Afghanistan’s commitment to information access key to more open, fair society

28 Sep 2016

Afghanistan’s commitment to information access key to more open, fair society

KABUL - Real tangible progress towards greater access to information in Afghanistan is realizable and will contribute to the development of a more open and fair society the UN envoy told delegates at a high-profile conference in Kabul, at which Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah also spoke.

Around 150 people, including senior members of government institutions along with representatives of civil society, the media and the international community gathered for the one-day meeting which also marked the first ‘International Day for Universal Access to Information’.

Mr. Abdullah said that in the history of  the country, access to information is not something new and people had given their lives for it. Making information available was a government responsibility, he said.

Delivering the keynote address, Tadamichi Yamamoto -- the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA -- applauded President Ghani’s recent launch of a nation-wide campaign to improve public awareness of every citizen’s right to access information under Afghan law. Making Ministry spokespersons available seven days a week to answer media queries was a further positive step.

“Citizens’ rights to access to information lies at the heart of open and healthy societies,” said Mr. Yamamoto.

“Afghanistan today has a sound Access to Information law in place, and it has a government that has committed to improve transparency, ensure conditions for a vibrant media sector, as well as prioritize the fight against corruption.”

Mr. Yamamoto said ensuring access to information was vital for Afghanistan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16, ‘to achieve peace, justice and strong institutions’.

“Citizens, journalists and other stakeholders will play a key role in realizing these goals, but can only do so if their right to information is enforced,” said the Special Representative.

Mr. Yamamoto said that UNAMA stands ready to assist the Government in efforts “to achieve the law’s full promise of providing every citizen with access to information about public services”.

A collective effort was needed to increase public awareness and strengthen implementation of Afghanistan’s Access to Information Law, he said. The Afghan law came into force in 2015.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.