Access to information and transparency


Transparency, accountability and reliability have become universally recognized key operational principles for the good governance of public administration in general, and social protection systems in particular.

Transparency refers to the requirement that public bodies disclose information and records of their operations, accountability means that processes should be in place where the public can raise concerns or file complaints about the operations of the bodies executing the government operations and reliability entails that public bodies comply with the rules and regulations laid down for their operation. Without adequate capacities and resources, it is impossible for any public administration to respect these good governance principles.

Under international human rights law, access to information is a right (see, for example, ICCPR, Article 19; African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 9; American Convention on Human Rights, Article 13; and European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 10). Consequently, human rights monitoring bodies have also noted that social protection systems must ensure the right of individuals and organizations to seek, receive and impart information on all social security entitlements in a clear and transparent manner (see, CESCR General Comment 19 para 26. See also A/HRC/11/9 pp. 8-17; and A/HRC/14/31 pp.11-19).

The ILO Recommendation No. 202 particularly refers to “transparent, accountable and sound financial management and administration” (para. 3(j)) and includes a number of important elements in this regard. For example, when formulating and implementing national social security strategies, it stipulates States should raise awareness about the strategies and put in place information programmes (para 14. (f)). ILO R202 also specifies that national social security strategies should be formulated and implemented on the basis of national consultations through effective social dialogue and participation (para. 13). Other ILO’s instruments also stress the importance of participation (see Articles 71 and 72 of ILO Convention 102 (1952) on Social Security (Minimum Standards) set out similar requirements).



Photo credit: “Farmer with his mobile phone in Bihar, India” by International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).

Expert Commentaries

The Need for Transparency: Designing Rights-Based and Accountable Social Protection Systems

A human rights-based approach to social protection requires transparency, accountability and accessibility to be an integral part of the design of policies and programmes. However, policy makers often do not consider whether social protection programmes enable or hinder human rights; focusing instead on issues such as cost effectiveness, distributional impacts and work incentives. In a […]

Protecting the Right of Access to Social Security Benefits

States must ensure the right to social security for all without discrimination of any kind. Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Article 26 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child oblige States Parties to take effective measures, within their maximum available resources, to fully realize […]

The Role that Civil Society can Play in Ensuring Accountability in Social Protection Programmes

Civil society and accountability in social protection programmes The experience of the last 20 years suggests there are four obstacles to ensuring accountability in social protection programmes. The first obstacle has to do with social protection’s contested status: is it a right or only a service or a favour? Despite international legislation about social protection […]

A Rejoinder to ‘Pro-Poor and Pro-Development Transparency’

Charles Lwanga-Ntale, Africa Regional Director at Development Initiatives

Pro-Poor and pro-Development Transparency Laws and Policies

Issa Luna Pla, Researcher at the Legal Research Institute at National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

The role of civil society in keeping vigil over the human rights implications of states’ social protection policies, programmes and activities

Letlhokwa George Mpedi, Vice Dean and Director at the Centre for International and Comparative Labour and Social Security Law at the University of Johannesburg


Ensure Transparency and Access to Information

Element (5) of the Framework for Human Rights-Based Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Social Protection Programmes

Legal Instruments

Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters  was adopted on 25 June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus (Århus) at the Fourth Ministerial Conference as part of the “Environment for Europe” process. It entered into force on 30 October […]

Legal Cases

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in India

 Summary:  In January 2012, up to 53 women underwent a sterilization procedure in Bihar, India, at a sterilization camp managed by an NGO which had been granted accreditation by the District Health Society, apparently without following any formal, transparent process. The women had not been given any counseling regarding the potential dangers and outcomes of […]

Access to information about beneficiaries to ensure social accountability of state decisions

Summary: CIPPEC (Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento ) has been denied access to information concerning the beneficiaries of subsidies and social cash transfer programs in 2006 and 2007. The Supreme Court considered that accessing such data has a clear public interest, since it enables social accountability on how competent public […]


Behavioural Insights in Poverty Reduction Policies

This Policy Research Brief presents some elements that should be carefully considered in the design of policies and programmes to overcome poverty, based on evidence from the field of behavioural economics. A growing number of international experiences point to the fact that, in many situations, government policies and programmes suffer from compromised results and wasted […]

Your social security rights in Austria

This document explains the social security entitlements for all persons in Austria.

Social Security Governance: A Practical Guide for Board Members of Social Security Institutions in Central and Eastern Europe

This guide aims to promote social dialogue on social security reform and to encourage reforms that are well matched to national conditions while consistent with the standards for minimum adequacy, inclusiveness, and democratic governance embodied in the ILO social security conventions. Link to this page

Good Governance Guidelines for Social Security Institutions

The good governance guidelines seek to provide ISSA member organizations with guiding principles and practical guidelines on good governance. The guidelines begin by defining, for the first time, what ISSA means by “good governance”. The governance framework that underpins the guidelines aims to give the user an overview of the range of internal governance issues […]

Social Protection and Human Rights