Monitoring and Reporting on Access to Information
UNESCO assists Member States to comply with and implement international treaties and agreements, norms and standards related to Universal Access to Information, contributing towards knowledge societies. Access to information builds on these internationally recognized rights and encompass the core principles of good governance: participation, transparency, and accountability. Obstacles to access to information can undermine the enjoyment of civil and political rights, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights. UNESCO provides evidence-based and, where appropriate, integrated policy advice to help countries implement and report on their work on the 2030 Agenda, particularly by mainstreaming constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information. UNESCO provides governments and civil society organizations with capacities to collect, analyze, and increase the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data on SDG 16.10.2.
National governments, the primary duty-bearers responsible for making progress towards SDGs, have an obligation to monitor and report progress on their commitments and actions to guarantee public access to information, which is reflected in SDG Target 16.10. Under this target, Indicator 16.10.2 has been put in place to track progress on “the number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information”, giving attention to the two essential components of such progress: “adoption” and “implementation”.
Since 2017, UNESCO has been designated as the custodian agency for indicator 16.10.2. In this regard, UNESCO and its Institute for Statistics (UIS) have developed a methodology to help measure and report on this indicator. The methodology consists of a survey developed in consultation with experts and concerned organizations. The survey was piloted in 2019 in 43 countries, with the findings presented the same year at a side-event during the UN’s High-Level Political Forum. The instrument was then further refined for a full deployment in 2020 and is now set for further refinement on the basis of this experience, so as to improve the rate and quality of responses by Member States.
Reporting on SDG 16.10.2 serves as an incentive for countries to improve their legal regulatory frameworks, and/or their administration of Access to Information. Reporting is valuable in terms of establishing benchmarks against which change becomes visible over time. Information gathered from reporting can also serve to help in prioritizing where interventions are warranted, in order to ensure incremental progress.
UNESCO’s methodology for SDG Indicator 16.10.2
UNESCO’s instrument on SDG 16.10.2 provides a standardized approach to monitoring access to information, which examines the components of “adoption” and “implementation” of legal guarantees for Access to Information.
The instrument is composed of the “National Questionnaire” and the “Institutional Questionnaire”.
The National Questionnaire concerns central oversight or support bodies for the right to information and focuses on what has been done at the national level. This includes issues such as what legal frameworks have been adopted to guarantee public access to information, what bodies have been established, along with their roles and activities, as well as whether they keep records on the number of requests and appeals received. UNESCO launches this questionnaire annually; its findings will contribute to UNESCO’s Global Report on Public Access to Information, based on SDG Indicator 16.10.2,and UN Secretary-General’s Progress Report towards the SDGs.
Meanwhile, the Institutional Questionnaire is aimed at public authorities and looks into what these specific entities have done to implement the law, including the appointment of information officers, the assistance provided to requesters in making requests, the handling and processing of requests, records keeping of these requests, as well as which information are being disclosed proactively.
Since the pilot phase in 2019, UNESCO’s survey has brought impact beyond measuring countries’ progress on achieving SDG Target 16.10. Many local actors, including ATI oversight bodies and civil society actors, have been mobilized to network with each other in collecting data for the survey. They have also used the information assembled to identify areas of improvement. As such, the survey is not only contributing to assessing SDG Indicator 16.10.2, but also to securing ATI implementation.
In 2019, Indicator 16.10.2 was upgraded from Tier II to Tier I, the highest level in the classification system developed to rank SDG indicators, as a result of UNESCO reporting in previous years to the UN Secretary General. This upgrade was agreed by the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) in October 2019. The reclassification means that Member States now have further reasons to include Indicator 16.10.2 in their own SDG monitoring strategies.
Capacity enhancement on SDG 16.10.2
Through the support of various donors to IPDC, UNESCO has been able to facilitate capacity development initiatives and awareness-raising efforts in several countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Liberia, Mongolia, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, as well as in the Latin America region. This line of action has been done through collaboration with information commissioners and their networks. In this way, for instance, during the 11th International Conference of Information Commissioners held in Johannesburg, South Africa, around 50 representatives from ATI oversight bodies and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have improved their capacity in monitoring and reporting on Indicator 16.10.2 and in contextualizing the significance of their work in the wider framework of the SDGs.
UNESCO has also been engaged in various joint efforts with other UN entities and civil society. Under the umbrella of the Global Alliance for Reporting Progress on Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, collaboration has been established through a series of events organized ahead of and during the UN High-Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development. The Alliance has also been working on developing SDG-related guidelines and resources to support countries in their monitoring and reporting.
In a bid to ensure greater participation of countries in the monitoring and reporting on Indicator 16.10.2 towards 2030 and beyond, UNESCO will continue to work with governments, experts, civil society, and other UN agencies to improve existing data collection and its methodology.