“DEVELOPMENT” without access to information and independent media is “an absurdity.”

If it is serious about its new sustainable development agenda for the world, the United Nations (UN) must protect and promote access to information, independent media, and government accountability as central principles of its global development agenda after 2015, according to 197 civil society organizations across the world.

In a joint statement coordinated by ARTICLE 19 and the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), the civil society groups said “access to information and media freedom are vital elements for a future development plan.”

“Systems that allow people to hold governments accountable are fundamental to achieving economic growth, social equality, and environmental sustainability,” they added.

The UN is currently working to devise a global development agenda for the period after 2015 — the deadline for state parties to fulfill the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — which will set worldwide priorities for development in the coming decades.

The UN Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals will be meeting in New York this to further discussions on governance.

“It’s crucial that the UN recognise the broad base of support for including media freedom and access to information as essential elements of the new development agenda. Creating open governments is a fundamental prerequisite to ensure meaningful development,” said Thomas Hughes, executive director of ARTICLE 19.

According to Hudhes, “the free flow of information allows people to make informed decisions and participate meaningfully in public discussions about matters that affect their lives… (and) to encourage innovation and creativity.”

“Access to information and a free and independent media,” he said, “are crucial to ensuring governments are held to account for the promises they make and to safeguard development commitments.”

Leon Willems, GFMD chairman, said that with the statement, “civil society groups from all regions of the globe are addressing their representatives at the United Nations.”

“Ignoring the role of media and information in fostering transparency and accountability would be an absurdity while setting goals and target for development for the next decades,” he said. “Access to information and independent media are essential to development.”

The coalition urged the UN to:

• Establish a specific goal to “ensure good governance and effective institutions and

• Include as components of this goal a clause to “ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information” and to “guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data.”

In 2013, a high-level advisory panel that was appointed to advise UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the post-2015 agenda recommended a new goal on good governance for a future development plan.

This goal, the statement said, would include ensuring that people have the right to free speech, independent media, and access to information.

The group’s report (A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development) was welcomed widely for recognizing the vital role human rights play in securing meaningful economic and social development.

“The high level panel made clear that access to information and the transparency and accountability of governments are critical to ensure development. Those recommendations must be made good and be formally incorporated to make to the post 2015 agenda meaningful,” said Hughes.

The full text of the statement signed by 197 civil society organizations from across the globe follows:

Post-2015 Agenda: Access to information and independent media are essential to development Human development in the coming decades will depend on people’s access to information. Groundbreaking new media and technology are enabling major expansion of economic, social and political progress.

We believe that freedom of expression and access to independent media are essential to democratic and economic development. Freedom of speech and the media are means to advance human development and are ends in their own right.

We, the undersigned, therefore call on the Open Working Group to fully integrate the governance recommendations of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons Report (A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development) into the proposed Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, specifically in relation to its recommendations to:

• Establish a specific goal to “ensure good governance and effective institutions” and
• Include as components of this goal a clause to “ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information”and to “guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data.”

To add your organization’s signature, email coordinator@gfmd.info

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