In the fight against corruption, information is a powerful weapon. And when it’s not freely accessible, the corrupt can get away with hiding evidence of their crimes. That’s why it is vital that governments around the world put robust laws in place to enable citizens to get the information they need to hold their leaders to account.
Last week Paraguay became the 100th country to adopt an access to information law – a landmark achievement in civil society’s ongoing campaign for more open government worldwide. In 1994, only 15 nations had such legislation in place.
But there are still too many countries where a culture of secrecy pervades. That’s why today, on International Right to Know Day, we are championing the right of access to information for all.
It is an important part of Transparency International’s work to first, advocate for strong access to information laws globally and second, ensure they’re properly implemented so that citizens can exercise their right to know safely and effectively.
Here is an overview of what we are doing around the world to highlight the importance for access to information:
Pushing for transparency in the Middle East and North Africa
In 2013 we launched a report and online documentary It belongs to you: Public information in the Middle East and North Africa examining the situation in Egypt, Morocco, Palestine and Yemen. The research revealed that Yemen is one of the few countries in the region that has had a strong access to information law, but implementation is lacking.
This Right to Know Day, we’re calling on Egyptian authorities to take action and issue an access to information law in line with the country’s commitments in the United Nation Convention on Anti-Corruption. For more on this, read here or head to our Arabic Facebook page.
Maldives’ long road ahead
Following five years of campaigning by our partners Transparency Maldives, the nation became the 99th country to adopt an access to information law in January this year. But there’s still much to be done to ensure the law is implemented effectively and the principle of freedom of information is firmly established there. Read more here.
Guatemalan community takes action
In a small town in Guatemala, residents grew frustrated that the money the local mayor pledged to fix schools and fund school meals wasn’t bearing results. Petitioning the authorities, the residents were eventually granted access to the documents and discovered cheques had been paid out to non-existent projects. With the help of our anti-corruption legal advice centre, the community took action and the mayor was charged. Read more here.
Unmask the corrupt
Secret firms – or shell companies – are a clear example of how a lack of information can help corruption thrive. Usually established in a tax haven, these companies enable the corrupt to hide their ill-gotten wealth without ever having to disclose its source.
That’s why Transparency International is now working to Unmask the Corrupt by demanding public registries of company ownership, and in turn stopping shadowy politicians and businesspeople from enjoying luxury lifestyles funded by stolen public money.
To show your support for citizens’ right to know where the money comes from, join our campaign here.
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