Woman with a laptop viewed from above.
More and more, access to information means access to data.
Photo:UN Photo / Loey Felipe

Saving lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope

The International Day for Universal Access to Information 2020 focuses on to the right to information in times of crisis. It also highlights the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

UNESCO and its intergovernmental programs - the International Programme for Development of Communication and the Information for All Programme - provide a platform and frame for all the stakeholders to participate in international discussions on policy and guidelines in the area of access to information. Both programs also enable positive environment for ATI to flourish through the development of projects aimed to strengthen open science, multilingualism, ICTs for disabled and marginalized, and media and information literacy.

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High-level panel – Saving lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope

This high-level panel will serve as an important intervention in times of global uncertainty. It will address the significance of access to information legislations and implementations, in addition the role of media and information literacy and open access, all as powerful instruments for mitigation of crises. The live online event takes place 28 September 8:00 a.m. EDT.

Access to information

Informed citizens can make informed decisions, for instance, when going to the polls. Only when citizens know how they are governed, can they hold their governments accountable for their decisions and actions. Information is power. Therefore, universal access to information is a cornerstone of healthy and inclusive knowledge societies.

Universal access to information means that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information. This right is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. The media plays a crucial role in informing the public about issues of interest, but it relies on the ability to seek and receive information, too. Hence, the right to universal access to information is also bound up with the right to freedom of the press.


On 17 November 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared 28 September as International Day for Universal Access to Information. Considering that several civil society organizations and government bodies in the world have adopted and currently celebrate this observance, the UN General Assembly also adopted 28 September 2019 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.

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The UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) provides support for media projects and seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries. The IPDC strives to realize more effective media projects that empower people to gain equitable access to knowledge and express themselves through free and pluralistic media. 

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Inclusive Knowledge Societies are the way forward, as they build on the sum of human ingenuity, technical innovation and the power of information and knowledge. They have the potential to take us all forward to a new era of peace and sustainable development.  UNESCO’s work contributes to SDG 16 by promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms.

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International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.