Implementation of SDG 16 - Adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information – was one of the topics discussed during an online high-level meeting on 15 July 2021, focusing on how to forge resilient public institutions on the African continent.
Dr Hala El-Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development of Egypt, Saitote Torome, Principal Secretary at the State Department for Planning of Kenya, Hon. Obeth Kandjoze Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia and Dr Francis Kai-Kai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development of Sierra Leone agreed that the unprecedented sanitary crisis of Covid-19 has tested the resilience of their countries’ institutions and proved the need to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to ensure Africa’s future.
Good and inclusive governance is an imperative for our future”. Accountable institutions are a key tenant for sustainable development.
Speaking for UNESCO, Jaco du Toit confirmed the importance of governments providing reliable information, especially in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. As he pointed out, access to reliable information is also “essential to allow citizens to take part in the public debate, be part of the decision process and engage with policy makers”.
UNESCO is the custodian agency for SDG indicator 16.10.2. and monitor and report on the adoption and implementation of constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information. In 2021, 129 UN Member States have adopted legal guarantees on Access to Information. Freedom of expression and ensuring the safety of journalists is also a prerequisite to ensure access to reliable and verified information.
The event was also an opportunity for countries to share their initiatives in building resilient societies. In Sierra Leone for example, the passing of the Right to Access Information Law in in 2013 has showed how freedom of information can contribute to democratic societies and inclusive governance. It also reported in its Voluntary National Review (VNR) on access to information and its role to leave no one behind. Namibia provided a good example of creation information centers during the COVID-19 pandemic as a measure to inform the public on COVID-19 related issues.
The International Day for Universal Access to Information which will take place on September 28 will be a good opportunity to further explore the importance of access to information laws and their implementation to build back strong institutions for the public good and sustainable development.
The online high-level meeting was organized by United Nations Development Programme and APRM – African Peer Review Mechanism (a mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded by African Union Member States as an African self-monitoring mechanism). Ms Caroline Makasa, Acting Director General at the SDG Center for Africa, concluded by highlighting the importance of monitoring SDG implementation and remarked that “the struggle continues and we have to leave no one behind”.