India - Capacity Building for Access to Information
Primary thematic focus: Sub-national capacity development: local solutions, national strengths
In a Nutshell:
Subsequent to the enactment of Right to Information legislation in 2005, UNDP with Government of India initiated to build capacities of stakeholders at all levels. Piloted in selected districts across India, the initiative was later up scaled. Project built models and institutionalized mechanisms for capacity building for RTI.
Government of India enacted the Right to Information legislation in 2005 and recognized access to information as a key development issue, because it has the potential to empower the citizen and equip them to participate meaningfully in the development process. UNDP played a crucial role in the formative phase of this legislation. Later, the UNDP collaborated with Department of Personnel and Training of the Government of India for ‘The Capacity Building for Access to Information Project’ aimed at building capacities for effective implementation of the Act. It had a comprehensive approach by enhancing the capacities f government officials as information providers, of citizens as information seekers, and a range of other stakeholders to facilitate the sharing of information.
The project tried to strengthen and institutionalize mechanisms for improved government – citizen interface, and pave way for the operationalization of Right to Information by means of consultative processes for consensus building, and through research and advocacy efforts. All these were organized at a time when the concept of Right to Information and the systems required were relatively weak in the country. The project was implemented in two districts each in all the states of India (except one) from 2004 to 2009. Implementation arrangements were to suit the different stakeholders at the National, State and District and sub-District level. There were various agencies included in this process at each levels with defined roles and responsibilities. Centre for Good Governance and Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration were the National Implementing agencies for the project. The project was piloted in 12 States for the initial two years and based on the success, extended to other 16 States. The project had a multi-pronged strategy for building the capacities of a range of information providers and seekers.
The elements of this strategy were:
1. Strengthen existing institutional capacities at all levels
2. Undertake training and sensitization of government officials at all levels by means of modules development, innovative training techniques, and sharing ideas and best practices
3. Review business processes and information management systems to facilitate sharing of information
4. Provide platforms for broad-based deliberations on specific rules under the Act
5. Media campaigns to create and sustain awareness amongst general public
6. Design for a and processes for enhanced citizen-government interface as well as institutionalized mechanism for addressing citizens’ feedback It found that institutionalizing collaborative and strategic partnerships is the cornerstone of the capacity building strategy and thus building strategic relationships followed by institutionalization was the key to the success of the project.
Project built strategic partnerships between Governments at various levels, Civil Society Organizations, Central/State training institutions, academic and research institutions, private sector and media. The project had training programmes, research and improvement of the modules, mass awareness campaigns, information fairs and information audit. Information fairs are open houses for citizens to seek information from government agencies at state and District levels. There were also advocacy and dissemination initiatives through sensitizing and disseminating information to key stakeholders through distribution of the copies of legislation, user guides and manual sin local languages, seminars, advocacy workshops and multi stakeholders workshops involving key stakeholders at national, State and District levels. The project in it is later stages piloted new approaches in building capacities of people belonging the disadvantaged and marginalized groups (Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes) to access information. A dynamic online database of information officers, appeal officers etc was created on a pilot basis for one State.
Results and Critical Factors:
The most important aspect of the initiative was the magnitude itself where a large cross section of the stakeholders from through out the country were included and their capacities to address the challenges in the operationalization of a rights based legislation, which itself was new to the country.
The specific achievements are listed below:
• The project was able to build capacities of stakeholders from supply and demand–side so that operationalization of Right to Information is achieved. Nearly 1,00,000 participants were trained under the project, including over 8,100 resource persons and trainers.
• A bank of Right to Information manuals and guidelines were developed. These found usage across all States and institutions across the country. The bank provides guidelines for public information officers (as per the legislation, every office should have one person designated for this), media, civil society organizations and citizens.
• Almost all States have translated the Right to Information Act and manuals and guides into the local language (States in India were formed based on languages prevailing in each locality) and 350,000 copies have been circulated across different States.
• Mass awareness campaigns were undertaken in all the States through different medium. This includes the distribution of 320,000 pamphlets, brochures and posters, advertisements on radio and television, kala-jathas (street plays and cultural troupes), roadshows and puppet shows.
• Project could establish an online knowledge and networking hub on Right to Information website www.rti.org.in. This provides a breadth of information and networking opportunities for RTI practitioners and citizens.
• An e-Learning module on the provisions of the RTI Act was developed.
• A directory of case laws and compilation of best practices in RTI were developed.
• An international consultation on Right to Information Acts, Procedures and institutional arrangements was also held.
As a follow up of this project, the Government of India has scaled up project activities based on the success of the project and used the lessons learnt to design a new centrally sponsored scheme – Strengthening, Capacity Building and Awareness Generation for effective Implementation of the right to Information Act.
Name of Primary Contact Person: Sumeeta Banerji
Title of Primary Contact Person: Assistant Country Director, Governance
City: New Delhi