Dr. Shaw, who was speaking as one of the three Information Commissioners invited by UNESCO to serve as respondents to the discussion on: ‘Why access to information is crucial to achieving SDG 16 and how monitoring systems contribute to it?’, compared the sustainable development goals to human rights in terms of being universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated.
He said his Commission has used the human rights approach to sell the right to access information in Sierra Leone by calling on the public and public institutions to see its relevance beyond the context of the First Generation Civil and Political Rights, but also within the context of the Second Generation Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“Right to Public Access to Information, which is captured in SDG 16.10.2 is important not only as an instrument, or tool, in achieving the other sub goals of SDG 16 such as access to justice for all, but also in achieving all the other SDGs such as no poverty, zero hunger, health for all, access to education etc.”, said Dr Shaw.
The RAIC Information Commissioner gave the example of a market woman who can only ask questions about lack of social amenities such as market toilets and sanitation if she has access to information about funding their parliamentarians or local authorities receive on their behalf from government. He also said that progress on the free quality primary and secondary school education cannot be adequately monitored if schools fail to proactively disclose information so that parents can access the information they need to ask the right questions about any possible gaps in the quality, or quantity, of education that is provided.
Responding to the question of monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the right to access information law in Sierra Leone, Dr Shaw, who has a background in journalism and academia, said this is done annually by looking at the number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests received and processed by all MDAs as well as those brought to the attention of his commission as complaints for lack of compliance. He also said compliance to the Proactive Disclosure of Information (PDI), which is one of its flagship projects, is also monitored by looking at the number of MDAs that have submitted their PDI Publication Schemes to the RAIC for approval. He reported that following two deadlines, 12 MDAs, including the Police and Statistics Sierra Leone, have so far submitted their PDI Publication scheme.