The Right to Information (RTI) Act in South Asia has seen mixed results. The sub-continent’s largest country, India, has largely proved to be an exemplar of RTI with a lot of publicity and use from civil society organisations and the public in challenging national and regional administrations to release information.
This latest briefing from the Protifolon series considers the challenges to implementing RTI in South Asia. Now that a number of countries in the region have experience of implementing RTI Acts, the articles in this issue analyse the progress and challenges of the RTI process as an effective tool for the public good. The authors’ outline a number of challenges and offer some suggestion to improving RTI in South Asia.
- The success of RTI is closely linked to the level of democracy in a country. Where democratic practices are lacking, it is of utmost importance that the government is seen to be fully committed to the ideal of RTI
- A paradigm shift in the mind-set of public officials as well as citizens long used to subservient relationships with the authorities is also required for the success of RTI
- The lack of a tradition of rule of law and the existence of a culture of impunity are detrimental to the promotion of RTI. The importance of using the penalty clause to bring recalcitrant officials to book has been proven in India and to some extent in Bangladesh
- The importance of NGO and media involvement in promoting RTI has been demonstrated in India. The relative lack of such involvement in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan is impeding progress. Exchange visits of media personnel and RTI activists may help in this regard
- Lack of human resources in information archiving and management has been a major challenge for government and non-government institutions. Public and private institutions need to offer post-employment training programmes on ICT-led information archiving and management
- Civil society organisations that were leading the campaign for an RTI Act should come forward with their own information and set examples of transparency. This is particularly relevant to countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal where NGOs have been brought in to the purview of RTI and so are subject to the same scrutiny as government offices.
Protifolon, meaning ‘Reflection’ in Bangla, is a policy briefing series highlighting cutting-edge research on emerging issues affecting Bangladesh. Protifolon is designed and produced by D.Net in partnership with IDS Knowledge Services and the Institute of Informatics and Development (IID).