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International Conference of Information Commissioners 2019

Good morning everyone and welcome to the eleventh International Conference of Information Commissioners.

This is my first visit to South Africa and I’m delighted to be here in your beautiful country.

On behalf of the ICIC Governance Working Group, let me add my welcome: thank you to every one of you for being here today. And on behalf of you all, thanks to Advocate Pansy Tlakula and her team for their hosting of the 11th ICIC.

I see many new faces. People who are joining our group for the first time, with whom I look forward to collaborating and learning from. To you all I say a particular welcome.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. We are a village, with an array of different laws, cultures and responsibilities. We are united in a recognition of the importance of access to information. We are committed to the advancement of transparency, accountability and ultimately to the advancement of democracy.

That’s reflected in the interesting and varied programme Pansy and her team have prepared for us. Themes like transparency and accountability unite us all, and there is much we can learn from hearing the challenges and approaches we each face in our own jurisdictions.

I’m particularly looking forward to hearing more from UNESCO and civil society participants, as we discuss access to information rights as a sustainable development goal. We have a key role in this room in protecting and nurturing those ambitions. We are all so busy with our varied day jobs, so busy with policy detail and complex files, that we do well to step back from time to time and be reminded how important our respective roles are and see the bigger picture.

Collaboration is crucial if we are to work to the very best of our abilities. In 2017, I was honoured, along with my colleagues at the Scottish Information Commission, to welcome the Conference to Manchester. A key conclusion of that event was an acknowledgement that we must make it as easy as possible to share learning and experience between us.

For our conference to have impact throughout the year, it needs a solid structure. For the ICIC to be a recognisable international voice in the Access to Information agenda, it needs capacity. At Manchester, we agreed to dedicate time and energy to develop this capacity through developing a governance structure.

What followed was a year of hard work. We held our first Governance Working Group Meeting in March 2018, we consulted with the broad community of stakeholders, and I’m proud to say that we have come a long way and achieved a great deal since then.

For my information commissioner colleagues, this year’s conference marks the ICIC’s rebirth. A rebirth that will help build the ICIC’s capacity and strengthen our voice in the key debates that matter.

There is no monopoly on expertise in this room. No-one who has more to share or less to learn.

The rights we take for granted have never been so vulnerable. Whether we have mature laws, or new laws, we are all facing the same challenges. And this is why international cooperation is so important. We need resilience and a strong international community to find solutions to our shared challenges.

I am confident that we will come together as a village and find solutions to our shared challenges.

So thank you for coming to South Africa. Thank you in advance for your input and shared expertise over the coming days. And thanks again to our hosts for making that collaboration possible.

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