Successfully Hosted an Online Discussion Dedicated to IDUAI 2021

Celebrating the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) 2021, the Globe International Center (GIC) hosted an online discussion on September 28. Representatives from the city of Ulaanbaatar and nine provinces, namely Bayan-Ulgii, Bulgan, Darkhan, Dundgovi, Khuvsgul, Orkhon, Tuv, Khovd and Zavkhan participated in the online discussion. The online webinar saw members and/or staff of the EU Delegation to Mongolia, governmental (Independent Authority against Corruption of Mongolia (IAAC), National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia (NHRCM), non-governmental (Administrative New Initiative, Open Society Forum), the media (MNB, Zavkhan Radio, Khuvsgul Television) and individuals, a total of 52 people participated. The online discussion and other activities such as online campaigning on the occasion of the International Day was supported by IFEX. 

The online discussion consisted of two main parts. In the first part, representatives of two governmental and two non-governmental organizations spoke on the main topic of the day, the right to know. Member of the NHRCM, Dr. D.Sunjid highlighted two points in her presentation, “Administrative Decision-Making and Information Transparency”. First, an analysis of court decisions issued between 2016 and 2018 shows that there is a perception that hearings are taking place and that they are becoming accustomed to them, but that they are not in line or in accordance with the law. The second one was about how Mongolia has ensured access to information as a form of citizen participation, which is “realized through the implementation of the duty to ensure the transparency of its activities, to disseminate relevant information to the citizens, and to inform the decision-making bodies and officials”. 

D.Enkhtsetseg, Governance Program Manager of the Open Society Forum, in her presentation on “Freedom of Information and the Draft Law on Public Information” raised two issues that contradict international principles related to the right to information. First, the conditions for confidentiality of information should not take precedence over the public interest. In the case of Mongolia, however, these principles are in conflict. Second, access to restricted information and the use of confidential information by individuals and legal entities that are restricted by law are defined as restricted information. In the case of limited information, the purpose for which the information is requested is defined as the information to be provided with the consent of the owner of the information. Permission from the owner of the information shall specify the purpose, timing, scope of use, disclosure, transfer and cancellation of the information. This suggests that restricted information is inconsistent with international principles.

D.Tsend-Ayush, Senior Specialist and Senior Commissioner of the Prevention and Education Division of the IAAC, pointed out in his presentation “Transparency of Governmental Organizations and Right to Know” that the transparency of Mongolia's government agencies is insufficient by citing the need for government agencies to increase transparency in human resources, such as hiring new staff, and to provide information on budgeting and procurement to the public."

B.Purevsuren, a lawyer at the GIC, said in his presentation “COVID-19 and Violations of the Right to Know” that a total of 77 violations of the right to know were registered between December 2020 and September 15, 2021 during the monitoring of civil and political rights violations. In addition, a state-owned company attempted to impose economic censorship on the media.

In the second part of the e-webinar, the speakers and participants discussed three topics. First, there was a lack of disclosure about open and restricted information, a lack of coherence between the Law on State and Official Secrecy and other laws, and a reduction in freedom of information due to inconsistencies between certain provisions. Second, D.Tsend-Ayush explained the differences between filing a complaint and providing information related to the IAAC.

Third, questions related to the transparency assessment of government agencies and how to improve them were also of great interest to the participants. In particular, due to a lack of human resources, government agencies do not disclose information to the public in a timely manner, and aggregate it over time. During the discussion on the draft Law on Public Information, D. Enkhtsetseg emphasized that the law has a number of good provisions regarding the transparency and timely dissemination of information by government agencies. For example, the deadline for updating the information within three working days is specified.

IDUAI was first declared by UNESCO back in 2015. UN General Assembly then highlighted the enormous importance of the access to information, thereby deciding to celebrate this day every year on September 28 worldwide.