2 July 2021
Information Commissioners from around the world have come together to pass a resolution and issue a joint public statement emphasising the value of proactively publishing information relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) - a global forum connecting commissioners responsible for freedom of information in their respective countries and territories - has been holding its annual conference, which includes a series of public webinars running over the next few months.
During the closed session of the conference, which took place last week, the ICIC agreed a formal resolution recognising the significant decisions made by public bodies and promoting proactive disclosure of information wherever it is appropriate. The resolution also calls on Commissioners to continue to advocate for proactive publication of information relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to share knowledge and best practice.
Alongside the resolution, the Commissioners also issued a public statement, available via the ICIC website. It states:
"As the global pandemic continues, the importance of transparency and the right to access information remains.
"Recognising the role that access to information has in building trust in our global community during times of crisis and beyond, Information Commissioners around the world ... therefore urge governments responding to the ongoing global pandemic to pay due regard to the following principles, which reflect common information access principles and practice around the proactive publication of information:
- Proactive disclosure of information held by government or public institutions increases citizen participation in government processes and promotes better informed decision making through increased scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of government decisions.
- Public engagement in government decision making is important at all times, but in particular, during a global pandemic.
- The public's right of access to information relating to the Covid-19 pandemic is of critical importance to the effectiveness of the public health response, in circumstances where authorities make significant decisions that affect public health, civil liberties and economic participation.
- Information held by government or public institutions is to be managed for a public purposes and is a national resource.
- To the greatest extent possible, information held by government or public institutions should be published promptly and proactively, without the need for formal access requests.
"Mechanisms such as publication schemes and administrative release encourage the proactive release of information. Members will continue to promote, support, develop and implement such mechanisms to the greatest extent possible."
The ICIC has also been hosting a series of webinars on a range of issues relating to FOI and transparency worldwide. You can watch the previous sessions on YouTube, including "Transparency and trust in pandemic times" and "Blurred boundaries in access to information", and see what's coming up in the next few months.