Today is International Right to Know Day, which promotes the right to access of information and to an open government.
From restaurant hygiene to MPs’ expenses, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have given the public greater knowledge with which to navigate the modern world and hold elected officials to account, but do perceptions of corruption linger, damaging people’s trust in the country’s institutions? Transparency International is a global body that seeks to rid the world of corruption, for the betterment of all. Here we explore what the charity has to say about the UK and the rest of the world.
Transparency International has over 100 chapters in countries around the globe, with their international secretariat stationed in Berlin. Its UK arm, Transparency International UK, is a registered charity that looks to relieve poverty and distress caused by corruption around the world and promote ethical standards for institutions, to the benefit of the wider public.
The charity believes it can make a ‘material difference’ to corruption wherever it occurs in the world. Its seven-step ‘Theory of Change’ begins with the very harms of corruption itself, and ends with the results they seek to achieve: Greater transparency, integrity of people and institutions, and seeing those without it (the corrupt) being held to account.
Transparency International uses its own definition of corruption to aid in its work:
the abuse of entrusted power for private gain
Its UK branch’s #TransparencyMatters campaign is focussed very much around this definition, with the campaign looking to put a spotlight on private meetings between the government and lobbyists, such as AstraZeneca and BAE Systems. Between them, Transparency International UK reports, they held 21 meetings with ministers over the course of just three months in 2014.
Not to let other nations escape its attention, Transparency International also publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index every year. Last year’s Index listed the UK as one of the least corrupt countries on Earth, coming in 10th out of 176 countries and with a score of 81 out of 100 . Other countries listed include China and Malaysia, in 79th and 55th place respectively, and also Venezuela, in 166th place and with a score of just 17. The most corrupt country listed was Somalia with a score of 10.
International Right to Know Day, celebrated every year on the 28th September, was formulated at an FOI litigation conference in 2002, attended by representatives of FOI organisations from 15 countries.
Commenting on the importance of International Right to Know Day, Research Manager for Transparency International UK, Steve Goodrich, told the Wessex Scene:
Information is power, which if left in the hands of a small few becomes open to abuse. Maintaining the public’s right to know is a bulwark against authoritarianism and an essential weapon in the fight against corruption. This is why Transparency International supports this incredibly important day and fights for the public’s right to know all over the globe.
This year, the Wessex Scene is hoping to make use of Freedom of Information requests to bring articles to students on such topics as drink-spiking incidents, profits from halls of residences, and more. Our own university has dealt poorly with FOI requests in the past, to say the least, but our readers can rest assured that we will be working to hold the university to account.