Exercising of rights, participation in discussions and civic control over the work of competent authorities start with access to the documents drafted by public institutions. Access to information is a precondition for exercising the remaining human rights. The Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act (APIA) was adopted in 2000 and the fight for its implementation has not been over yet. Meanwhile international standards and initiatives in this field have evolved. In 2015 the UN General Assembly adopted 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 goals. One of the subgoals of Goal 16 is to ensure public access to information by means of adopting and implementing the relevant legislation. At present more specific indicators to achieve Goal 16.10 are developed. Still, APIA has not introduced a body responsible for monitoring and control of the law implementation. The need for such a body has been constantly reiterated. In addition, Bulgaria has not taken steps to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention. Furthermore, the drafting of reports for the implementation of sustainable development goals will also require a coordination body. At the same time our organization, an NGO with a 22-year-old experience in the application of APIA, drafts annual reports on the implementation of the law. This project aims at creating an environment to discuss the issues related to the application of APIA which can assist public institutions at national and local level in implementing the international standards related to access to information. The Access to Information Forum will benefit both the administration and the representatives of civil society organizations and citizens by providing a forum for debate, surveys, models and their sharing in national and international networks.
Summary of project results
The project contributed to the achievement of the international standards in access to information by the public bodies in Bulgaria at a national and local level. The FORUM also provided for a space for debates, research and good models for the administration, as well for NGOs and citizens. The project team actively participated in the public discussion of draft normative acts and national policies related to the access to public information, prepared and submitted legal statements and presented its position within the public consultation process.
Three annual Civil Audits were performed on Active Transparency of 265 municipalities and 300 central government bodies and their territorial units. The accumulated experience was presented at the International Conference ACCESS TO INFORMATION – LESSONS LEARNT AND FUTURE CHALLENGES. The project ream contributed to the better implementation of the access to information provision obligations by holding 27 Access to Information Days in the regional cities in the country. A special webpage was created to promote project results and achievements:https://atiforum.net/en/.