The Co-chair for the Civil Society Platform on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), George Osei Bimpeh, has said that not a single of the SDGs targets can be achieved without public access to information.
He said the provision of adequate information on government policies and programmes would help citizens to participate meaningfully in the development process.
“Access to information has implications for the attainment of the SDG goals. In fact, not a single of the targets can be achieved without access to information,” Mr Bimpeh said at a workshop on the Right to Information.
The consultative workshop was organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Africa Office, the Secretariat to the Coalition on the Right to Information-Ghana, on the implementation of access to information in Ghana for media professionals and CSOs.
It brought together news editors, producers and presenters as well as CSOs to assess government performance on the implementation of citizens’ constitutional right to information and suggest actions to improve public access to information.
Parliament passed the RTI bill into law on March 26, 2019, and it was assented to by the President on May 21, 2019 for subsequent implementation in the year 2020.
Mr Bimpeh said access to information empowers citizens to demand public services, demand accountability from duty bearers and hold government and the private sector on their toes.
He called for a change in citizens’ behaviour to ensure the attainment of SDGs.
The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
They address global challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice.
The Goals interconnect, and in order to leave no one behind, it is important to achieve each Goal and target by 2030.
In September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”, the new Agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all.
While the SDGs are not legally binding, governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the 17 Goals. As such, countries have the primary responsibility for follow-ups and reviews of the progress made in implementing the Goals, which includes Goal 16.10.2- ensuring public access to information.
In Ghana, access to information is guaranteed by Article 21(1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. This means that public officials have the responsibility of providing citizens with adequate information proactively or upon request that will enable the citizens to contribute meaningfully in governance.
However, citizens are yet to fully enjoy this right as guaranteed under the constitution.
Mr Abdourahamane Diallo, UNESCO Representative to Ghana, in a Speech read on his behalf by Mr Abdul Hamid Yakub, Programme Officer Communication & Information, said improving public access to information would help to build trust and co-operation between governments and citizens.
It would allow citizens to exercise and claim their rights, hold duty-bearers accountable, reduce corruption and make more informed choices that affect their daily lives.
National governments, as the primary duty-bearers responsible for making progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and most particularly on SDG 16, have an obligation to monitor and report progress on their commitments and actions to guarantee public access to information, which falls under SDG indicator 16.10.2.
“We cannot rest on our oars. RTI law by itself cannot ensure access to information. We must work with the government to protect and promote public access to information and societies are aware of and exercise their right to access information, contributing to the advancement of the SDGs,” he said.