Mr. Md. Shahidul Haque
Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Sub: Promotion of Right to Information in SAARC Region
I am writing to you on behalf of Right to Information Forum, a network of advocates and practitioners who are promoting the idea of transparent governance in public and private institutions in Bangladesh. Our work is fully consistent with the commitment and policy of the Government as manifested by the enactment of the Right to Information Act in 2009 and a series of initiatives taken by the Government to implement and enforce the Act. The RTI Forum was formed in 2008 to assist in the enactment of the RTI Act. Now the forum is working on creating the demand for the Act as well as monitoring its implementation.
In view of the upcoming SAARC Summit to be held on November 27 to 29 in Kathmandu, we are drawing your kind attention the necessity of bringing up in the agenda the issue of transparency and accountability in the public domain in the SAARC countries.
The Heads of States and Governments at the 2004 SAARC Summit adopted the Social Charter in Islamabad. The importance of the transparent and accountable conduct of administration in public and private, national and international institutions had been addressed in it. Significant progress has been made and in 2008 the Ministers for Social Development of SAARC member countries declared their intention of promoting the adoption of legislation conferring the right to information for all citizens.
Consistent with that commitment and in keeping with its own election pledge, the Government of Bangladesh enacted the Right to Information Act in the very first session of the 9th Parliament in 2009. The Information Commission was soon set up to facilitate effective enforcement of the Act. Among many other follow-ups by the Government to ensure people’s right of access to information is the exemplary initiative to set up local level information centers equipped with internet facility.
Emboldened by the Government’s commitment we, the members of the Forum request you to make use the forthcoming SAARC summit to create the scope of regional cooperation to promote people’s access to information more robustly and effectively. We specifically request you to propose collaborative initiatives in the region to facilitate mutual learning and sharing on:
1. Ways and means to promote people’s right of access to information in South Asian region;
2. Methods and practices of disclosure of information as a means of higher levels of transparency and accountability in government and non-government institutions working for public good; and
3. Adoption of a disclosure policy by the SAARC Secretariat in tune with international best practices.
We think the degree of communication should be more among the member countries at structural level so that Right to Information issue can be identified as a crucial one. This is needed as all SAARC members are working towards good governance that covers transparent system, rule of law and democracy for which right to information is indispensable. .
I, on behalf of RTI Forum, request you to advocate for the adoption of a comprehensive information disclosure policy by the SAARC Secretariat. SAARC is an association of the millions of people living in the region, who have the right to know the details of activities undertaken by the Secretariat
We are hoping for your active role in this regard. Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to ask us.
Convener, Right to Information Forum