Building peace in the minds of men and women

Towards empowering communities: Training right to information mediators in Nepal

Nepal now has twenty more freedom of information experts, who have the skills and knowledge to train mediators to explain to communities how they can benefit from the 2007 Right to Information Act (RTI). They were trained during a five-day workshop that the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu organized in partnership with the Citizens' Campaign for Right to Information and the Federation of Nepali Journalists.

The workshop took place from 27 to 31 October 2013 in Nagarkot, as part of the European Union-funded project "Empowering people to enjoy their rights to information for greater accountability of Nepal's power holders".

The training aimed to enhance the capacity of mediators from eastern hill and central Tarai region, so that they can further train local mediators in their areas to work for preserving and promoting citizens’ right to information and making public service agencies more accountable.

Speaking at the opening session of the training, Head of UNESCO’s Office in Kathmandu and UNESCO Representative to Nepal, Axel Plathe, said, "We want to provide the participants with the theoretical and practical knowledge on the right to information and on information-seeking procedures that will help participants to train those people at the local level, who will empower the members of the communities to use and enjoy their right to information".

Executive Director of the Citizens' Campaign for Right to Information Tanka Aryal explained the objectives of the training, and highlighted the crucial role of mediators in empowering people to enjoy their rights and build transparent and good governance for sustainable development.

“The European Union has been supporting Nepal in its democratization process and is promoting freedom of information as one of the fundamental rights,” said Shiva Bhandari on behalf of the Delegation of the European Union to Nepal.

Lead trainer Venkatesh Nayak said, "Since the whole training programme was developed in a practical way, it enhanced the capacity of the participants for better implementing the RTI Act in Nepal".

The Government of Nepal adopted the Right to Information Act in 2007, with the aim of improving its transparency and accountability, but citizens do not yet fully enjoy their right to easily access public information. On the one hand, the majority of the Nepali population is not yet aware of their right to information; while on the other hand, the public agencies responsible for providing citizens with the information they need are not fulfilling this obligation. This has in many cases curtailed the people’s basic democratic right to access government-held information.