Workshop on Right to Information Law
UNESCO Office in Ramallah, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Ministry of Information, are organizing a specialized workshop to discuss the finalization of the draft ‘Access to Information Law’. The draft law was prepared and reviewed by relevant national authorities and institutions working in the field of media, following a series of consultation meetings and conferences involving media outlets and civil society. UNESCO, in close consultation with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ministry of Information, reviewed the draft law in light of international standards and principles. The workshop will be held on 1-2 December 2015 at the Alhambra Hotel in Ramallah, and will begin at 9.00 am. It will focus on discussing UNESCO’s technical comments as well as inputs provided by the participants, and ensuring the alignment of the draft law with international standards.
The right to information (RTI) is internationally recognised as a human right, protected as part of the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek and receive, as well as to impart, information and ideas. This right is critical to democratic and accountable government. Among other benefits, an effective right to information system promotes citizen participation and an informed populace, and it helps to combat corruption and to promote effective and efficient governance.
Globally, over 100 countries comprising 80% of the world’s population have passed right to information laws. However, the Arab world is lagging behind other regions on this important democratic indicator, and RTI laws have been passed in just four of the 22 member States of the Arab League. Furthermore, not every right to information law is created equal and comparative assessments have found a vast gulf between strong RTI laws and weaker ones. Extensive experience around the world demonstrates that strong RTI laws are far more effective than weaker ones in their ability to deliver the benefits referred to in the preceding paragraph.
As a result, while simply passing an RTI law would be an important step forward for improving governance and accountability in Palestine, it is crucially important that the law which is adopted reflect better international practice as far as possible. In this way, it can be expected to harness fully the benefits of this right for the people of Palestine. UNESCO’s Analysis of the Draft Right of Access to Information Law shows that the draft Law has a number of both strengths and weaknesses when assessed against international standards in this area.
This Workshop, involving government and other public representatives, as well as relevant civil society organizations, aims to improve understanding of the key international standards in this area, with a view to identifying ways in which the current draft Law can be improved. The initial sessions will look at developments in Palestine in terms of adopting an RTI law and outline the key international standards of relevance to this issue. The main part of the Workshop will look at the key issues which RTI laws cover – specifically Right of Access and Scope, Requesting Procedures, Exceptions, Appeals, and Sanctions and Promotional Measures – focusing on the way they are addressed in the draft Law and providing an opportunity to discuss ways in which the draft could be amended to bring it more fully into line with international standards.