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September 2017

Marking Access to Information Day

Marking Access to Information Day

Today we commemorate the right of access to information as a fundamental right that, in turn, promotes the exercise of other rights, such as citizen participation and control over government acts.

The right of access to information not only promotes an informed citizenry that demands a more democratic and participatory public administration, but also contributes to improving public services that ensure better quality of life. Access to information makes possible and promotes the enjoyment and exercise of other human rights, such as the rights to health, education, and a clean environment, since it lends transparency to the criteria used in designing, implementing, financing, and evaluating public policy.

Access to Information Day has been marked since 2002, the year activists from around the world met in Bulgaria to define strategies to promote the protection and dissemination of the right of access to information.

The role of the OAS in this area stems from a 2003 General Assembly resolution that reaffirms that everyone has the freedom to seek, receive, access, and impart information and that access to public information is a requisite for the very exercise of democracy. Since that resolution, each year, the General Assembly has continued to develop standards in this area, and one of the main results was the adoption, in 2010, of a Model Inter-American Law on Access to Information.

The Model Law was prepared by a group of experts in a process led by the Department of International Law (Secretariat for Legal Affairs) of the OAS. Since then, it has been a referent for countries wishing to improve their laws or adopt new legislation in this area that reflects the inter-American standards contained in the Model Law. At present, 26 OAS member state have special laws. The DIL has provided support for many of these processes and collaborated in the reform and adoption of new legislation, especially in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Peru, and in Argentina, the most recent case through a technical cooperation project. 

Recognizing the importance of continuing and consolidating progress on this front, in 2016, the General Assembly adopted an Inter-American Program on Access to Public Information, under the coordination of the Department of International Law of the OAS. The program’s objectives include: 

  • To promote the right to access public information as part of national development and growth strategies;

  • To establish an appropriate training system for the officials responsible for providing information;

  • To conduct studies on the socio-economic impact of access to public information, in collaboration with civil society;

  • Training for judges of the region, given their key role in deciding access to public information cases.

Both the Model Law and Inter-American Program reflect the growing consensus among the countries of the Americas that the right to information should be recognized as foundational for democratic systems. In all countries with laws in this area, the principle has been established that the right of access to information is the rule and confidentiality the exception.  

For further advancement in this field, this year, the General Assembly requested the DIL, in consultation with the member states and taking into account contributions from civil society, to identify thematic areas in which it considers it necessary to update or broaden the Model Inter-American Law on Access to Public Information, a process recently begun by the DIL.  

» 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 Cooperation project, 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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