Ontario Information Commissioner endorses global statement on access rights and transparency

The statement emphasizes transparency and access to information as key to democratic governance

Ontario Information Commissioner endorses global statement on access rights and transparency

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario Patricia Kosseim has endorsed a statement from the 15th International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) that emphasizes the role of access rights in promoting transparency, accountability, and citizen empowerment in the digital age.

The statement, titled "Transparency and Digital Age: The Information Commissioner’s Role and Citizen Empowerment," underscores the fundamental need to protect access rights and freedoms globally, recognizing these as essential components of social, economic, and democratic governance.

The ICIC statement emphasizes promoting transparency and access to information (ATI) as critical components of democratic governance. It encourages public awareness and engagement in protecting these rights, aligning with principles of transparency, accountability, open government, accessibility, and universality to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of regulatory bodies. It invites the public to actively safeguard ATI as a fundamental right and engage in democratic processes. The statement also promotes collaboration and sharing of expertise among information commissioners to build capacity and address common challenges effectively.

The statement acknowledges the pivotal role of civil society and the media in advocating for ATI, improving transparency, and holding governments accountable. It highlights the transformative potential of digital technologies in enhancing transparency while prioritizing privacy and ethical considerations.

The public statement was issued during the 15th edition of the ICIC, convened on June 5, in a virtual mode in Tirana, Albania. It reaffirms the principles set out in the Johannesburg Charter, which underpins global cooperation among member authorities in safeguarding and promoting ATI. The ICIC facilitates capacity building and the exchange of experiences and best practices among information commissioners worldwide to ensure the fundamental right of access to information is upheld for all individuals.

The statement highlights that ATI is a fundamental pillar of social, economic, and democratic governance, as reflected in various international and regional human rights acts, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also recognizes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a target to ensure ATI and protect fundamental freedoms.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is acknowledged for fostering transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement in governance. The OGP encourages governments to commit concrete actions to promote ATI and enhance public access to government-held information. The ICIC statement calls for a commitment to promoting transparency by advocating for implementing ATI laws and policies, ensuring government accountability, empowering civil society and the media, and leveraging digital technologies to enhance transparency while upholding privacy and ethical standards.

“Access to government-held information is vital for empowering individuals to engage fully in democratic processes,” said Patricia Kosseim. “The ICIC statement highlights our collective commitment to advancing access rights on the international stage, emphasizing the need to safeguard these rights, and encouraging citizen engagement.”

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