For UNDP, the right to information is a key underpinning for work in democratic governance and is vital for promoting ‘open governance’ and the accountability of public decision makers as well as for strengthening transparency, participation and the rule of law. The right to information is not only fundamental for an open and democratic society but is a key weapon in the fight against poverty and in accelerating human development. In 2006, over 68 countries had comprehensive laws to facilitate access to state records and many more are in the process of enacting such legislation. This illustrates the growing recognition on the part of governments of the importance of access to information for enhancing democratic engagement, building confidence in government institutions and strengthening their credibility and effectiveness. However, in many States, including democracies, people are routinely denied access to official information—information that should be in the public domain. Only 32 of the countries in which UNDP is present have laws requiring the disclosure of government records.
In May 2006 the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre convened a seminar on the right to information to explore how UNDP can strengthen its support to promoting and protecting the right to information in countries where UNDP is working. The seminar built on several guidance materials and resources that have been developed under UNDP’s Access to Information service line, particularly the Practical Guidance Notes on Right to Information Programming and Measuring the Impact of Right to Information Programmes.