USP-UNDP: Right to Information (RTI)

‘Improving citizens’ access to information and strengthened oversight by non-state actors through Innovation’ project

Most of you may have heard about Right to Information (RTI) in the news or from someone or read about it in the newspapers or other texts.
Commonly referred to as Freedom of Information (FOI) or Access to Information (ATI), RTI is an integral component of the right to freedom of expression, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International covenant on Civil and Political Rights. RTI reflects the principle that all information held by governments and other public institutions is public information and should only be withheld from the public for legitimate reasons within the public interest.
Additionally, Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 on good governance includes the target of ensuring public access to information in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) also references RTI as a necessary component in addressing corruption.

Basically, the exercise of the right to information allows every citizen to obtain any information/record/data from their Government and its Ministries and Departments, without quoting reasons. It also empowers citizens to inspect Government documents and take samples of its works. Invariably RTI is seen as a means to demand transparency and accountability from the Government, hence ensuring anti-corruption and building people’s trust in the institutions. .
The majority of Pacific Island countries (PICs) are parties to the international commitments mentioned above and have undertaken to facilitate RTI under regional instruments such as the Pacific Plan and the 2018 Boe Declaration. At present, some Pacific countries have specific RTI  legislation, while others have constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to information. Implementation of specific tools for proactive disclosure of information and facilitated access to information on one hand, and demands by citizens for access to information also vary across the Pacific.
In this small-medium scaled survey we aim to find out how aware we are of the current practices of RTI in our countries and what are our preferences for improved promotion and exercise of the right to information. In more depth, the questionnaire will focus on the following:

  1. To ring-fence the survey we will consider only one service delivery area – municipal health services which includes services such as food control and waste management. Therefore most items of the questionnaire can be seen in the context of municipal health services in our villages and towns.
  2. Awareness of current practices. To see if we are aware of the RTI tools and platforms currently existing in our town and country.
  3. Usage of the RTI practices. To see if we are actually making use of such town and country-based practices.
  4. Preferred tools/methods. To see which types of tools and/or methods we prefer to access timely information from different departments and sections of the municipal health service of our village, town and country.

Survey contains multiple questions which will take 10 to 15mins to complete. We also have some open-ended questions in case you wish to make additional comments. These will be very useful to us when we consider the design and implementation of new digital tools to assist people in securing the right information in a timely manner.

If you have any further questions or additional comments, please contact Dr. Bibhya Sharma (Email :bibhya.sharma@usp.ac.fj ; Mobile : 679 8608941) from University of the South Pacific.

Disclaimer:

This RTI survey is designed and conducted by The University of the South Pacific (USP),  with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the ‘Strengthening Anti-Corruption, Transparency and Accountability in Pacific Island Countries (“Pacific Anti-Corruption Project”) funded by the UK Government .
The purpose of the survey is to get information from citizens of Pacific Island Countries on the current status and awareness as well as current/desired practices of RTI. The survey is for everyone with main focus groups: Youths, Women in Business and People with Disabilities. Your input and effort will contribute towards the efforts to take stock of the current status of implementation of the RTI towards inspiring improvements and design of more targeted and innovative tools and RTI actions by all stakeholders.
We assure that this process is safe and reliable. All information will be kept confidential.

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