Manila (Philippines), 29 November 2017 - At the margins of the annual SEA-PAC meeting , UNODC conducted together with the Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines a regional workshop on strengthening access to information and participatory decision- making in the region. The event was based on the premises that successful implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) requires building partnerships and enhancing cooperation with private sector entities, civil society organizations, academia, parliamentarians, youth and the general public. Cooperation across stakeholders at the national and international level is particularly relevant for the implementation of Articles 10 and 13 of UNCAC. Article 10 (Public reporting) and Article 13 (Participation of society) aim to enhance transparency of the public administration in particular through the access of the general public to information and through the promotion of active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector such as civil society, NGOs, and community- based organizations. This way, public institutions can be held accountable and are encouraged to adhere to transparent processes.
To provide a platform for constructive dialogue and mutual exchange, the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific and the Ombudsman Office of the Philippines invited representatives from the Anti- Corruption Agencies and civil society from Southeast Asia to discuss challenges to access to information and participatory decision- making in the region and find ways how to address them working together. Participants identified the lack of legal clarity regarding who can access information, what type of information can be published or not and under which circumstances, as well as restrictions on accessing information for national security reasons, as some of the challenges. They also highlighted that not having a law on access to information in place introduces uncertainty on the side of public officials as to what type of information they are allowed to provide to the public. The need to introduce or enhance systems to foster participatory decision-making was also highlighted. Participants considered the workshop a unique opportunity to share perspectives and points of view on a regional level and valued the constructive dialogue. It was the first time that the SEA-PAC meeting opened its doors to NGOs, hopefully this experience will be repeated at next year's meeting, which will be held in Singapore.