A two-day workshop on Access to Information (ATI) opened in Accra on Monday with a call on countries in West African to institutionalize legislations enacted on ATI to make it effective and efficient.
The workshop, which has brought together 20 participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Gambia and Liberia, is being organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in collaboration with ActionAid International on the theme: “Promoting the Peoples’ Access to Information: The West African Experience.”
Nana Oye Lithur, Regional Coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said the workshop would identify ways of strengthen information flow to engender a culture of openness in West Africa and enhance capabilities to utilize existing information.
It also seeks to share the findings of a legislative audit conducted in Ghana to provide an opportunity for participants to examine the nature and effectiveness of the mechanisms for information access in Ghana.
Nana Oye said though the right to information encouraged participatory democracy, Africa had not made any impressive strides in that regard.
“With a record of only five states – Angola, South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe having Freedom of Information laws, progressive efforts must be made to enact more of these laws on the continent.”
Mr Venkatesh Nayak of the CHRI noted that none of the countries represented had overriding access to information legislation.
Nevertheless many laws passed by parliaments in these countries contained information disclosure provisions, he added.
He said the findings of the legislative audit from Ghana would encourage members to recognize the usefulness of these provisions and test their efficacy as well as conducting similar research in their respective countries.
Mr Hussaini Abdu, of ActionAid, Nigeria, who gave his country’s experience and the role of ActionAid, said though some countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda had enacted such laws, they were not operational.
“Some countries have passed these laws just to satisfy the conditions of accessing loans and grant facilities from international donors,” he added.