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September 2018

Marking International Day for Universal Access to Information

Conmemoración del Día Internacional

Today marks the International Day for Universal Access to Information (Access to Information Day), a right exercised as an individual liberty, since it establishes entitlement to seek, receive, and disseminate data, ideas, and all types of information of public interest. As a collective right, access to information is relevant in strengthening the democratic rule of law, since its exercise ensures transparency and allows for free access to information in the possession of State institutions, thus constituting a mechanism for societal control of government..

The Right of Access to Information is a key right that enables and promotes the enjoyment and exercise of other human rights, such as the right to health, education, and a healthy environment, since it lends transparency to criteria used in designing, implementing, funding, and evaluating public policies. It may also be a tool for investigative journalism, a means to obtain documentary evidence for use in judicial proceedings, and a tool to promote regulatory improvements.

This Day has been marked since 2002, when activists from around the world gathered in Bulgaria to define strategies to promote the protection and dissemination of the right of access to information.

The OAS has played a key part in disseminating the Right of Access to Information. The General Assembly, the highest level of the OAS, has contributed to creating and promoting international standards and principles guaranteeing access to information at all levels of the State, including the three branches of government. This development was also reflected in the adoption in 2010 of the Model Inter-American Law on Access to Information, the adoption, six years later, of the Inter-American Program on Access to Public Information, and today, the promotion of a process of strengthening, updating, and broadening the Model Inter-American Law on Access to Information.

The implementation of both the Inter-American Program and the Model Inter-American Law in the countries of the Hemisphere, as well as the modernization process now under way, are led by the Department of International Law (DIL) of the Secretariat for Legal Affairs of the OAS.

Since its adoption, the Model Law has served as a referent for countries wishing to improve their laws or adopt new legislation in this area and reflect in them the international standards that the Model Law contains. Today, 26 OAS member states have special laws in this area. The Department of International Law has supported many of these processes and collaborated with reforms to existing, and the enactment of, new legislation and other measures promoting the right to obtain information, especially in Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru, and Argentina, the most recent case, through a technical cooperation project under DIL purview.

For further advancement of this field, the General Assembly, at its 2017 session, requested the DIL, by resolution AG/RES. 2905, in consultation with the member states and taking into account input from civil society and member states entities guaranteeing access to information, to identify thematic areas in which it considers it necessary to update or broaden the Model Inter-American Law. The DIL was charged with leading this effort, together with the Inter-American Juridical Committee, for which it serves as Technical Secretariat. The DIL soon took up this task and launched a process of consultation with the entities guaranteeing access to information of the OAS member states, civil society, and experts in this field, with whom it defined the primary areas that should be strengthened or broadened in a second generation of the Model Inter-American Law on Access to Information. Thus far, two consultation workshops have been held and a third will be held in Asunción, Paraguay, from November 5 to 10, 2018.

The Right of Access to Information has taken on such relevance in the region that the Presidents and Heads of State and Government of the Hemisphere themselves at the Eighth Summit of the Americas, in the Lima Commitment undertook to strengthen bodies responsible for transparency and access to information, based on applicable best international practices.

The DIL reaffirms its commitment to continue promoting opportunities for collaboration that strengthen the Right of Access to Information. This is a right that calls for everyone’s participation, commitment, and exercise, but that also must be disseminated so that all citizens, without discrimination or preference, may exercise it. To mark this Day, we invite everyone to exercise their right to obtain public information in the possession, custody, or control of any government area.

Remember to use the hashtag #RedRTA for all your activities today!

» For the Model Inter-American Law on Access to Public Information, click here 

» For the Inter-American Program on Access to Public Information, click here 

» For the Cooperation Project, click here 

» For the Lima Commitment of the Summit of the Americas, click here 

» For General Assembly resolution AG/RES. 2905, click here 

For further information on this matter, please contact the Department of International Law of the Secretariat for Legal Affairs of the OAS +1 202 370 0743. 

» For additional information about the Department, please visit our Website


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