Greater accountability of governments must be at the heart of the UN’s post 2015 development agenda

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Thomas Hughes

07 Feb 2014

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This week, nearly 200 civil society organisations from around the world have signed a joint letter coordinated by ARTICLE 19 and the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), calling on the United Nations (UN) to put government accountability and independent media at the centre of a new framework for global development.

The statement coincides with a meeting of the UN Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals in New York, which will include further discussions on governance.

The UN is currently working to devise a global development agenda for after 2015, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, which will set worldwide priorities for development in the coming decades.  In the statement 197 organisations - from 77 countries across all 5 continents - say access to information and media freedom are vital elements for a future development plan.

Access to information is vital for development. When we know the scope and size of development challenges, we can properly design and target development initiatives for those most in need. When public authorities allow their citizens access to the information they hold, communities can actively engage in decisions that affect their lives and are able to hold governments to account.

Our work in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil and Senegal show that when people are able to access information, they can take active steps to hold those in power to account and demand fundamental rights, including the right to education, health, environmental protection, the right to water and maternal health.

 Media freedom is also crucial. An independent media increases the accountability of those who hold power and can safeguard development. The media provides a crucial service, informing the public and facilitating popular participation through open debate, engaging the people at the heart of development. 

 A lack of information about development targets is widely considered to be a significant factor in the failure to meet previous millennium development goals. We need to act now to ensure the new development agenda includes measures that will improve access to information and the accountability of governments, so that the new development agenda can deliver real results for real people.

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