A subcommittee of the FOI Advocates Network (FOIAnet) Steering Committee on May 24 recommended a methodology to measure the implementation of right to information laws.

The three-part system is designed to provide civil society groups with a tool for evaluating governments’ progress toward implementing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.10.2. That target calls on all UN member governments to adopt and implement RTI laws.

No official methodology exists yet for governments to use to measure progress on the target. Some governments are planning to prepare voluntary reports on SDG compliance.

The FOIAnet subcommittee is encouraging national CSOs to apply the methodology beginning this year.

“The purpose of this methodology,” the FOIANet subcommittee said, “is to provide a simple, standardised tool to assess whether or not States with RTI laws are implementing them properly.”

The three elements in the tool assess:

  • the extent to which a state is proactively disclosing information,
  • the extent to which institutional measures have been put in place to assist with implementation and
  • the extent to which requests for information are being responded to properly, to be determined by submitting test requests and evaluating the responses. The proposal suggests making two or three requests for information to each of 5-10 public authorities.

“It does not claim to be an all-singing, all-dancing tool,” wrote Toby Mendel, Steering Committee Chairman. “Rather, it is designed to be something which members could apply relatively simply to obtain at least some sort of picture of how implementation is going.”

The subcommittee that developed it included Mendel, the Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, a Canadian-based international human rights NGO; Carole Excel, Project Director, The Access Initiative at the World Resources Institute: and Gilbert Sendugwa, coordinator and Head of Secretariat for the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a pan-African organization promoting the right of access to information in Africa.

No Official Measuring Stick

The United Nations bodies responsible for devising measurement standards for the SDGs have yet to devise a system for SDG Indicator 16.10.2.

UNESCO, the lead UN agency on the topic, has said the system should cover three subjects:

  • whether the country has adopted guarantees;
  • the extent to which those guarantees are in line with international standards; and
  • what steps the country has taken to implement the guarantees.

UNESCO has submitted “metadata” to the United Nations Statistical Commission, the UN body overseeing how to measure progress toward achievement of all the 231 SDG indicators. At this stage, Indicator 16.10.2 is rated optimistically as “Tier 2”the category for indicators thathave an existing established methodology, however, data are not easily available.” Tier 3 indicators “do not yet have an internationally agreed methodology.”

A widely recognized system exists to evaluate the strength of RTI laws, RTIRating. More problematical has been devising a plan to assess the implementation of laws. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.)

FOI Advocates Network is a consortium of activists that among other things operates a listserve on FOI for its members.

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