The principle of transparency, as a driver of constitutional accountability, has gathered momentum in Africa in recent years and there are plenty of initiatives underway, and new opportunities arising, including:
- The establishment of AFRIC (the Centre for Freedom of Information in Africa)
- The passage of the Ugandan ATI law
- The emphasis on the Right to Know in the working agenda of ANSA AFRICA (the Affiliated Network of Social Accountability practitioners), supported by the World Bank Institute and led by Idasa
- The establishment of the International School for Transparency which is a partnership between the University of Cape Town and the University of Sodertorn, Sweden (supported by SIDA)
- ATI projects in Liberia and Mali, led by the Carter Center.
However, there is a need for more dedicated research (evidence-gathering) and scholarship; advocacy on the subject if the new laws and potential new laws are to succeed in practice; and litigation.
Research & Standard-setting:
The initial focus will be on establishing an audit on access to information law, policy, adorned with suitable case studies – in other words, solid, applied research that can be used by a range of stakeholders to advance their reform agendas. The audit will ask the question: can people get, and use, information? Thus, it will examine not just the legal regimes, but also study policies and practices that may permit access to information but which are not yet statutory – given that most of Africa does not yet have ATI law, it is important to examine the extent to which information may be accessed without such law and to consider creative, alternative methods of extracting information, such as through open budget process, multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the EITI, and voluntary information disclosure regimes, such as Mali’s. Part of the audit will be to examine the potential use of regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human Rights. The Audit and other related research will be presented to a meeting/roundtable of African right to information experts and advocates in 2010.
On the basis of civil society partnership and recommendations and needs, the committee will make recommendations on law and policy, in support of advocacy efforts. It will, over its first year, draw up an advocacy agenda, in conversation with other key organisations like ODAC and AFRIC, and then agree the issues that each will take up either together or alone. One issue that has been identified for the working committee is the question of statistics in African governments. The recent Mo Ibrahim Foundation African Governance index report noted the severe problem of lack of records kept by many governments. In consultation with the Foundation’s board in Cape Town at the launch of the Index in early October 2009, it was agreed that the Foundation would work with the ANCL to lobby governments on the issue of record-making and record-keeping. It is clear that passage of a ATI law will yield little of use if the ‘cupboard is bare’ in terms of records and statistics.
The working committee will also help both government and civil society formulate post-legislation responses to the implementation and enforcement needs of the right. It will do this in concert with the International School for Transparency. The working committee would apply the Implementation Tool that is being developed by the Carter Center to test the quality of implementation of ATI law in Uganda and South Africa.
Many of the members of the ANCL are practising lawyers, who are looking for interesting test cases in the field of human rights and constitutional law. Thus, the ANCL could be a very useful reservoir of local expertise that could be harnessed to run test cases or else to provide the legal resources for other cases identified or brought by other organisations such as ODAC or AFRIC. The litigation strategy will also explore the use of regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human Rights, in partnership with organisations such as the Southern Africa Law Centre, and in doing so seek to establish a continental standard on ATI (much like the Reyes case did in Latin America). While the ATI working committee will seek to take advantage of the fact that the ANCL is a continental network with membership and representation in all four regions of Africa, it will also identify the most promising places to work, in terms of its advocacy and litigation agenda
Working Group Members
Richard Calland, Research - Public law, South Africa
Fatima Diallo, Research - Legal anthropology, Senegal
Colin Darch, Research - Socio-economic studies, South Africa
Jonathan Klaaren, Research - Public law, South Africa
Chris Mhike, Lawyer in practice, Zimbabwe
Cesaire Kpenonhoun, Reseach - Administrative law, Benin
Martin Pascal Time, Research - International law, Senegal
Edwin Abuya, Research- Human Rights, Kenya
Matilda Lasseko, Activist - Human Rights, Kenya
Sheriff Sy, Activist - Communications and Press, Burkina Faso
Hameye Cisse, Activist - Communications and Press, Mali
Morayo Adebayo, Lawyer in Practice, Nigeria
Fola Adekele, Research - Private Law, Nigeria/South Africa
Mohamed Jebbour, Research - African studies, Morocco
Azizou Chabi Imorou, Research - Political anthropology, Benin/Niger