By Lamin B. Darboe
Information Officer, MoPS
At least over seventeen (17) Government Information Officers from Ministries and Departments (MDs)are currently attending a two-day training on Access to Information (ATI) Law at the Khamsys Hotel, Bijilo.
The synergy was organized by the Department of Information Services with funding from UNESCO through The Gambia National Commission for UNESCO Participation Program 2022-2023.
The training was part of the ‘Sensitization and Popularization of the Access to Information Law Using Local Language Techniques’ Project, through the UNESCO Participation Program.
In his keynote statement, the Minister of Information, Hon Lamin Queen Jammeh said UNESCO is one of the long-standing development partners of The Gambia Government.
“The Gambia as a Member state since 1973, has been contributing to the sustainability of UNESCO, thus benefiting from its support towards the initiation and implementation of various development priorities,” Minister Jammeh informed.
According to him, NATCOM in particular has been providing technical, capacity-building, and resource mobilization support through programme and project interventions with various government institutions including his Ministry.
He said the importance of Access to Information cannot be over-emphasized; hence many international conventions and organs have recognized the inevitability of an effective mechanism for access to public information in a functional democracy.
Since the passing of the law he added, his Ministry has been working assiduously together with partners on the implementation mechanism for the ATI Law.
“The enactment of the law was indeed a profound testament to the commitments of President Adama Barrow and his government to the ideals of democracy, and a conviction that meaningful participation in democratic processes requires a citizenry that is well-informed,” Minister Jammeh stated.
He reiterated his Ministry’s continue partnerships with relevant institutions like UNESCO for the smooth and effective implementation of the Access to Information Law, as well as in many other development interventions.
Information Minister Jammeh commended the Department of Information Services for organizing the training, while equally sending his thanks to UNESCO, through the Gambia National Commission for UNESCO, for supporting the training of Information Officers on Access to Information Law through the ‘Sensitisation and popularization of Access To Information Law using Local Language Techniques’ project, as part of the Participation Programme.
Speaking at the ceremony, the acting Secretary General of NATCOM UNESCO, Mrs. Maimuna Sidibeh said ATI law requires some orientation and capacity enhancement, particularly for Government and other stakeholders, adding that it also requires wider consultations and sensitization.
The overall goal of the training she went on, is to improve Access to Information through the use of the local language to strengthen good governance, democracy, decision-making process, and freedom of expression in The Gambia.
“We intend to create a wider understanding of the ATI law and citizen interaction and utilization of the law to enhance the delivery of strategic information to The Gambian public and also to ensure wider participation in the democratization and decision-making process of the country,” Mrs. Sidibeh explained.
She informed that UNESCO advocates for access to information as a fundamental freedom and a key pillar in building inclusive knowledge societies.
Access to Information, he said, serves as an integral part of freedom of expression and is an important tool for promoting the rule of law, and other rights and building trust.