No Progress Made by UN On SDG Access Target 16.10

29 October 2015

The access to information and free expression section (16.10) of the Sustainable Development Goals was given short shrift in a just-concluded United Nations meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, held to start developing measurements of the 169 specific SDG targets, according to Bill Orme, who represents a coalition supporting 16.10.

The next step is to develop indicators to quantitatively measure progress on the development agenda.

“Yet the UN just yesterday concluded its most recent and penultimate negotiations on SDGs indicators without even discussing this target,” reported Orme, the UN representative for the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)

“Without civil society and media pressure, they may never do so,” according to Orme. “There is a real risk that political objections disguised as technical critiques will keep any meaningful indicators from being assigned to SDG 16.10 when official measurements for the new goals are selected early next year,” he said.

Supporters of 16.10 were “strangely silent as the UN officials running the conference limited debate on all ten Goal 16 governance and human rights targets to just one hour, and ruled out any discussion of either of the two SDG 16.10 indicators recommended by UNESCO, the World Bank and other agencies and supported by the NGOs that have been most focused on this topic in the `Agenda 2030’ deliberations.,” according to Orme.

He reported further:

The UN’s reasoning? It’s rather circular. There was no debate allowed on SDG16.10 this week because, UN officials contended, there is no member state consensus of support even in principle for the indicator now proposed for measuring the protection of “fundamental freedoms.” And the separate proposed primary or corollary indicator for “ensuring public access to information” was not ever submitted by the UN for member-state evaluation at all.

Now that discussion may never take place, and relevant measurable indicators may never be chosen, unless key member states … insist on it.

Time is running out. The next meeting of the UN group on SDGs indicators will be its last, in March. By then, the indicators will have already been selected, behind closed doors and on restricted UN websites, and submitted for final endorsement. Getting access to information about this new UN commitment to access to information is getting increasingly difficult.

GFDM has endorsed a UNESCO proposal for two indicators on 16.10. UNESCO’s proposal for measuring progress towards this potentially historic SDG target would monitor both the “adoption and implementation” of legal guarantees of public access to information and the protection of press freedom and other human rights.

See Orme summary article on 16.10. See report on 16.10 measurement alternatives.

Target 16.10, states that all countries pledge to:

ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

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