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Quest for openness

Aug 16, 2012, 9:54 AM

It is imperative to note that openness is indeed a key principle of good governance.

Freedom of information is a fundamental human right, crucial in its own right and also as a cornerstone of democracy, participation and good governance.

There should be a concerted effort by government and public bodies to address the problem of a culture of secrecy.

This should include comprehensive training programmes on implementation of the access to information, as well as the importance of openness in society.

Such training should also seek to promote an understanding among civil servants of the benefits of openness to them. This would no doubt enhance free flow of information policy development.

Public education campaigns should be undertaken to ensure that the public is aware of the right to access information as well as the responsibilities   of citizens as well.

The former US President, John F. Kennedy, once said, “Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed--and no republic can survive. Secrecy in government leads to suppression of truth and the birth of tyranny.”

It is therefore imperative that we once again realize the dangers of secrecy.

African governments need to recognise the importance of access to information for enhancing democratic engagement, building confidence in government institutions and strengthening their credibility and effectiveness.

However, in many states, including many formal democracies, people are routinely denied access to official information that should be in the public domain.

There is a dire need for us to advance the public’s right to know, and to reduce secrecy in governance.

We firmly believe that when people are denied their right to know it could bring mistrust and, of course, loss of confidence in one’s administration.

Openness, therefore, is important for governments, civil society organizations and all other groups to ensure credibility, public and donor trust.

In fact, good managers like openness, since it helps them in their administration.

Openness in its entirety is to tell people that you have nothing to hide!