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

The right to know

Building back better with access to information

The International Day for Universal Access to Information 2021 highlights the importance of expanding access to information laws, and their implementation worldwide to build back strong institutions for sustainable development and to uphold the vision of information as a public good, as well as to strengthen international cooperation in the field of implementing the right to information as a fundamental right. Furthermore, the global discussions on “building back better” remain context adaptive to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main objective of the Day is to accelerate sustainable solutions aimed at reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by mobilizing governments, civil society and people to take ownership and contribute to SDG 16 (Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies), as measured by public access to information, particularly in regards to building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Poster of observance 2021

Two-day Global Commemorative

28 & 29 September 2021
Six discussion panels will be held during a two-day period in recognition that well-crafted Access to Information legislation and its rigorous implementation promotes sustainable development as well as democracy and human rights. The panels target policy makers to promote the mobilization of resources to implement laws through independent, transparent and accountable institutions, established to support and expand public good. They also target professional organizations and civil society to advocate for the existence of and implementation of access to information laws.

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.

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.

People hold cameras above a crowd.

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. 

A woman carrying her baby looks at her mobile screen.

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.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

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.