Jamaicans will have greater access to information about infrastructure developments and their environmental impact in the form of Development Alert!, a new interactive website created by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), World Resources Institute (WRI), and The Access Initiative with support from software developers Blue R
freedom of information
Harriet Bibangambah, a Research Officer at Greenwatch Uganda, also contributed to this post.
Uganda is one of only 10 African countries with a national access to information (ATI) law. These types of laws are essential to human rights, providing citizens with legal access to the government-held information that directly impacts them—information on issues like mining permits, logging concessions, air quality data, and more. But as researchers are learning, ATI laws on the books do not necessarily guarantee freedom of information.
Investigating Access to Information in Uganda
The Access to Information in Africa project—a joint initiative with WRI and the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, Greenwatch Uganda, and Open Democracy Advice Centre of South Africa—evaluates transparency models and environmental accountability in Africa. The project’s research includes conducting a series of citizen requests for information in Ghana, Uganda, and South Africa.
Uganda passed its Access to Information Act in 2005, releasing an implementation plan and ATI regulations in 2011. The regulations establish procedures for citizens to request government-held information and for the government to respond to citizen requests. WRI and Greenwatch, a Ugandan environmental law and advocacy organization set out in August 2011 to investigate how the law works.
Increased industrialization in Asia has created countless hurdles for communities to protect themselves from pollution. Important government information—such as the amount of pollutants being discharged by nearby factories or results from local air and water quality monitoring—still isn’t readily accessible in user-friendly formats. This practice often leaves the public entirely out of decision-making processes on issues like regulating pollution or expanding industrial factories. In many cases, the public lack the information they need to understand and shield themselves from harmful environmental, social, and health impacts.
This state of affairs recently prompted a group of government officials, NGOs, local community representatives, and academics to demand government action to change the status quo. Last week, representatives from China, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Thailand released the Jakarta Declaration for Strengthening the Right to Environmental Information for People and the Environment. The Declaration urges governments to improve access to information on air and water quality pollution in Asia—and offers a detailed road map on how to do so.
The Declaration stemmed from a meeting organized by WRI’s the Access Initiative and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, held last week in Jakarta. Representatives will now bring the list of findings and recommendations to government officials in their home countries and ask for commitments on increasing transparency.
Fourteen Latin American and Caribbean countries adopted an ambitious Plan of Action to improve access rights in the region, including access to information, public participation, and access to justice.
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Lalanath de Silva, Director of WRI’s Access Initiative, answers questions on how the “right to know” is evolving in both developed and developing countries.
Lawyers in India advocate for environmental rights, one case at a time.
Following the recent violence over natural resource use, Peru has an opportunity to balance economic development with human rights protections.
As the official poster for the Gabon Interactive Atlas project, this map provides an overview of current logging titles and protected areas in Gabon as of December 2008.
The first-ever Interactive Forest Atlas for Gabon offers data and tools to support the sustainable management of Gabon’s forests.