 42 countries that submitted their reviews, 28 countries (67%) reported on ‘access to information’. Of these 42 reporting countries, 29 have a specific ATI law on public access to information.
This represents an increase from 2020, where 18 out of 47 VNR countries (38.3%) addressed ‘access to information’ in their reports. However, it is worth noting that no specific goals were under a detailed review last year. Meanwhile in 2019, when SDG 16 was part of a detail for review for the first time, 28 of the 47 VNR countries (59.5%) reported on ‘access to information’.
One of the countries that reported on SDG 16.10.2 in 2021 is Indonesia, who also reported on the performance of its ATI oversight institution. In the context of COVID-19, the country reported on CSOs’ monitoring with regards how information on health protocols is available, although only as it relates to education and public transport. Indonesia also acknowledged that the public information and communication management by the ministry/agency or local government was not well integrated during the pandemic. To improve the situation, in the Government’s Work Plan (RKP) of 2021, the Government said it will strengthen socialization and information dissemination programs that are equal and fair regarding COVID-19 development, handling, and recovery. Recognizing the need to improve public access to information during emergencies, Indonesia also incorporated into its Medium-Term Development Plan of 2020-2024 several strategies to improve the quality of public information disclosure.
Another country that provided in-depth progress on ATI is Uruguay. It reported some actions taken by its oversight institution, la Unidad de Acceso a la Información Pública (UAIP), such as the establishment of the National Index of Transparency and Access to Information that measures the level of compliance of public authorities that are under obligation to implement ATI legal frameworks. UAIP also reported on its Active Transparency audits and the development of the Gender and Right of Access to Public Information Action Plan (2020-2023), which is part of a regional project to incorporate the gender approach into transparency and ATI policies. The country also introduced the Plan of Municipal Transparency to promote a transparency management model at the local government level. With regard to COVID-19 and the health sector, the government shared some progress related to proactive disclosure through a centralised website, as well as the implementation of an inclusive public health policy for persons with disabilities that guarantees the accessibility of all published information, including the different formats, text, simple audio and sign language.
Sierra Leone and Tunisia also reported on SDG 16.10.2, highlighting the performance of their ATI oversight bodies. Sierra Leone reported on its Proactive Disclosure of Information scheme and its participation in the UNESCO survey on SDG 16.10.2 since 2019. Tunisia reported a growing interest of the public to exercise the right to information, as evidenced from the high number of appeals processed by l’Instance Nationale d’Accès à l’Information (INAI) since its creation.
Meanwhile, Namibia reported its progress in the drafting an Access to Information Bill, which was tabled for the first time in Parliament in 2020. The country mentioned that the bill is envisaged to give citizens greater access to information and is hoped to be passed before the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.
In the past years, UNESCO has also noted that although some countries have not yet adopted a specific ATI law for public access to information, they still reported progress on ATI in other contexts. Cameroon, for instance, saw the value of access to information in promoting social inclusion of vulnerable people. The United Arab Emirates presented Access to Information as an important force in increasing the efficiency of healthcare providers and as what is “needed for planning and decision-making”.
To see the full list of countries that reported on ATI in VNRs (2019-2021), please refer to this table.
 P. 298-301 https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/280892021_VNR_Report_Indonesia.pdf
 P. 77 https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/279462021_VNR_Report_Namibia.pdf
 VNR reports of Bahamas and Guatemala are not yet available for analysis during the writing of this report in August 2021.