Ensuring the Right to Information in the War-Setting in Ukraine

A presentation of the results of monitoring and a training event on ensuring rights to information under martial law were held in Ivano-Frankivsk with the support of UNDP.

December 21, 2022
Illustration: Shutterstock

Ivano-Frankivsk, 21 December 2022 — In the war-setting, having timely access to reliable official information is of critical importance. In addition, the right to information is one of the key rights that ensure development of a democratic society, integrity and broad public participation in decision-making.

With the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine and the Government of Denmark, a number of events dedicated to ensuring the right to information in the war setting were held in Ivano-Frankivsk for representatives and officials of local self-government bodies in Zakarpattia, Lviv, Volyn and Ternopil Oblasts. During the events, UNDP experts presented the results of monitoring of access to information in 2022 and conducted training based on these results. During the presentation, Tetiana Oleksiiuk, UNDP Expert on Access to Information, noted that the volume of citizens’ communication with authorities had increased under martial law.

During the event, Yuliya Derkachenko, the Ombudsperson’s Representative for Information Rights, emphasized that the introduction of martial law revealed certain gaps in Ukrainian laws on access to information and it is important that these be eliminated.

"Among the most pressing issues remain ensuring prompt access to information of significant public interest, such as right to life, health, freedom and security. These include information related to the adoption of legal measures by the martial law regime and to restrictions of human rights," she added.

Oleksiy Kabanov, UNDP expert on observance of information rights, noted that the experience of more than nine months of war shows that simple tools such as the ability to submit a verbal request or a request by phone and quickly get an answer can save lives and preserve the health of many persons.

"This year monitoring was intended to identify problems related to observance of informational rights by information holders at oblast level, and to provide recommendations for their elimination under the conditions of martial law," he noted.

“The monitoring results demonstrate that the administrators of public information – namely public authorities and local self-government bodies – should make efforts to ensure citizens’ right to information in crisis situations. A person’s fateful decisions and trust in public institutions often depend on receiving complete, timely and reliable official information,” noted Ms Oleksiiuk. 

This year’s monitoring of access to information assessed, inter alia, the quality of public information published on the official websites of administrators, as well as responses to the citizens’ information requests and appeals under the effective restrictions resulting from the imposition of martial law.

The monitoring results showed that during martial law, citizens’ need for communication with the authorities is increasing, and this requires strict compliance with the requirements of the legislation on citizens’ appeals and access to public information currently in force, as well as increasing the level of awareness of all designated officials.

In particular, the monitoring revealed that in the war setting, telephone often becomes the only means of communication for citizens. Therefore, administrators of public information should have telephone lines to receive oral information requests and appeals from citizens.

The monitoring results also demonstrate an urgent need for harmonization of approaches to the publication of official information on administrators’ websites, to ensure its completeness, relevance and navigational accessibility.

General information:

Since 2019, UNDP in Ukraine and the Government of Denmark have regularly supported monitoring in the field of access to public information, carried out with the participation of the Secretariat and regional offices of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. This year’s monitoring addressed new challenges in the field of access to information related to the war, systemic problems and their solutions.

The monitoring was supported by the Human Rights for Ukraine Project, which is being implemented by UNDP in Ukraine and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark in 2019–2023. The opinions, conclusions and recommendations laid down in this publication belong to its authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, UNDP or other United Nations agencies.