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UN Secretary-General: Freedom of Information and Media Needed For New UN Global Development Goals

05 December 2014
Topics: Advocacy, SDGs, Post2015, United Nations, General Assembly, International
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Brussels, December 4, 2014 – The Global Forum for Media Development welcomed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s endorsement today of guarantees for freedom of information and media in the UN’s next set of global development goals.

In his long-waited “synthesis” report on the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, presented to the General Assembly in New York today, the Secretary General states that “press freedom, access to information and freedom of expression” are essential “enablers of sustainable development.” 

The Secretary General’s report urged the adoption in 2015 of the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals proposed by a 70-nation General Assembly working group, which includes a commitment by all countries to ensure public access to information and the protection of “fundamental freedoms” guaranteed by UN human rights treaties.  The proposed goals also include commitments to the complete eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, strong new global environmental protection measures, the elimination of deaths from preventable diseases, and the fulfillment of past pledges on gender equality and universal childhood education.  

“We are on the threshold of the most important year of development since the founding of the United Nations itself,” the Secretary General said in his report today.  

Over the past year, an civil society coalition of national, regional and international press freedom and media development organizations led by GFMD and London-based Article 19 has been advocating for the inclusion of commitments to freedom of information and media in the UN’s new global goals.  

“We have been saying for some time that a free press and open access to information of all kinds are essential to achieving these goals, and it is very encouraging to see that the Secretary General shares that view,” said Leon Willems, GFMD’s chairman.   

The Secretary General’s report today echoed civil society calls for post-2015 commitments to freedom of information and media both as crucial rights-based ends in themselves and as practical necessities for monitoring progress towards all the proposed new goals.  His report noted that the UN’s advisors on the “data revolution” required for tracking and achieving the post-2015 goals     have “underscored the importance of increasing access to quality data, remedying inequalities in the areas of access to information, data literacy, promoting civic space and enhancing the sharing of data and information.”

A free flow of public information and independent debate and analysis in media and civil society would also be required for the Secretary General’s proposed annual “participatory, multi-stakeholder, and, importantly, universal review” of progress towards the new goals, under the auspices of a new “high-level political forum (HLPF)” at the United Nations. 

“Press freedom and access to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association are enablers of sustainable development,” the report says.