Access to Information, Transparency and Accountability

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948, grants to everyone the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of borders (Article 19). The International Covenant on Civil Political Rights of 1966 repeats Article 19 but concedes that the exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions. These are provided by law and are necessary to respect the rights or reputations of others or to protect national security, public order or public health or morals. The same right is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights of 1959. Other major legislation dealing with right to information include the American Convention on Human Rights (1969), the African Charter of Human and the Peoples Rights (1981) and the European Union Directive on Processing of Personal Data (1995). Given this fundamental right to information, governments have a duty to provide access to information. However, neither total openness nor complete secrecy would be reasonable, and no country in the world has decided to adopt one of these extreme positions.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Public Administration and Development Management
Publishing Date: 
Thursday, 1 January 2004
Resource Type: 
Right to information, Coordination & Information Management