7 May 2014

Africa: Unesco Conference Urges Inclusion of Free Expression in Post-2015 Development Goals

A world conference convened by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has adopted a Declaration highlighting the contribution of free expression to contemporary democracy, sustainable and human rights-centred development and economic growth.

Adopted yesterday at conclusion of the international conference convened at UNESCO's Paris headquarters to mark World Press Freedom Day, the Declaration calls for freedom of expression, press freedom, independent media and access to information to be fully integrated into the sustainable development agenda that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) next year.

World Press Freedom Day, designated as May 3rd in 1993 by the UN General Assembly, was marked over the weekend in about 100 countries and UNESCO held the international conference, "Media Freedom For a Better Future: Shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda", from 5 to 6 May in Paris. More than 300 participants from almost 90 countries took part in the deliberations, including several Permanent Delegations to UNESCO.

The Declaration adopted by the conference makes a link between the free expression issues and good governance, which is a foundation for development. Its call will feed into the major effort under way throughout the UN System to achieve a new development agenda to succeed the landmark MDGs. Those targets, agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, aim to slash extreme hunger and poverty, cut maternal and infant mortality, combat disease and provide access to universal education and health care, all by the end of 2015.

The Declaration specifically urges the UN Open Working Group (OWG), the body that is drafting the post-2015 sustainable development framework, to include free expression as part of a good governance goal, as recommended by the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons.

The conference document further encourages UNESCO member States to support these proposals at OWG meetings. It calls for the OWG to recognize the importance of universal access to information and communication technologies and for Governments to make available "comprehensive, reliable, accurate and accessible information related to the development agenda" as part of the sustainable development gaols.

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