From securing the right to food, health care and education, to preserving a healthy and sustainable environment, to increasing people's participation in government and achieving gender equality, having access to information is fundamental if we are to fully exercise our rights in a meaningful way and take an active role in shaping the societies in which we live.
The importance of access to information has long been recognised by the international community. At its very start in 1946, the United Nations General Assembly recognised that "freedom of information is a fundamental human right and the touchstone for all freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated".
Access to information
Although originally envisaged as an element of the right to freedom of expression, the right to information is increasingly gaining recognition as a "foundational right" necessary for the protection of every other human right.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), for example, outlines member state's obligations to provide women with access to information about family planning in order to fully protect their right to health and to be equal partners in the marriage agreement.
The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development recognises that the right to a healthy environment includes the right to access government information about the environment, including hazardous materials and activities.
This International Right to Know Day is an opportunity to remember that each of us has a human right to information, and that effective protection of this right is dependent on our government's willingness to embrace policies of transparency and openness.