The right to know
Building back better with access to information
The International Day for Universal Access to Information 2021 highlights the importance of expanding access to information laws, and their implementation worldwide to build back strong institutions for sustainable development and to uphold the vision of information as a public good, as well as to strengthen international cooperation in the field of implementing the right to information as a fundamental right. Furthermore, the global discussions on “building back better” remain context adaptive to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main objective of the Day is to accelerate sustainable solutions aimed at reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by mobilizing governments, civil society and people to take ownership and contribute to SDG 16 (Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies), as measured by public access to information, particularly in regards to building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Access to information
Informed citizens can make informed decisions, for instance, when going to the polls. Only when citizens know how they are governed, can they hold their governments accountable for their decisions and actions. Information is power. Therefore, universal access to information is a cornerstone of healthy and inclusive knowledge societies.
Universal access to information means that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information. This right is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. The media plays a crucial role in informing the public about issues of interest, but it relies on the ability to seek and receive information, too. Hence, the right to universal access to information is also bound up with the right to freedom of the press.
On 17 November 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared 28 September as International Day for Universal Access to Information. Considering that several civil society organizations and government bodies in the world have adopted and currently celebrate this observance, the UN General Assembly also adopted 28 September 2019 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.
UNESCO and its intergovernmental programs – the International Programme for Development of Communication and the Information for All Programme – provide a platform and frame for all the stakeholders to participate in international discussions on policy and guidelines in the area of access to information. Both programs also enable positive environment for ATI to flourish through the development of projects aimed to strengthen open science, multilingualism, ICTs for disabled and marginalized, and media and information literacy.