Vienna, 29 May 2013 – Access Info Europe today called on States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) to make strong mechanisms for access to information a priority issue. The right of access to information is a key tool for the prevention of corruption, yet there is no mention of it in the work plan of the UNCAC’s Working Group on Corruption Prevention.
Speaking at the UN Convention against Corruption Briefing for NGOs today, Lydia Medland of Access Info said, “To fight corruption, citizens and civil society organisations need effective access to information laws which not only oblige governments to publish information proactively but which also give citizens the right to request and receive information held by public bodies.”
At the briefing for NGO representatives and country delegates on progress in implementing the UNCAC by the 167 states which have ratified it, civil society representatives emphasised the challenges of securing inclusion of their anti-corruption experiences in country progress reviews.
In the current UNCAC review process, countries have been assessed on their efforts to implement measures on the criminalisation and enforcement of anti-corruption mechanisms, progress reports available here (documents 6-11); the next phase will focus on the prevention of corruption and asset recovery.
Access to information is one of the main mechanisms to prevent corruption and is required under articles 10 and 13 of the UNCAC. Article 13 states that States should ensure the participation of society in decision making by respecting and promoting the right and “freedom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption.”
In spite of this no mention of reviewing access to information laws is contained in the work programme of the group mandated to prepare for corruption prevention phase. Furthermore none of the good practices that the Working Group on Prevention has collected under Article 13 include any reference to access to information laws, in spite of civil society and country delegates consistently singling out transparency as one of the most important mechanisms in the fight against corruption (see page 13 of report here).
Together with the UNCAC Coalition, Access Info is working on its priority “Asks” for the next conference of States Parties to be held in November 2013 in Panama. These priority demands include that Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia ratify the UNCAC, and that there be a focus on strengthening the right of access to information.