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High-level UN Report emphasises free expression in development

Artist Amritpal Singh shows off his miniature design created for Earth Day, April 2013
Artist Amritpal Singh shows off his miniature design created for Earth Day, April 2013


ARTICLE 19 welcomes the Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda which calls for the new post-2015 goals to drive five big transformative shifts, including effective, open and accountable institutions for all and to recognise peace and good governance as core elements of wellbeing, not optional extras.

"This report is cause for celebration: it recognises the indivisibility of universal human rights and underscores the importance of civil and political rights to development. After decades of artificial, dogmatic distinction between human rights and good governance on the one hand and development on the other, finally, through the high-level UN report, the interdependence of human rights is upheld. ARTICLE 19 is particularly pleased that the High-Level Panel has understood that freedom of expression and information, and transparency are central to the developmental agenda," said Dr Agnes Callamard, executive director of ARTICLE 19 and a member of the expert group set up as part of the Global Thematic Consultation on Conflict, Violence and Disaster and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The report states that freedom from conflict and violence is the most fundamental human entitlement, and the essential foundation for building peaceful and prosperous societies. It goes on to state that: "This is a universal agenda, for all countries. Responsive and legitimate institutions should encourage the rule of law, property rights, freedom of speech and the media, open political choice, access to justice, and accountable government and public institutions. We need a transparency revolution, so citizens can see exactly where and how taxes, aid and revenues from extractive industries are spent. These are ends as well as means."

In a statement following publication of the report, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and member of the high level panel Tawakkol Karman writes that: "The three key innovations of this report, compared to the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, are its recognition of: (1) civil and political rights, combined with transparent and accountable public institutions, as intrinsic to development; (2) the role played by active efforts to promote peace in generating inclusive and sustainable growth; and (3) the need for urgent action to enhance the ability of women and youth to take part in the transformation of their societies."

The high level report proposes 12 "illustrative goals" including ending extreme poverty, and ensuring gender equality, health, food security and access to clean water. Significantly, unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the panel recommends a new goal on good governance which includes several important targets that ARTICLE 19 and other human rights, development and civil society groups have been arguing for:

* Ensure that people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information

* Increase public participation in political processes and civic engagement at all levels

* Guarantee the public's right to information and access to government data

The report further recognises that: "People everywhere want more of a say in how they are governed. Every person can actively participate in realizing the vision for 2030 to bring about transformational change. Civil society should play a central, meaningful role but this requires space for people to participate in policy and decision-making. This means ensuring people's right to freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information."

The report also calls for a "data revolution for sustainable development", which emphasises the collection of information on development and making that information available to citizens, based on "new technology, crowd sourcing, and improved connectivity to empower people with information on the progress towards the targets."

"The High Level Panel's human rights approach may prove challenging to some and its recommendations may be contested. It is now up to UN Secretary General to exercise the same enlightened leadership and strongly endorse the High Level Panel recommendations," continues Callamard.

ARTICLE 19 believes that freedom of expression and access to information are crucial to achieving sustainable development. The free flow of information strengthens mechanisms to hold government to account for their promises, obligations and actions. It increases the knowledge base and participation within a society and secures external checks on state accountability, curtailing corruption.

In 2010, ARTICLE 19 convened a high-level meeting of officials and civil society which produced the London Declaration for Transparency, the Free Flow of Information and Development setting a comprehensive agenda towards the integration of these rights for development. Over the last ten years, ARTICLE 19 has been running projects around the world, working with civil society organisations to use access to information to ensure better access to a range of services, including to sexual and reproductive health, or to water and to fight corruption. Since 2012, ARTICLE 19 and its partners on the Civic Space Initiative, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the World Movement for Democracy have advocated for a recognition of the role of civil society in the development agenda, including the post-MDG agenda.

The High Level Panel, made up of 27 leaders from across the world, was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in July 2012 to propose a new framework for development after the Millennium Development Goals end in 2015. It is co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. Since its creation, it has held a series of public consultations in New York, London, Bali and Liberia with officials and civil society. The report has been submitted to the United Nations Secretary General who will officially present it and make his own recommendations to the General Assembly at the next session in September.

Click here for the Joint submission of the International Center for Not-for- Profit Law, ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the World Movement for Democracy, as consortium members of the Civic Space Initiative.

Download the full UN report:
un_post_2015_development_report.pdf (3226 KB)

Download the London Declaration for Transparency, the Free Flow of Information and Development:
london_declaration_transparency.pdf (213 KB)

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