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Author: Olga Komarova | 27. February 2019

This guide aims to inform the overall process pursued by a committed state toward realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are further divided into 169 targets. These targets are periodically reviewed by examining 230 indicators that serve as oversight mechanisms of progress made in realising each of the goals.

The Agenda addresses challenges facing the world over, such as human rights, the eradication of poverty, enforcement of peace, justice, and freedom, combating climate change, and other pressing topics.

Although the SDGs are not legally binding, commitments are set by UN Member States’ that are then used to hold them accountable. From a national point of view, States are the first parties responsible for implementing the SDGs. Furthermore, the UN also encourages other actors to participate in the process of realising the SDGs, such as civil society organisations (CSO) and the private sector.

SDG 16.10: Public Access to Information & the Right to Information

Right to information and public access to information are directly related to SDG 16, which aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.” More specifically, Target 10 of the Goal aims “to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

Measuring the progress of SDG 16.10

Aa set of indicators has been assigned to assess the progress for each target. Regarding SDG 16.10, two indicators measure the progress made:

    1. Indicator 16.10.1:The number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists, and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months. Here, UNESCO is the UN agency currently in charge of collecting data on the murder of journalists through the UNESCO Director General’s report on the safety of journalists and the danger of impunity. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) collect data regarding trade unionists and human rights campaigners.
    2. Indicator 16.10.2: “The number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory, and/or policy guarantees for public access to information. In the coming future, UNESCO will provide a methodology to States to measure the progress. Moreover, a biennial report will be prepared and published in November 2020. The Secretariat of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) is in charge of its coordination.

OHCHR is the UN agency responsible for coordinating data compilation within the UN system regarding these two indicators.

How to report on progress made?

  • At the national level

States are accountable to guarantee the SDGs’ implementation. They have been called to establish national indicators and national review processes to track improvements. In cooperation with civil society, implementation plans are developed such as the preparation of alternative (shadow) reports.

  • At the international level
    1. Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports 
      Around 40 States each year report to the UN on the SDGs’ implementation progress during the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on a volunteer basis. Here is
      the list of the countries registered to review their progress through VNR process. In order to be prepared for the VNRs, the UN has published a handbook, which recommends to include inputs from civil society groups.
    2. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) reports
      Each year, a global report is prepared by the UN Secretary General to inform about the overall progress made. It is based on data gathered by UN institutions.
      These monitoring mechanisms are discussed during the annual HLPF.

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF)

The HLPF is an annual forum that takes place over eight days in New York City under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The objective is to exchange information and to provide updates about the progress made toward realising the 2030 Agenda. It also includes the High Level Segment (HLS), a three-day ministerial forum, and the HLPF closes with the SDG Ministerial Declaration.

In July 2019, the HLPF review Member States’ progress at realising the following six SDGs: 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17.

Beforehand, preparatory events are being held and organised by the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in which civil society can be involved exclusively by invitation to:

  • Expert Group Meetings related to reviewing the SDGs.
  • Regional Preparatory Meetings.

Here is the list of events taking place before the Forum.

Stakeholders from civil society that have been granted special consultative status with ECOSOC can participate to the HLPF and are able to hold side events.

The role of civil society

Civil society groups can be involved in the SDG process and can advocate to include their contributions in the respective Member State’s VNR and SDGs review process. Bear in mind, however, that there is no formal method for civil society to provide their data to the reports. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the global process in order to participate in an efficient and meaningful way. For example, civil society actors must understand how to be engaged through:

  • The Voluntary National Review Reports

If your State has not volunteered to review, you can launch an advocacy campaign to encourage your country to assess the SDGs, notably by keeping in mind the preparation of the VNR process.

The UN has called for States to conduct open and inclusive reviews. Advocacy actions can be directed towards government to encourage them to take into account civil society voices with regard to achieving the SDGs.

  • The SDG Reports

Based on the UN data system, it could include UNESCO reports but also special mandate bodies.

  • The alternative procedure

Given the fact that there is no formal procedure for civil society groups to be included in the process, multi-stakeholder consultation at the national level should be enforced and be translated into reporting at the international level.

It is relevant to conduct an implementation campaign by building coalitions with CSOs in a given country to ensure that their voices is being heard within the SDG process.

Another way to engage is to hold side events at the HLPF or by launching alternative (shadow) reports. As an example, GFMD launched three pilot projects on public access to information in Serbia, Pakistan, and Tanzania with our local members. Once finalised, these reports will be disseminated to national authorities and used for advocacy during the HLPF.

To increase the opportunity to obtain funding for the project, it is advised to link it to the SDGs.



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