Informed citizens can make informed decisions. In a world where COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos and complexity, access to reliable and verified information is more important than ever, in order to encourage healthy behaviours and save lives. Therefore, universal access to information is a cornerstone for an healthy and inclusive knowledgeable societies.
Universal access to information means that everyone has the right to seek, receive, and impart information. This right is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. Hence, media plays a crucial role in informing the public about issues of interest, but it relies on the ability to seek and receive information, too. Therefore, the right to universal access to information is also bound up with the right to freedom of the press.
On 17 November 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared 28 September as International Day for Universal Access to Information. Considering that several civil society organisations and government bodies in the world have adopted and currently celebrate this observance, the United Nations’ General Assembly also adopted 28 September 2019 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.
The International Day for Universal Access to Information 2020 theme is “Access to Information – Saving Lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope!,” and it focuses on to the right to information in times of crisis. It also highlights the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust, and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
UNESCO and its intergovernmental programmes - the International Programme for Development of Communication and the Information for All Programme - provide a platform and frame for all the stakeholders to participate in international discussions on policy and guidelines in the area of access to information. Both programmes also enable positive environment for ATI to flourish through the development of projects aimed to strengthen open science, multilingualism, ICTs for disabled and marginalised, and media and information literacy.
Today, about half of the world’s population is still not using the Internet. That represents 3.8 billion people. In order to bring the rest of the population online, we need to assist our members to build the necessary infrastructure for connectivity, ensure digital inclusion for all, and deliver public services to remote areas.
The World Assembly of Youth (WAY) believes that universal access to quality and reliable information is an essential human right that plays a pivotal role in empowering young people, facilitating fair debate and giving equal opportunities to all. It is a driving force for transparent, accountable and effective governments, and paves the way for freedom of expression, cultural and linguistic diversity, and participation in public life. Therefore, universal access to information is a pillar of the achievement of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Inclusive Knowledge Societies are the way forward, as they build on the sum of human ingenuity, technical innovation and the power of information and knowledge.