The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 29 September 2023.
This page provides statements following the IDUAI global conference at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford.
Oxford statement on importance of access to information and digital connectivity
The Global Conference to celebrate the International Day for Universal Access to Information was organised by UNESCO and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. It took place at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, on 28 September 2023. The conference participants recognised the importance of the online space for access to information, and agreed the following:
- we reaffirmed the importance of digital connectivity and the free flow of, and access to, information as a vital means to support an open international community that upholds stability, security, rule of law, prosperity, and promotes sustainable development
- we reaffirmed that human rights, as protected by the international human rights framework, are applicable online just as they are offline. Access to information, including through the Internet, is widely recognised as an enabler of a broad range of human rights, and that access to information includes accessibility for persons with disabilities
- we reaffirmed the importance of an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, safe, secure and sustainable Internet. We recognised the vital role of a multi-stakeholder approach to counter the growing, global challenge of Internet shutdowns and restrictions
- we reaffirmed the importance of free and fair elections to the integrity of a democracy. The free flow of information through the Internet is a crucial means to enable full and inclusive participation in elections. We welcomed the potential of technology, including a responsible use of Artificial Intelligence, to empower engagement in the electoral process
- we recognised the vital importance of access to information in supporting the democratic process, including enabling institutions to discharge their commitments to individuals and communities, which can deepen inclusion and strengthen accountability
- we affirmed the vital role the online space offers everyone, irrespective of gender, to exercise their right to participate fully and effectively in public life – economically, socially, and politically. We rejected the increased use of divisive narratives and gendered disinformation to undermine women’s political participation, polarise and weaken democratic institutions
- we recognised the vital role the independent media plays in facilitating access to information, often through the Internet. Too often shutdowns go hand in hand with attempts to restrict press freedom, silence debate and spread mis and disinformation. We welcome UNESCO’s efforts to support the capacity building of judges, prosecutors and other judicial operators aiming to guarantee that their decisions, including regarding internet freedom and access to information, are aligned with International Human Rights Law
- lastly, we welcomed efforts by the international community, including UNESCO; the Freedom Online Coalition; the Taskforce on Preventing Internet Shutdowns; the Media Freedom Coalition; the Open Government Partnership and the International Conference of Information Commissioners. These partners and others, play an important role in supporting free-flowing information and digital connectivity, including by preventing internet shutdowns, defending a free and independent media, tackling disinformation, and supporting access to information
Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said:
We want all citizens to exercise their rights armed with transparent and trustworthy information. The internet and independent media have a powerful role in supporting democracy to thrive. This is why the UK is at the forefront of efforts to support media freedom, counter politically motivated internet shutdowns and tackle disinformation – all of which are serious threats to democracy.
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Jelassi said:
Internet accessibility is crucial for bridging the digital divide, ensuring equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status. Limited internet accessibility, such as slow or unreliable internet connections, can create inequities, particularly for marginalized communities or remote areas with limited internet infrastructure.