Empowering People to Demand Rights Through Knowledge
In an age where information is available at the click of a button, lack of information continues to frustrate people’s ability to make informed choices, participate in governance and hold their public authorities accountable for their actions. Governments need information to act on people’s behalf. The information they gather using public funds are for public purposes and meant for the public’s benefit. This information is a public good that we own collectively .
The right to information is a fundamental and pivotal human right. It is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and protected in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It lies at the centre of the human rights discourse as it is more than simply a freestanding right – it is also a practical tool by which people can come to understand their rights and demand that they are fulfilled.
Knowledge educates and empowers. Knowledge forms the basis for the full development of the human personality, enabling people to form opinions, to make informed decisions and to participate fully in public decision making from a position of equality. Implementing legislation which provides a legally enforceable public right to information can be the key to establishing participatory democracy and can be a crucial step towards engendering more systematic protection for human rights.
“Our Rights, Our Information”, in its collection of case studies from across the globe, testify to the power of right to information laws in bringing about the practical realisation of human rights for everyday people. Time and time again, these stories demonstrate how access to information has provided the means for people to demand respect for their rights, from the right to food, health care and education, to the right to be free from gender discrimination, torture and inhuman treatment.