International Day for Universal Access to Information, proclaimed at the 74th UN General Assembly on October 15, 2019, shines a spotlight on the fundamental right to seek, receive, and impart information. Held annually on September 28, this day emphasizes the significance of an informed citizenry and highlights the theme of the online space’s pivotal role in ensuring access to information. In this article, we explore the importance of universal access to information and the historical background of this crucial observance.
Universal Access to Information: Empowering Citizens
The ability of citizens to make informed decisions is paramount, particularly in the context of democratic societies. Access to information equips individuals with the knowledge needed to make choices, including decisions at the ballot box. Informed citizens are better equipped to hold their governments accountable for their actions and policies, fostering transparency and accountability.
Information as Power
The adage, “Information is power,” holds true in the modern world. Universal access to information is the cornerstone of healthy and inclusive knowledge societies. When people have access to a wealth of information, they can participate actively in civic life, engage in meaningful discourse, and contribute to the betterment of their communities and nations.
International Day for Universal Access to Information: Significance
The International Day for Universal Access to Information holds immense significance. It underscores the critical role of information in decision-making processes, be it in choosing a government representative or staying informed about governance. Access to information is a catalyst for progress and development across various sectors, and it upholds the principles of human rights and freedom of information.
Promoting Human Rights
This observance is a powerful reminder of the importance of maintaining human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. Access to information is inextricably linked to the freedom of the press, as the media relies on the ability to seek and receive information to fulfill its role as a watchdog and information disseminator.
History, The Journey to International Recognition
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took a significant step on November 17, 2015, by declaring September 28 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. This declaration recognized the global importance of access to information and paved the way for international cooperation on this vital issue.
UN General Assembly Adoption
Building on UNESCO’s declaration, the UN General Assembly officially adopted September 28, 2019, as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. This formal recognition at the highest level of international governance underscores the universality and importance of this day.
UNESCO, through its intergovernmental programs such as the International Programme for Development of Communication and the Information for All Programme, provides a platform for stakeholders to engage in discussions on policies and guidelines related to access to information. These programs facilitate an environment conducive to the flourishing of Access to Information (ATI) initiatives, including projects that promote open science, multilingualism, information and communication technologies for disabled and marginalized populations, and media and information literacy.
International Day for Universal Access to Information serves as a vital reminder of the critical role that information plays in our societies. It empowers individuals to make informed choices, upholds human rights, and promotes transparency and accountability. As we celebrate this day, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering knowledge societies where access to information is a fundamental right, ensuring a brighter, more informed future for all.