Strengthening Mechanisms for Public Access to Information in Senegal

Challenge

Access to information is a key component of the rule of law that ensures citizens’ access to education, employment, and health services, and enables them to participate in public debates and anti-corruption efforts. Furthermore, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Despite Senegal’s strong performance in many other rule of law areas and the Ministry of Finance’s recent efforts to improve citizens' access to government data, the country still performs poorly in the areas of open government and access to information. According to the WJP Rule of Law Index® 2015, only one-third (32%) of Senegalese believe the government performs well in consulting traditional, civil or community leaders before making decisions. Furthermore, over the past year, 4% of Senegalese have requested information from a government agency, and of that, only 61% received the information they requested. Poor access to information negatively impacts a state’s ability to democratically govern, and particularly affects women, children, and other marginalized groups struggling to claim their rights and access basic services.

Program Summary

This program will to address poor access to information in Senegal as well as citizens’ lack of knowledge about their right to information and other fundamental rights. The Ministry of Good Governance and Article 19 will address these issues through a two-phase program:

  1. Legislation and Regulatory Framework Review: A review of existing laws will be undertaken in order to create one harmonized legislation on access to information, modeled after Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Program implementers will visit government officials in Mozambique to learn about their experience adopting similar legislation, and will organize national workshops with stakeholders from civil society, government, and multilateral organizations to plan advocacy activities for passing the legislation into law. These national workshops will be organized in partnership with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communication.
  2. Public Outreach: Program implementers will create a series of flyers to raise public awareness about mechanisms for accessing information on public health and management of government budgets. Flyers will be translated into national languages, and program implementers will create radio shows to transmit this same information to citizens that cannot read. A series of public forums will also be held in Matam, Kolda, and Kedougou to disseminate this content in person.

Impact

This program will create a stronger regulatory framework for access to information that will modernize the process for obtaining information and protect citizen data. As a result of the program’s outreach activities, citizens will have a better understanding of their right to information, mechanisms for civic participation and accessing official government data, and how this facilitates improved access to health, education, and other social services.

Partners

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Ministry of Finance
  • Ministry of Communication
  • OSIWA
  • Oxfam
  • National Assembly of Senegal
  • Commission for the Protection of Personal Data

Project Details

Program Status:Active

Program Type:Grantee

Region:Sub-Saharan Africa

Program Countries:Senegal

Dates:August 31, 2015 - August 30, 2016

Rule of Law Index Factors: Open Government (Factor 3)

Issue Areas: Government