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Pact for the Future: Join our call to the UN for robust commitments to access to information, media freedom and public-interest journalism

28. May 2024

The Summit of the Future and the Pact for the Future

Scheduled for September 22-23, the Summit of the Future is a high-level event convened by the United Nations to accelerate the efforts of Member States to meet existing international commitments and take concrete steps to respond to current and emerging challenges.

Central to this event is the Pact for the Future, an outcome document which is currently being negotiated and is expected to be endorsed by countries during the Summit. The Pact for the Future is viewed as a kind of roadmap for development towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals ahead of 2030. The document is organised around five chapters: 1) sustainable development and financing for development; 2) international peace and security; 3) science, technology, innovation and digital cooperation; 4) youth and future generations; 5) transforming global governance.

Two additional outcome documents will be annexed to the Pact: the Global Digital Compact and the Declaration on Future Generations.

Earlier in May, during World Press Freedom Day, numerous UN actors recognised the key role of media and journalists in ensuring citizen access to reliable information, from armed conflicts to other pressing global issues such as the environmental crisis (see here and here). Despite such statements, however, the vital importance of public-interest journalism, media freedom, journalist safety, and access to information often remain overlooked in conversations related to development and cooperation, including in discussions in advance of the Summit of the Future.

Building on past success

We have faced – and risen to – such challenges before. In 2015, the United Nations launched the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Here, the media and journalism community successfully advocated for the inclusion of target 16.10 (ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms) along with two key indicators, one addressing journalist safety and the other access to information. The Summit of the Future now seeks to accelerate achievement of the SDGs – and yet media issues remain largely absent.

The Revised Pact for the Future: small victories

Despite feedback by GFMD and partners during earlier calls for input, the zero draft of the Pact for the Future, released in January, failed to include any reference to media or journalism. Building on the history of advocating for SDG 16.10, GFMD, members, and allies have taken active advantage of numerous opportunities to engage with the Summit of the Future process and advocate for relevant language in its outcome texts. This has included submitting written feedback on draft documents, such as the Pact for the Future, participating in various consultation opportunities (including the UN Civil Society Conference), and forming an informal coalition of partners and allies.

The first revision of the Pact for the Future, released on May 14, included small steps forward:

  • new explicit reference to protecting civic space (Action 11);
  • a commitment to protecting journalists and media during armed conflict (Action 12);
  • the inclusion of respecting the right to freedom of expression while addressing disinformation and misinformation (Action 15).
Advancing the Pact of the Future: join our call

While we welcome these new additions, the severity of the crises facing media and journalists worldwide – and the importance of access to information and freedom of expression in ensuring sustainable development – demand a stronger commitment from UN Member States.

Our joint statement highlights the critical importance of integrating specific, strong language into the Pact for the Future as the key development document for the coming years. By doing so, the UN and its Member States will help ensure that the Pact for the Future reinforces existing commitments on access to information and media freedom and empowers public-interest journalism and resilient information ecosystems to play their vital role in delivering on the promise of a better future for all.

Read the Statement

Your support matters: Sign our statement and join us in advocating for a future where media freedom is safeguarded, journalists are protected, and access to information is upheld as a fundamental right.

Sign the Statement

The next weeks are crucial. From May 28 until July 2, Member States and other stakeholders will be holding further consultations on the revised Pact for the Future, and we need to ensure the additions we welcome stay in the Pact, and the suggestions we urge are included in the next and final draft.

Get engaged!

Our community has demonstrated inspiring commitment in coming together to advocate for the inclusion of freedom of expression, media freedom, journalist safety, and access to information in the commitments included in the Pact for the Future and other related documents.

Now, we must work together to engage with Member States: their foreign ministries, UN ambassadors and representative offices, and other relevant actors as well as with like-minded civil society organisations and media partners.

To support our members and allies in these endeavours, we have created a mailing list in which we share updates, resources, and policy and advocacy tools to engage and advocate for these requests, including at the Member State level. You can join through this link: https://gfmd.groups.io/g/UN or by sending an email to UN+subscribe@gfmd.groups.io.

Other next steps

We continue to seek other opportunities for direct engagement, for example, capitalising on the recent adoption of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Development Cooperation Principles on Relevant and Effective Support to Media and the Information Environment and leveraging relationships with other coalitions, such as the Working Group on Media Development within the Media Freedom Coalition.

Additional resources

Letter from the co-facilitators on the Pact for the Future (May 2024): This letter explains the next steps for the Pact for the Future, including the schedule of additional readings of the revised draft, from May 28 to July 3.  For more information on this process, see also SDG Knowledge Hub, on the revised Pact for the Future (May 2024) as well as the recording of the information consultations held May 15, which explains the process of revisions before the Pact’s zero draft and its first revision.

Rome Declaration 2024: The Rome Declaration is part of a series of civil society calls for action around the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which this year will be held in July. This year’s declaration, which addresses the need to strengthen SDG 16 as part of the Summit of the Future/Pact for the Future, notes the indispensable role of media in achieving the SDGs and the critical importance of upholding media freedom. You can endorse the declaration here.

Call for inputs on stigmatising narratives and implications on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (May 2024):  In her first report to the UN General Assembly, to be presented in October, the new UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association seeks input on how stigmatisation is being used as a tool to silence critical voices. In the context of the Summit of the Future, the report aims to provide strategies for countering harmful narratives to protect and advance global commitments on human rights and sustainable development. The deadline for submissions is 14 June.


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