Promotion of Right to Information in Pakistan – struggling from a common platform
Right to information (RTI) is the essence of democracy and good governance. It fosters transparency and lays foundation for accountability. It is the right which plays pivotal role in holding governments and public officers accountable
of their responsibilities. Without having an access to the information, citizens are less likely to express themselves, thus, the RTI serves to be a fundamental protector of the basic human right – the right of expression.
A democratic way of government is the order of the day in the modern day world. And by definition, democracy refers to a system where in essence these are the ordinary people who (directly or indirectly) rule a state. Therefore,it is their embedded right to have an access to the information which reflect how the governments are serving them. Moreover, regardless of their financial status, citizens pay taxes; and thus, they have a right to know about where their money is being spent.
The right to information allows the citizens to seek and obtain information from the government bodies, to inspect the official documents and seek and keep their certified copies.
However, regardless of the importance of RTI in ensuring the democratic practices in a country, just like the democracy itself, the state of this right in developing countries is far from encouraging. Nevertheless, the situation
cannot be left as it is and the need for effective actions towards the betterment of situation cannot be denied. In this regards, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), one of the premier research and policy institute in Pakistan, is struggling to form a group of like-minded organizations while utilizing the Pakistan Social Accountability Network’s (PSAN) platform – an initiative of the SDPI to engage development organizations and civil society to promote demand side accountability to improve the quality of public service delivery.
This proposed group, which will primarily be an offshoot of the Community of Practices (CoP) on social accountability in Pakistan anchored by the SDPI in Pakistan, will undertake certain activities to contribute towards promotion
of awareness about the RTI and to streamline efforts for the protection of this right among the member societies and beyond.
This development organizations and civil society members’ group for RTI will comprise of partner organizations working on governance and social accountability and academia that will share a passion for highlighting the importance
of ‘Right to Information’ and to ensure the people’s and communities’ access to it. To achieve its broader goals, this group will relay on tools like learning, sharing, exposing, advocating, advertising and building relationships among the major stakeholders concerning the matter. It is believed that through a robust process of sharing information and experiences, the members of this group will not only learn from each other, they will also have an opportunity to develop into better professionals.
The broader goals of this group of activists on promotion of right to information in Pakistan may include:
a) To build a network of likeminded individuals and organizations to retain, exchange and manage knowledge, experiences and practices on RTI in a living way across the ANSA members and beyond,
b) To Provide a shared context for people to communicate and share information, stories, and personal experiences in a way that builds understandings and insights about RTI,
c) Stimulating learning via seminars, trainings and conferences for mentoring and coaching the ordinary citizens about their right to information,
d) To capture and diffuse new knowledge through discussion and sharing research/briefing papers that will expand the awareness of a larger system and will help in advancing the agenda of the RTI group, and
e) To cultivate a domain where practitioners can get reputation, professional identity and marketability for their expertise in the area of social accountability to achieve their organizational and personal goals.
Here utilizing this space, on behalf of the SDPI, I not only encourage the civil society organizations and academia to join hands with us to take forth this struggle to turn Pakistan into a country where little or nothing important
about public’s betterment remained buried into public offices files, but would also like to request the political parties struggling to promote a fairer society in Pakistan to come forward and be a partner to this process. Only with sustained support from
the civil society should we be able to turn into an open society where a participatory approach is adopted at all public officials and all stakeholders are taken on board before decisions concerning common citizens are made.
This article was originally published at: News Pakistan
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.