NEW DELHI, April 29, 2010: A first of its kind regional workshop to discuss the state of transparency and the right to information regimes in the countries of the region concluded here today with a resolution to work towards more transparent governance in the region.
The workshop jointly organized by the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the World Bank was attended by stakeholders from governments, information commissions, civil society organizations and the media from across South Asia.
The participants called upon countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, that do not have right to information (RTI) laws in the region, to adopt such legislation. Participants called upon Pakistan to reform its Freedom of Information Ordinance – the first national RTI legislation in the region. They also acknowledged the achievements of the Indian RTI law, but at the same time, pressed for a greater effort from public authorities to make information about development programs and schemes proactively available to people.
Participants endorsed the need to establish a regional center for RTI to facilitate, promote and monitor the development of greater transparency throughout the region.
The regional workshop "Towards More Open and Transparent Governance in South Asia" was held from 27-29 April, 2010 in New Delhi. Close to 100 participants from all countries in the region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka shared their experiences of campaigning for the adoption and implementation of RTI laws in their countries. The Information Commissioner from Mexico and other international experts from Canada and South Africa shared their own experiences of promoting transparency in their countries.
Inaugurating the workshop, Chief Information Commissioner, Central Information Commission, India, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah said, "RTI is an important law for the entire region as we share a common heritage. The RTI law is based on the principle of inclusive growth and a democratic system where citizens are the government. The country has to be ruled by the people and for the people. Any entity linked to the government, therefore, becomes a public authority accountable to the people." Participants unanimously acknowledged that RTI laws must extend beyond the executive to cover the legislature and the judiciary.
Mr. Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President, World Bank Institute highlighted the power of new technologies now commonly available to deliver information to more people more effectively throughout the region. "This workshop could be a stepping stone in helping South Asia emerge as a leader in the implementation of RTI in the world," he added.
Participants resolved to collaborate intensively at the regional level to promote:
- inter-governmental exchange of best practices for improving transparency regimes;
- a regional platform for Information Commissions to regularly interact with each other with honorary membership provided to Commissions from other countries;
- a web-based database of all orders and decisions of Information Commissions in South Asia maintained by a regional RTI resource center;
- civil society in the region to develop guidelines for internal disclosure policies;
- exchange of RTI experts between countries in the region;
- creating networks between civil society organizations working on RTI in the region through annual meetings in particular.
After extensive deliberations, participants adopted a resolution identifying priorities at the country, stakeholder and regional levels to promote transparent governance in the region. Participants agreed to continue to work together on a regular basis to achieve the key goals identified in the resolution.