Strengthening the right to know at the subnational level

Kyiv, 21 October 2016 – After a 3-day training, the subnational network of the Ombudsperson became more capacitated and equipped with knowledge on protection of the right on access to public information.

IMG 01995766876879For more than 5 years, since the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information" came into force, Ukrainian Ombudsperson acts as Parliamentary controller on implementation of "the right to know". Moreover, the Ombudsperson also exercises parliamentary control over personal data protection in accordance with the law "On Protection of Personal Data".

This sphere is not so new but "actual implementation of this right remains still problematic and causes a large number of complaints to the Ombudsperson's Office, which could result in administrative sanctions to officials who refused to provide timely information for particular inquirers," noted Ms. Iryna Kushnir, Representative of the Ombudsperson for observance of the right to access public information.

The situation is even more critical on local level where there is lack of information, understanding, and knowledge in the sphere. Thus Ombudsperson's subnational coordinators and representatives, who are currently operating in each oblast, meet the challenge in the area of information rights throughout Ukraine.

"Today, the Ombudsperson's Office as well as subnational coordinators and representatives act as two pillars fighting for access to public information," emphasized Ms. Olena Smirnova, Deputy Head of the Ombudsperson's Office. "It is critically important to join efforts for stronger pressure on public authorities in demanding the implementation of legislative and constitutional rules."

It should be mentioned that during the half year the representatives and coordinators received more than 100 errands from the Ombudsperson's Office in the area of access to information.

IMG 00766456353243The 3-day training kicked off bringing together 28 representatives and coordinators of the Ombudsperson's Office from 23 regions. The leading trainers, Iryna Kushnir, Olena Bila, and Svitlana Kryvda, experts of the Ombudsperson's Office, run the sessions which strengthen the participants' capacities for upholding the right to information and shed light on some of the approaches that could be used to make sure that this right is indeed fulfilled.

This event served as a platform for the exchange of the best practices and success stories. Subnational Representative from Kharkiv Ms. Valentyna Veltsen shared her success story on conflict moderation between information holders and applicants. The representative's professional activities allowed to avoid the difficult procedure of administrative sanctions. Due to the Regional Representative's involvement, information holders and applicants reached an agreement in three cases.

"Sometimes it is necessary to explain to officials that providing information is not a complicated activity, but it is a very important step to ensure rights. When applicants receive information and understanding, there is no need for reports on administrative sanctions, the parties are satisfied," said Ms. Valentyna Veltsen.

This initiative is conducted with the support of UNDP's Strengthening Capacities of the Ombudsperson's Office Project, funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.