UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

06/06/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/06/2019 07:11

Rome conference gets ready for Voluntary National Reports on SDG 16 at forthcoming UN High-Level Political Forum

The July 2019 High-Level political Forum (HLPF) will carry out an in-depth review of SDG 4 (education), SDG 8 (economic growth and jobs), SDG 10 (inequality), SDG 13 (climate change) and SDG 16 (peaceful societies, access to justice, effective and inclusive institutions), in addition to SDG 17 which is considered every year.

In preparation for this, a preparatory conference was co-organized by UN DESA and IDLO with the Government of Italy in Rome on 27-29 May in order to analyze the main challenges in monitoring and implementing SDG 16.

Within this framework, UNESCO was charged to organize a session addressing the specific challenges concerning Target 16.10, which recognizes the need to promote access to information while protecting fundamental freedoms, particularly the safety of journalists. Panelists included ATI expert, Mr. Toby Mendel; Sri Lanka's Information Commissioner, Ms Kishali Pinto Jayawardena; Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Mr Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, and Mr Michel Nussbaumer from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The panel was moderated by Ms Arelys Bellorini, from World Vision International.

During his intervention, Mendel focused on current data collection in 43 of the 2019 VNR countries on indicator 16.10.2 (access to information), for which UNESCO is the custodian agency. 'Some highlights from the assessment point to the fact that the global south is doing better than the north,' he explained. 'There are good standards on access to information, since it is a human right, but progress towards implementation is more difficult to measure', he added.

Jayawardena referred to the transformative impact of access to information laws and its importance for development, empowerment and participation, with particular reference to the case of Sri Lanka, where the law applies to all institutions, without excluding intelligence agencies. 'There are clear linkages between access to information laws and development, including a direct correlation with the decrease of corruption, as many examples in Sri Lanka demonstrate' she said. 'The access to information law has energized rural communities and empowered citizens, who demanded answers from public servants on a range of questions, including budget, public services, etc.' she added.

After addressing other key issues covered by the two indicators measuring Target 16.10, the session led to the formulation of a number of recommendations for action by governments, the United Nations system, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and others, which will be conveyed to the UNHLPF.

Among these recommendations is that governments should respect public freedoms, such as freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, as pre-conditions to meaningful participation in the implementation of all SDGs. There was also consensus that governments should increase efforts in connecting human rights data collectors with the centralized SDG monitoring/collection bodies at the national level. SDG monitoring bodies should request data from human rights institutions and information commissioners in order to ensure that Target 16.10 is properly monitored and ultimately implemented.

At the Rome Conference, UNESCO also pitched two template proposals to help Member States and CSOs track progress in reaching target 16.10. The pitch was followed by a 'learning session' where participants could learn more about the different tools developed to facilitate the monitoring and implementation of SDG 16.