A new culture of information sharing
The National Information Commission’s initiative has shown good progress in championing the public’s right to information.
Access to information held by public institutions is a critical factor for citizens to meaningfully participate in any nation’s governance process. While this is a significant democratic practice, Nepal’s public is yet to be educated on their right to information (RTI). The Governance Facility (GF) supports the initiative of the National Information Commission (NIC) to undertake a project on ‘Championing National Capacity for Right to Information in Nepal II (SUCHANA).’
Covering 33 districts, the project works with all the ministries, commissions and departments, and training institutes of the State.
As reported by the NIC, while some other project activities are in progress, some have been successfully completed by achieving even more than targeted. Altogether 227 public bodies (against the target of 95) are practising proactive disclosure and, likewise, the number of public bodies appointing a public information officer has reached 926 (300 targeted). There is an extensive increase of 73% (against the target of 10%) in the number of registered complaints that have been acted upon. Substantial progress has been made towards empowering citizens to exercise RTI, which is reflected in an increase in the number of citizens, RTI activists and CSOs trained in exercising their RTI, as well as in the increasing number of RTI applications filed at the public offices, and the percentage of those citizens succeeding to get information.
Likewise, the NIC’s capacity to protect and promote RTI has also been built. For example, there has been an increase in the percentage of appeals dispensed and requests handled by the NIC within the stipulated time.
Photo Courtesy: Nepal Global Education
Teaching them young
NIC has started introducing RTI policy content into the public school curriculum, based on its analysis that citizen awareness from a young age is a prerequisite for the implementation of Nepal’s RTI mechanisms. Following the long process of school curriculum development, and various consultations with a wide range of stakeholders including the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Curriculum Development Center (CDC), teachers, academics and students, RTI content was included in the grade nine curriculum of social studies subject in 2016.
NIC had intensive discussions with the CDC to get the content of RTI fully ensured in the curriculum of classes six, seven and 11. CDC is committed to this collaboration under its parent organization, MoE, to include the school-based curriculum of the RTI from the next academic year, 2017-2018. The teachers’ guidebook will be printed and published in coordination with CDC and handed over to the Teachers’ Human Resource Development Centre (THRDC) within 2017. This will support in providing the teachers with RTI related teaching materials in all classes as per curriculum.
Ultimately, these collaborative efforts to include RTI curriculum in classes six, seven and 11 in all schools under the Government of Nepal will contribute towards developing assertive and aware citizens by promoting a transparent, accountable, responsive and open society.
The inclusion of RTI in the curriculum of schools and colleges is a significant step in building an informed society. “The best method of implementing any law is through the circulation of information from the root level itself,” said the NIC’s Chief Commissioner, Krishnahari Baskota. He explained that the course books can be one of the best ways to inform the young generation, who make up one-third population of the nation.
Likewise, former President of the Federation of Nepal Journalists (FNJ) and RTI activist, Dharmendra Jha clearly states, “If we provided RTI education to children from the preliminary stage, it helps to create informed individuals and responsive governing mechanism.”