The SDG Temple of Justice
The Seventh Pillar:
Right to Information
The eight pillars of legal empowerment
of the SDG Temple of Justice
The blueprint presented here seeks to help realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by leveraging the human rights foundation of SDGs through the eight pillars of rights relating to legal empowerment of the people including the poor and vulnerable groups.
Why the right to information matters for the SDGs?
Right to information legislation (RTI), also referred to as freedom of information or access to information law, is based on the general presumption that information held by the government should only be withheld from the public where absolutely necessary to prevent harm to a legitimate interest and where there is no overriding public interest in knowing the information.
“Maximum disclosure’’ is a key principle of Right to Information which requires the government to set out the mechanisms by which information can be accessed.
The 2030 Agenda requires a revitalized Global Partnership to ensure its implementation in accordance with SDG 17. This Partnership will facilitate an intensive global engagement in support of implementation of all the Goals and targets, bringing together Governments, the private sector, civil society, the United Nations system and other actors and mobilizing all available resources. (Para 39).
Obviously such a partnership would not have been possible without having the right to information guaranteed at both national and global levels. Therefore right to information will be a critically important factor for the successful realization of SDGs.
The right to information has a direct positive impact on the following SDGs and targets:
Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
12.8 By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.
Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information.
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
The right to information is protected through the guarantees of freedom of expression found in the main international human rights treaties. This has been recognised by international human rights tribunals (Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights) and leading international authorities (including all four special mandates on freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the Inter-American Juridical Committee) as well as the UN Human Rights Committee (Mendel, 2008).
The case for ensuring access to information is that it supports good governance, effective and efficient public administration, compliance with laws and regulations, efforts to combat corruption and better investment climates. (Calland, 2010).
As of June 2013, 95 countries have adopted RTI laws, a massive increase from the 13 countries which had these laws in 1990. However, experience has shown that while the passage of the law is often a high-profile effort by its political champions, the key challenge is to maintain the political momentum needed for effective implementation (Dokenia, 2013).