Supporting local capacity to promote freedom of information becomes more relevant in the context of the Bank's new Access to Information policy.
Armenia marked the 8th International Right to Know Day by hosting an event to raise awareness on the right of all to access to information. The International Right to Know Day was first celebrated in the country on September 28, 2003, following the adoption of the Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation by the National Assembly. The Freedom of Information Annual Awards ceremony was hosted this year by the Freedom of Information Center of Armenia (FOICA) under the World Bank supported Civil Society Fund (CSF) project.
At the ceremony, Armenia's Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan thanked all participants and representatives of international organizations for their continued support to the freedom of information cause in Armenia. "First and foremost, it is the openness and transparency of the government bodies that is important. We are taking serious efforts to this end – so that information on all government decisions is accessible to the society and subject to public consultations in advance. This allows officials to take account of the public opinion. But as much as access to information is important, the use of this information is equally important," he said.
This year the Freedom of Information Award was granted to six entities, including: the Goris municipality (Syunik region) for being the most transparent local government body, the Armenian Government for its e-governance website as the best official information portal, and Mr. Hakob Tovmasyan, former Mayor of Ararat town (Ararat region) for best using his right to know as a citizen. The awards symbolize open and transparent practices in access to information in the country.
The Golden Key award for the e-government website was handed to Davit Sargsyan, Chief of the Government's Staff, by Naira Melkumyan, acting head of the World Bank Yerevan Office, to congratulate the government of Armenia in developing capacity and resources for electronic governance supported by the World Bank Public Sector Modernization and the Judicial Reform projects.
"Transparency, freedom of and access to information are fundamental values of the World Bank and part of its daily activities—both in large loan programs and small grant projects. Moreover, the World Bank has launched a new disclosure policy since July 2010—the Access to Information policy—by which the Bank aspires to be the forerunner among international organizations for information accessibility and transparency," said Naira Melkumyan.
The "Freedom of Information Center of Armenia" NGO received the World Bank CSF 2010 grant to improve public transparency and accountability through fostering implementation of the Freedom of Information legislation. In partnership with local experts, the NGO is currently producing two training video materials, including for government officials on efficient fulfillment of their legislative obligation to inform, and for citizens on their constitutional/legal right to know and their proper use of the FoI legislation. The Center will also develop the first commentary book on the FoI legislation, as well as posters to target youth and students. Videos and the commentary book will be used to train five thousand project participants, both government officials and members of civil society groups, as part of the USAID support program.