Open Talks 2019 on Access to Information-Leaving No One Behind!


Open Talks was organized on the occasion of IDUAI by Globe International Center (GIC) and the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO at the ICinema, 5th Floor of the State Department Store on 27 September 2019. The event was supported the Dutch Government and BMZ through UNESCO, Beijing Cluster and Canada the Asia Foundation. 


    On 17 November 2015, UNESCO adopted a resolution (38 C/70) declaring 28 September of every year as IDUAI. NESCO marks 28 September as the “International Day for Universal Access to Information”, following the adoption of a resolution (38 C/70) in 2016 declaring 28 September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). The objective of marking IDUAI is to promote universal access to information through all platforms, as an essential means to achieving the 2030 Development Agenda and the SDGs. 

    Freedom of expression and access to information, which fall specifically under SDG target 16.10 (Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms), are both a target and a driver of sustainable development. SDG target 16.10 plays a crucial role in the awareness and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: only informed citizens are empowered to participate in, advocate for and monitor meaningful progress towards positive change. That is why the involvement of media is a precondition for the implementation of SDG 16 and the wider 2030 Agenda. 


Purpose

    The Mongolia Sustainable Development Vision 2030 was approved by the State Great Khural of Mongolia in February 2016. In this context, there is a strong need for increased awareness on the SDGs among policy makers and the general public, so as to ensure its implementation, and in particular target 16.10, as public access to information and fundamental freedoms are a key to achieving the SDGs in their totality. 

    The public’s right to access information is guaranteed by the Constitution of Mongolia and the Law on Information Transparency and Right to Information (LITRI) enacted in June 2011 after seven years of advocacy and lobbying by the civil society. The Mongolian government also has been taking significant steps towards access to public information disclosing the public budget transparency by adopting the Law on Glass Account (Budget Transparency Law) in 2014. 


    The importance of inclusion is often overlooked when considering other (national) priorities. Mongolia’s first VNR to the HLPF 2019 held in July 2019 does not include specific analysis on the SDGs 16.10.2 (which is the adoption and implementation of Right to Information (RTI) laws). The report only mentioned that “it is needed to guarantee the transparency of the public activities and enhance the access to information and information transparency” http://nda.gov.mn/backend/files/WPzFZwDaebnpM4M.pdf). Therefore, efforts are needed to advocate for its inclusion as well as highlight its significance to the overall implementation of the SDGs.

    The Mongolian civil society accumulated great experiences in promoting the LITRI, using the law to monitor government transparency and public services. However, Mongolia still needs to foster access to information as an important human right, necessary for the enjoyment of other human rights. The efforts should be strengthened to promote awareness on the right to information is essential for transparent and accountable governance and sustainable development. The right to information is a prerequisite for public involvement in formulating social policies and in the decision-making processes of governance. 


The public awareness raising campaigns should highlight that the right to information can only be effectively exercised and implemented on the basis of laws, regulating this right in accordance with international standards, so public debate on the amendment to the existing law is necessary and educate the public on access to information as a necessary complementary dimension to the right to information, by encouraging adoption of ICT, open access policies, and stimulating the independent, pluralistic and free media. Open Talks 2019 aims at raising awareness and reinforcing social dialogue on the SDG16.10.2 to ensure public access to information.

The specific objectives: 

1. Raise awareness and knowledge among policy-makers, media professionals and citizens at large on the right to information as a fundamental human right;  

2. Promote government commitment towards transparency and openness, and strengthening norms, policies, legal and regulatory provisions access to information. 

Topics 

Access to information held by public bodies is one of the essential issues to make the public institutions more transparent and open. The citizens without information are not powerful, so it is also crucial need to increase public participation and public control. It ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance. Media with better public information is able to play its role of public watchdog serving as "checking function". 

Open Talks 2019 focuses on three topics: 

1) Implementing access to information law in Mongolia on international standards;

2) Restrictions in the practice and use of secrecy legislation; 

3) Open Information and Government Transparency.