Gambia projects open access to information and dialogue with Government
An UNDEF project in the Gambia has not only paved the way for the historic passage of the Access to Information Bill in August 2021; it has also created unprecedented cooperation and collaboration between civil society and government. This marks the first time that a civil society-led process has resulted in formal legislation in the country. Under the project, the Gambia Press Union formed a civil society coalition to draft legislation and built platforms for dialogue with the Ministries of Justice and Information to refine and build consensus around the bill. These activities were complemented by training for journalists on the topic and advocacy among the general public to build wide support for access to information as a tool to enhance accountability and good governance.
UNDEF funding provided a critical boost to civil society’s efforts, providing the sustainability and predictability to strategically plan and sustain activities that ensured a coordinated effort to obtain government buy-in and support for the legislation. Government counterparts were involved from the beginning of the project and invited to collaborate in the drafting of the legislation. The Ministry of Justice provided lawyers to work almost full-time on the bill in collaboration with civil society counterparts -- supporting them to advocate internally with members of Parliament to ensure the bill’s passage.
UNDEF Project Officer Katie Travers visited the project in November 2021 to meet with journalists and other project beneficiaries, as well as and government stakeholders. She also met with an UNDEF project working to strengthen the advocacy capacity of civil society and the public to effectively participate in public policy processes. Implemented by The Association of NGOs in The Gambia -- an umbrella body of civil society organizations in the country – the project builds the knowledge and skills of civil society organizations on human rights and policy analysis to enhance popular participation, combat corruption, and ensure efficient delivery of public services, including around access to information.