Countries embracing FoI laws

Many countries across the world are enacting freedom of information laws because governments see a need for greater involvement of the people in decision-making, believes Freedom of Information specialist Tanya Karlebach.

The people of the Cayman Islands will have an opportunity during her time here this week to discuss how they can use FoI to enhance the democratic processes locally, said a GIS press release.

Ms Karlebach, who arrived in Cayman Sunday, is here for one week of consultation with government officials, training of civil servants and meetings with members of the public.

Commenting on what is prompting the global FoI movement, Ms Karlebach said: ‘In some ways it is greater awareness on behalf of governments that they haven’t been doing everything they should to encourage citizen participation. It’s an awareness by governments that there hasn’t been enough transparency.’

Ms Karlebach has extensive experience helping governments prepare for introduction of FoI laws and streamlining record-keeping to make information easily accessible to the public, the release said. She has worked on FoI implementation in Canada, the UK, and parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Currently she is assisting the UK Government in its transition to electronic record-keeping.

Of the 68 countries with FoI laws, 37 of them enacted the legislation since the year 2000. Germany and Switzerland are the latest with their laws coming into force this year.

‘The Freedom of Information Law is an opportunity for governments to build trust. It shows a greater awareness of accountability and increases transparency. In many cases it also creates the opportunity for greater participation in government, but that is up to the citizenry,’ the consultant said.

She sees this type of legislation as a means of countering rumour and suspicion. ‘Without a mechanism to access information people believe in conspiracy theories.’

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Public meetings set

Ms Karlebach’s will meet members of the public at district meetings focusing on how residents can use FoI in enhancing democratic processes.

She will meet residents of Bodden Town, East End and North Side at the Bodden Town Church of God, today from 7pm.

She will then discuss FoI with all high, middle and year six primary school teachers at the John Gray Assembly Hall on Thursday from 4pm.

The FoI meeting with George Town residents is also on Thursday. It begins at 6pm at the University College of the Cayman Islands Assembly Hall.

Representatives of organisations are specially invited to attend the George Town meeting, but are also welcomed at the other district meetings.

Ms Karlebach’s packed programme ending Saturday will see her meeting the Cabinet; spending an entire day training FoI information officers; visiting Government Information Services Office, the National Archives and Planning Department; and working with key stakeholders to develop a FoI implementation plan.

She is also scheduled for a number of radio talk show appearances. She appears today on 104.1’s Straight Talk from 5:30 to 6pm. Listeners to Barrie Quappe’s Cayman Cross Talk will also have a chance to speak to Ms Karlebach on Thursday from 8 am.

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