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There is a strong relationship between the right to information and the development level of a country. The individuals who live in developed countries have many more possibilities in using the right to information than developing countries.
Four fifths of the worlds population still live in the least and developing countries. It seems that these countries that did not solve the main problems are far away from the right to information. In this study, we will try to evaluate the concept of the right to information in the base of the development difference between developed and developing countries.
Table 1 shows us that there are many countries which have not ratified or acceded some major human rights conventions. It means that these countries face the problem of human rights, and consequently the right to information.
Countries that Countries that have ratified have not ratified Convention or acceded or acceded Economic, social and cultural rights, 1966 135 57 Civil and political rights, 1966 136 56 Elimination of discrimination against women, 1979 153 39 Rights of the child, 1989 190 2 Table 1. Ratification status of major human rihts conventions, 1 March 1997 Source: United Nations (1997) Least developed Developing Industrial Countries countries countries Life expectancy (years) 50.4 61.8 74.1 Adult literacy rate 48.1 69.7 98.5 Combined 1st, 2nd and 3rd level gross enrolment ratio 36 56 83 Access to health services (%) 49 80 - GNP per capita (US$) 210 1053 17221 Human development index 0.336 0.576 0.911 Table 2. Regional aggregates of human developmend indicators Source: United Nations (1997)
Two notions of human development can be discerned. One is on the level of the individual, the other on the national level (2). Table 2 shows us the regional aggregates of human development with some basic indicators and draws a profile of human development. Only educated (literate) people can use the right to information. Illiterates cannot use this right even if they need it. Srikantaiah and Dong point out that there is a definite correlation among the number of users of Internet and the GNP and the literacy rate (3). It can be said that there is also a definite correlation between the use of information and the literacy rate. Simply because that information user must be literate.
Ratio of enrolement by level of education by regions is a good parameter for the aspect of national level of the right to information. According to the combined 1st, 2nd and 3rd level gross enrolment ratios in Table 2, 64 % of least developed countries' population and 44 % of developing countries' population are not educated. That means, these countries cannot use the right to information and do not have such a priority. Article 29 describes the aims of education. So one has to conclude that the right to information-or in better terms: the right to access to sources of information-is related to an education aim, and put in a perspective of general education and human development (4).
Another negative situation is the relation of expenditures on education with %GNP. Though, least developed countries spend 3.1% of their GNP to education, this ratio is 3.8 for developing countries and 5.8 % for industrial countries (5). Unless developing (and least developed) countries increase their expenditures on education as much as industrial countries, perhaps much more, it is dificult to realize the right to information in these countries.
There is a meaningful difference in literacy rate between least developed/developing countries and developed countries. While the ratio of literacy is 98.5% for developed countries, it falls down to 69.7% for developing countries and 50.4% for least developed countries. That means half of the population of least developed countries and one third of population of developing countries cannot reach to written information. And it also means that the priority should be given to create the literate society in least developed and developing countries.
One of the basic rights for a person or nation in life is to live healthily. An ill person or a country which has serious health problems on the national level does not need the right to information, as a priority. From the viewpoint of health there is a definite difference between developing and developed countries.
Least developed Developing Industrial Countries countries countries Radios (per 1.000) 96 178 1.018 Televisions (per 100) 2 14 50 Book titles published (per 100.000) - 7 52 Main telephone lines (per 100) 0.3 3.3 40.1 International telephone calls (minutes per person) 0.5 2.5 35.1 Fax machines (per 100) - 0.1 2.8 Internet users (per 10.000) - 1.5 223.2 Personel computers (per 100) - - 14.2 Table 3. Communicate profile. Source: United Nations (1997).
While the ratio of population with no access to health services in least developed countries is 51%, it is 20% in developing countries and less than 5% in industrial countries (6). These ratios show us that least developed and developing countries still have serious health problems. It will not be realistic to expect from a country which has health problems has to solve gives the priority to the problem of the right to information.
When we look at the communications profile of the developing countries and developed countries, (Table 3) it is seen that least developed and developing countries won't have the traditional media in the coming two years to 2000. 822 of 1000 persons do not have television. Book titles published per 100.00 is 7 for developing countries and 52 for industrial countries. Main telephone line per 100 is 0.3 for least developed countries, 3.3 for developing countries, but 40,1 for industrial countries (7). As of 1994 no daily newspapers were published in the 37 least developed and developing countries and their territories (8). The right to communicate is a base for the right to information. In this case, we can say that the right to information is still far away in the least developed and developing countries.
Population/ Public lib. users/ Collection public lib. population (number of volumes) Country numbers (%) (000) Uganda 1.145.611 0.2 82 Canada 6.581 16.0 60.955 Finland 2.851 47.3 36.300 United Kingdom 10.854 57.6 133.134 Table 4. Ratios of public libraries and users Source: Unesco Statistical Yearbook 1996
According to Table 4, the ratio of public library use is 0.2% in Uganda but 57.6% in the United Kingdom. While 1.145.611 people use only one public library in Uganda, there is a public library for every 2.851 person in Finland. According to the collections of public libraries, in the United Kingdom, 2.29 books are per person but one book per 3000 persons in Uganda (11). It is clearly seen that there is a strong relationship between the level of development and the use of public libraries. For the use of public libraries in a country there must be enough public libraries and educational facilities. Development is the foundation which increase the public library use and consequently the right to information.
Library services, and of course the right to information can be thought as a part of the national information policy. However, most of the least developed and developing countries generally do not have national information policies (12). Lack of a national information policy in a country affects library services and the right to information negatively.
We cannot realize the right to information unless we realize other rights we mentioned above. Althought as librarians there are many things we can do, as long as the unequality between developing and developed countries, it won't be a realistic attitude to expect to solve the problem of the right to information only by ourselves.
As a conclusion, we can say that in the 21st century, the least developed and developing countries still won't reach their right to informaton.