Narrow the gaps! The United Nations is listening

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 The UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is underway at the UN headquarters in New York. Photo: Philip Lee


UN meetings are often bureaucratic. This one has a sense of urgency.

With its rather dull title, the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is taking place in New York 9-18 July 2019. Its theme is “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.

The Forum has been convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with which WACC has consultative status.

Its purpose is to review where we are on six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s Agenda 2030. The six are:

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

 

Undoubtedly, considerable progress has been made in many of the 17 SDGs. Yet, the impetus is slowing and it is clear that much remains to be done.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in the SDGs Report 2018, “With just 12 years left to the 2030 deadline, we must inject a sense of urgency. Achieving the 2030 requires immediate and accelerated actions by countries along with collaborative partnerships among governments and stakeholders at all levels.”

Watchwords at the opening session – attended by delegates from every country in the world and observed by representatives of many civil society organizations – included the climate crisis, the continuing invisibility of some segments of populations, how to secure accurate data for measurability, the need for leadership and good governance, and as always how to guarantee robust financing.

 

Recently, ACT Alliance, of which WACC is a member, commissioned a report on the Development Needs of Civil Society. One of its conclusions was for activists and donors to use the platform provided by SDG 17 on global partnership “to analyse and build a case for civic space as a precondition for achieving the other SDGs.”

 

In WACC’s opinion, this does not go far enough. Delegates at the Forum already sense that equitable access to information and communication is vital to achieving the SDGs. But no one is saying so – yet.

 

WACC has already identified what is missing: SDG 18 “Communication for All”. Its goal is “Expand and strengthen public civic spaces through equitable and affordable access to communication technologies and platforms, media pluralism, and media diversity.”

 

This is a platform that everyone can share and support. It enables, empowers, and transforms. It responds to António Guterres’ plea: “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides… Our future depends on it.”


About the Author

Philip Lee

Philip Lee

Currently WACC Deputy Director of Programmes and editor of the international journal Media Development. Recent publications include Communicating Peace: Entertaining Angels Unawares (ed.) (2008), and Public Memory, Public Media and the Politics of Justice (ed.) (2012).