Since 2005, Scotland's strong track record on FOI has meant that information about Scottish policy and practice has frequently been in demand internationally, with the Commissioner and his staff forging links and sharing experience with representatives from a number of countries. In the past, the Commissioner and his staff have been visited by, or have advised, colleagues from jurisdictions ranging from Canada to China, Jamaica to Germany, Slovenia to South Africa.
2010 was no exception, with Scotland's international FOI reputation leading to the Commissioner's office hosting a number of international visits. These included:
- Jennifer Dilbert, the first Information Commissioner of the Cayman Islands, who visited the Commissioner's office to learn about the Commissioner's procedures for undertaking FOI investigations.
- Margaret Thompson of the New Zealand Law Commission, who was seeking to learn from the Scottish experience as part of a review of New Zealand's 28-year old FOI laws.
- Professor Dan Metcalfe, who for 25 years was responsible for guiding US federal agencies on the administration of the FOI Act.
- A delegation from the Central Information Commission of Indonesia, who were comparing the enforcement provisions in the French and Scottish FOI legislation with their own.
In addition, the Commissioner is often invited to share Scotland's own experiences with international colleagues. Engagements undertaken by Kevin Dunion in 2010, for example, include addresses at International FOI Conferences in Stockholm and Massachusetts, and participation in a workshop in London to explore the development of stronger international links between FOI practitioners and academic institutions. Alongside this, Kevin was invited speaker at the inaugural Open Government Leadership Programme event which took place in Cape Town, South Africa.
Despite the geographical or language barriers that often separate us, the practical and policy challenges that each country faces in relation to FOI are often very similar. That is why it is important to ensure that we continue to share best practice and learn from the experience of our international colleagues, in order ensure that our own response to the challenges of FOI can be managed as efficiently and effectively as possible.