THE 28TH OF SEPTEMBER was the International Right to Information (RTI) Day. On that day many organisations and community groups from around the world raised awareness on the right of information and to campaign for open, democratic societies in which there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government. But what does the Right to Information really mean? Where does Vanuatu stand on RTI?
The RTI idea was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 2002 several representatives from the Freedom of Information (FOI) organisations from around the world materialized this idea at a FOI conference that took place from the 26th to the 28th.
The right of access to information is a necessity for individual and community development. Moreover, it is a key component for a transparent and accountable government, it makes it possible for the public to productively involve in framing social policies and national decision making processes.
However, the right to information can only be fully applied if it is legislated into Vanuatu’s national laws. Significant progress in early 2014 saw the launching of the Right to Information Policy, from then on the plan was to gazette the RTI law by the end of 2014.
The Right to Information Bill was listed to be debated in the parliament in November 2014, but it was later withdrawn for further corrections. Consequently, the right to access information is still legally limited. The right to information is a human right, it is explained in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also in article 5 of the Vanuatu national constitution.
Once the RTI becomes law it will allow the public to request information from government agencies within a 30 day period. Any information can be requested by any citizen of Vanuatu, and this will be protected by law. However, there will be some exceptions like personal information and legal privileged information.
Vanuatu is advancing well in this sector, and 2016 promises an increase in RTI activities. Till then we all need to lobby and push for RTI to be tabled in Parliament, passed and gazetted.
Vanuatu Government Promotes Access to Agricultural Information
Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) acknowledges the government’s effort to ensure easy access of information.
Earlier in September, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Bio-security launched a new Agriculture Bank Policy to promote access to the latest policies, research and information on the new direction that the Government has embarked on.
What we have today in Vanuatu is a step forward in a positive direction, accessibility is a key factor for national productivity. As an online library, this agricultural resource site is accessible to everyone.
This is a good start in the government as it shows some progress to address a long time issue in the public sector; the difficulty to accessing information.
TIV released a National Integrity System (NIS) report in 2014 and one issue identified in this report is the lack of easy access to information as well as information dissemination.
The NIS report under Public Sector states “that gaining information on the activities of the public sector is difficult and depends on goodwill relationships and or what has been released to the media”.
The report continued to say that in the absence of freedom of information laws the extent to which public sector agencies will disclose information held on citizens held on citizens depend entirely on goodwill relationships.
TIV acknowledges that the government sectors are starting to realize the importance of information dissemination and is making progress towards this matter. By 2018 communication advantages in Vanuatu is expected to be enjoyed by over 90% of the population, if this target is met then Vanuatu will be well advanced in terms of data accessibility. Where there is accessibility there is transparency.
In that website. http://www.malffb.gov.vu/, you could also find a Policy for Vanuatu Agriculture Sector for 2015 – 2030 as well as MALFFB Corporate Plan for 2014-2018.
AUDIO: 96 Buzz FM – Transparency International Vanuatu and the Vanuatu Right To Information (RTI) Unit established under the Office of the Government Information Officer (OGCIO) discuss with Radio Presenter Kizzy updated on the RTI activities in Vanuatu. This is part of the International Right To Information Day (28 September) activity in Vanuatu.