International Right To Know Day: Right info, right now
Every September 28, we celebrate the International Right To Know Day. It is celebrated to encourage civil society, journalists, and citizens to exercise their right to access information and to push government institutions to create conditions for exercising these rights.
The right of access to information is an important human right and is necessary for the full enjoyment of other human rights. It is essential for a transparent and accountable government.
The right of access to information makes public involvement possible in formulating policies and in the decision-making processes of governance, especially where it matters to them.
This is powerful. We, the public, have the right to know about what affects us and the environment where we live. For us in the environmental movement, we want the government to act on its responsibility to provide citizens the right to a healthy ecology.
The point of this is two-fold.
First, we cannot underestimate the power we hold as voters and as constituents in policymaking and influencing our decision-makers. Second, we cannot assume that our government is aware of all legislations and initiatives that we would like them to support.
While a legislator’s mandate is to make laws, which the executive will implement, it is the citizens’ job to ensure that they know about the problems we care about and want solved, and inform them of the policies we want enacted and implemented.
Bypassing the constraints of partisan politics is a challenge, more so addressing the knotty and long-standing issues facing our nation. In order to agree on solutions to these problems, our government must first understand the urgency of the issue. This is only possible if citizens actively participate and make their voices heard.
Knowing and solving
Solutions do not come easy, but Filipinos can attest to the power of the constituent voice as it happened during the People Power days. Without a doubt, for this election season and beyond, citizen engagement matters and will continue to move mountains.
Greenpeace Philippines, together with different communities, has been calling on the government to implement effective policies that will curb and eliminate pollution, starting with a "Right To Know" policy that will make it mandatory for industries to report the chemical effluents that they discharge.
With the launch of Detox Pilipinas, an interactive website that will feature maps and useful information on chemical pollution, Greenpeace hopes to empower local communities to proactively report and monitor industrial pollution and chemical- related incidents happening in their areas and municipalities, encouraging them to serve as local pollution patrols.
To ensure its success, Detox Pilipinas will need citizens’ participation – to ask everyone to be involved, to be on the watch and to send in their exposés and reports on toxic pollution happening all around.
Detox Pilipinas officially goes online on September 29, Tuesday. — Rappler.com
Abigail Aguilar is the Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.
Pollution image via Shutterstock