http://www.freedominfo.org/news/20100304.htm

4 MARCH 2010
Carter Center Releases African Regional Plan of Action to Advance the Right of Access to Information

Participants from the African Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information have released the Regional Findings and Plan of Action to advance the right of access to information in Africa. The conference, which took place in Accra, Ghana, from February 7-9, examined the specific the political and institutional constraints in Africa that have limited the opportunities to exercise the right to know.

The conference was organized and hosted by The Carter Center in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, the Media Foundation for West Africa, and the Open Democracy Advice Centre. More than 130 participants from 18 countries in the region represented government, civil society, media, private sector, regional intergovernmental organizations, international and regional financial institutions, and donors. During the conference, participants considered the main obstacles and potential solutions to advance the right of access to information in Africa. On the final day of the conference, participants met in country working groups to identify specific next steps to advance the right in their nation.

Taking into account the realities of Africa, the Regional Findings and Plan of Action serves as an annex to the global Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action. The African regional plan provides a blueprint for the regional and international community, states, and nonstate actors to establish, develop, and nurture the right of access to information. For example, the plan brings attention to the possible revision of the African Development Bank’s disclosure policy in 2010, calling upon the Bank to « seek maximum engagement of civil societ actors throughout the review process. »

The plan clearly recognizes that access laws are not in themselves sufficient guarantees of the right to know:

Where regional instruments, constitutional provisions and national laws exist often they have inadequately advanced the right of access to information due to factors such as insufficient political will, weak legal and administrative guidelines, and ineffective implementation and enforcement.  At their worst, some national legal frameworks have even repressed rather than enabled the right of access to information.

« Facing historical and unique challenges, African nations have found it particularly difficult to advance the right of access to information,” said former US President Jimmy Carter on the opening day of the conference. “Unlike in other regions of the world, there has not been a wave of countries passing and implementing access to information laws. In Africa, only five countries have passed laws, and this number includes Zimbabwe, which many have argued uses its law to repress rather than provide information. »

Read the African Regional Findings and Plan of Action

LINKS

Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action

The Carter Center

Media Foundation for West Africa

Open Democracy Advice Centre