UNESCO launches 2022 Survey on Public Access to Information

UNESCO has launched the 2022 edition of the annual Survey on SDG Indicator 16.10.2, calling for participation of Member States in tracking and reporting progress on the implementation of their Access to Information laws.
Access to information

The survey is to be completed by the central oversight institution responsible for access to information (such as Information Commission or Commissioner, Data Protection or Privacy Commission or Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman, and Department/Ministry/Agency). Where applicable, the invitation was also sent to national SDG focal points and UNESCO permanent delegations to facilitate effective coordination of data collection and sharing in each country.

UNESCO conducts the survey in line with its role as the designated UN custodian agency for SDG 16.10.2 that tracks progress on the adoption and implementation of “constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information”. This global data collection exercise responds to a request made by the Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) in 2018.

The 2022 UNESCO survey will generate new data on global tendencies how guarantees to Access to Information are being implemented. Countries can also use the data provided for the survey to assess their own progress towards SDG 16 at the national level.
Guy Berger UNESCO Director for Strategies and Policies in the Communication and Information Sector

Mr Berger added that information gathered through this exercise can feed into governments’ preparation for Voluntary National Review (VNR) by the UN High-Level Political Forum on the SDGs. “It can also inform Member State submissions to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Review of Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and national reporting to national stakeholders, such as parliament”.  

As of February 2022, Access to Information laws have been adopted by 135 countries, with six having passed new laws during the COVID-19 period in between 2020 and 2021. Despite this positive trend, findings from the survey in previous years suggested that implementation of these guarantees could be improved.

The 2021 survey revealed that out of the 91 countries and territories with Access to Information laws, only 44% (40) had data in 2020 on the number of requests for information received, while the remaining 56% (51) only had data from either 2018 or 2019, or no data at all.

The low scores for data availability were also recorded on the number of appeals processed by oversight institutions. Out of the 91 countries and territories, only 57% (52) had data in 2020, while the remaining 43% (39) only had data from either 2018 or 2019, or no data at all.

These figures in 2020 suggest that public bodies struggled to monitor how they treated and followed up Access to Information requests during the COVID-19 pandemic, when some countries suspended commitments to turn-around times.

The figures also point to room for improvement for oversight institutions in implementing Access to Information guarantees in their countries in the pandemic recovery phase.

The low level of data availability for 2020 also reinforces the need to build back with better recordkeeping systems.

However, the UNESCO report also revealed some good examples in, access to information oversight institutions in some countries, about in reorganizing their working methods during the pandemic, and which can be useful for other countries and territories.

As in the previous years, results from the 2022 survey will be included in UNESCO’s Global Report on SDG 16.10.2 and will be publicized as a highlight in the commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information on 28 September 2022. The findings will also be fed into the UN Secretary-General Progress Report on the SDGs, in fulfillment of UNESCO’s monitoring role.

As per mandate of the International Programme for the Development of Communication, a report will also be produced for the meeting of the body’s Intergovernmental Council in November 2022.

UNESCO’s work on access to information has been made possible through the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Germany and The Netherlands through the IPDC. 

The deadline for submitting responses to the new survey is 30 April 2022.

For further information

UNESCO SDG 16.10.2 Team: