Toolkits to Promote Use of Access to Information Laws
Access Info is currently developing a series of handbooks and toolkits for users of access to information laws. The aim is to provide plain-language practical and strategic advice on how to request information as well as tips on how to formulate requests. There will also be advice on how to appeal against refusals to release information and or administrative silence.
The toolkits contain real life case studies showing how individuals working in a particular sector have used the right to information to advance their work, for example how journalists have used requests to write their stories, how a civil society organisation has used the right to participate in decision making, or how a pro-integrity group has received documents that reveal corruption.
Access Info has found that many civil society organizations and journalists are uncertain how to go about filing an information request or when is the right moment in an investigation to launch a formal request for information (for example, after trying to secure it from contacts inside a government body has failed).
Country-specific information:Working with partners in different countries, the toolkits will be translated and tailored to fit with specific legal frameworks. After the toolkits are published, Access Info will provide training to CSOs and journalists organizations, and will be available to provide technical and legal assistance, particularly when the request relates to defence of human rights.
Writing these reports, guides and toolkits involves hard work and lots of late evenings! If you like any of these toolkits, please consider making a donation to support our work and future publications. You can do this by clicking here. Thanks!
The Aid Transparency Toolkit
Published in October 2009, the Aid Transparency Toolkit is a guide for civil society organisations and members of the public interested in knowing more about how aid works and where the money goes to get the answers to their questions.
This Toolkit is designed for CSOs in the north and south working on aid effectiveness, monitoring the implementation of aid projects, seeking to participate in decision making on development strategies or investigating corruption in aid funding and delivery. It can also be used by individuals from donor or recipient countries who are intersted in knowing about aid funds.
The toolkit provides answers to basic questions such as: What is the right of access to information? How do I get information about aid? Who can make a request? Where do I start looking? Do I have to pay a fee? How should I formulate my request? Who do I send it to? When will I receive the ansewer? What do I do if my request is ignored or refused?
The Legal Leaks Toolkit
This toolkit is designed for journalists working in any media – newspapers, radio, and television – as well as bloggers and other information professionals who need to get access to information held by public bodies for their stories.
The toolkit is for journalists making requests in their own country or considering filing a request in another country. It is based on a comparative analysis of the access to information of the 40 countries of the Council of Europe region which have such laws. In many places in the text we have put references where national law or practice deviates from the normal access to information standards. For more detailed information on national law, links are given in Annex B to each of the national access to information laws and in Annex C to the relevant oversight body (Information Commission or Ombudsman) , where they exist, who should be able to provide more information about the national access to information framework.
The Legal Leaks Toolkit was prepared by Access Info Europe and the Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe n-ost.
Other guides and toolkits currently in development are:
The Right to Ask ... the Right to Know - A general guide on how to use access to information laws with answers to frequently asked questions. This guide will also contain information about how to appeal against refusals to provide information.
“Legal leaks” Toolkit for Journalists - designed to give journalists specialised guidance on how to use access to information laws and how to integrate a request filing strategy as part of daily research and reporting by journalists. The toolkit will give journalists advice on when and how to use access to information as an research instrument, as well as providing practical and legal advice for exercising this right and with sample letters and forms of language for use in appeals.
My Question for Brussels - A citizen’s guide to accessing documents from the various institutions of the European Union including how to file a request and how to appeal to the Ombudsman.
The Right to Know for Civil Liberties – designed for human rights defenders and organisations working to monitor the impact on civil liberties of counter-terrorism and security measures. The toolkit also addresses the strategic uses of the right of access to information in human rights advocacy campaigns.
Funding of the Toolkits: Access Info Europe is currently raising funds for the Toolkits, including their development and translation, and for the running of the Helpdesk. If you are able to support us, please write to our Executive Director Helen Darbishire by clicking here or by phoning + 34 667 685 319.
Proactive Transparency Report
Public participation can change the way public policies are developed, reducing capture by special interest groups, and ensuring that decisions take into account the views and needs of affected communities. Although information alone is not sufficient—additional mechanisms are necessary for receiving input from the public, reviewing it, and providing feedback on how this input was taken into consideration—meaningful participation exercises are contingent on the public having timely access to the same data as the officials making the decision. Participation cannot be effective or equal if individuals have to file requests and wait for an answer.
The role of transparency in facilitating participation has been confirmed by international human rights bodies. In the Americas, the Heads of State of the Organization of American States declared in 2004 that: "Access to information held by the State, subject to constitutional and legal norms, including those on privacy and confidentiality, is an indispensable condition for citizen participation and promotes effective respect for human rights. The right to participate is contingent on the right of access to information, and that participation can only be satisfactorily achieved through proactive disclosure of information.