Madrid, 3 December 2015 – Access Info Europe has raised concerns about unnecessary exceptions to access that have been included in the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) draft transparency policy which, if adopted in its current form, would severely restrict transparency inside the world’s highest environmental-protection authority.
As part of a submission to UNEP’s public consultation on the policy, the pro-transparency organisation urged scrapping extra exceptions such as “documents created by the United Nations, received from or sent to third parties, under an expectation of confidentiality”, which fall outside international standards on access to information.
“Whilst it is bad enough that UNEP has included these superfluous exceptions in its draft access to information policy, they have also failed to ensure a clear need to conduct harm and public interest tests for all exceptions in all cases,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director at Access Info Europe.
International standards are clear that there must be a demonstrable harm when applying any exception to access, and then this must be balanced against the public interest in disclosure. The current UNEP wording calls for these tests only, “in extraordinary circumstances”.
Another key observation is that UNEP should have an independent board of experts acting as a review body for any decisions to refuse to release information, rather that invest that power in the organisation’s Executive Director, as currently proposed.
Many countries have independent oversight bodies, reflecting international standards on access to information, including Brazil, Croatia, India, Indonesia, Slovenia, Serbia, Mexico. The oversight bodies in these countries have the power to make legally-binding decisions.
UNEP is currently analysing the submissions made by various civil society organisations and members of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire | Access Info Europe
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