Time to boost people’s participation in Sustainable Development Goals, say UN experts

GENEVA (4 December 2019) – It is critically important for States to ensure the broadest public participation in decision-making about development action that affects them, says a group of UN human rights experts*. In a statement marking the 33rd anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, they urge all States to include everyone in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Their full statement is as follows:

“World leaders have promised to step up their efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and it is high time to put these pledges into action.

As recently as the SDG summit in September 2019, they confirmed their commitment to the 2030 Agenda, pledging to boost local action to speed up the delivery of the goals, and promising to empower and support cities, local authorities and communities, which have a critical role to play.

Immediate action is imperative, not least because implementation of the SDGs is not on schedule. Popular dissatisfaction continues to grow, as evidenced by the large number of protests and demonstrations that have swept more than 30 countries in 2019. People have legitimate grievances, fuelled by income inequality, restrictions on public freedoms and civic space, corruption, dissatisfaction with public services, discrimination and climate change.

One of the main reasons implementation of the SDGs continues to lag behind is that policies and programmes fail to identify and address people’s real needs. If efforts to achieve the Goals are not based on these needs, they cannot succeed.

Those who have been denied the benefits of past development efforts remain marginalised, disempowered and excluded. Women, racial, religious and ethnic minorities, internally displaced people, migrants, people with disabilities and the poor frequently bear the brunt of this marginalisation. Unless we address the inequalities, exclusion and entrenched discrimination these communities face, durable and inclusive development for all will remain elusive.

The right to development entitles every human being and all peoples to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development.  Ensuring meaningful participation means more than just consulting individuals and communities. It implies placing them at the centre of decision-making affecting their own development.

The 2030 Agenda makes a tangible link between the right to development and sustainability. Throughout its text, the Agenda reaffirms the key principles of the Declaration on the Right to Development. It recognises the need to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that are based on respect for human rights, including the right to development, on effective rule of law and good governance at all levels, and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions.

To achieve sustainable results, development must be a holistic process involving everyone who has a stake – from States and international organisations to civil society, academia, the private sector, communities, individuals and marginalised parts of the population. As States have previously agreed, priorities must be set by the people who development should benefit most: communities must set development agendas, budgets and processes.

It is therefore essential to remove visible and invisible barriers that hinder community participation, such as lack of legal identity, high financial cost or social restrictions, to ensure that the whole of society benefits from development.

We urge all States to institute planning processes and monitoring mechanisms that enable everyone to participate. Governments should consult with civil society on economic planning and reforms, and ensure their participation in monitoring the implementation of development policies and programmes.

We also call on everyone involved in development processes, including international financial institutions, donors and private and non-governmental partners, to take a hard look at the ways they ensure participation in their work.

Almost five years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and with only a decade left to achieve the SDGs, it is crucial to ensure that efforts are focused on the real needs of peoples and communities. Only then will no one be left behind.”


*UN experts: Mr. Saad AlfarargiSpecial Rapporteur on the right to development; Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyersMs Koumbou Boly Barry,Special Rapporteur on the right to educationMs Hilal ElverSpecial Rapporteur on the right to foodMr. Clement Nyaletsossi VouleSpecial Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and associationMr. Michel ForstSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms Urmila BhoolaSpecial Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequencesMs Cecilia Jiménez-DamarySpecial Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Ms Agnes CallamardSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;Ms Fionnuala Ní Aoláin,Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism;Ms Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilitiesMs Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family membersMs E. Tendayi AchiumeSpecial Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;Mr. Livingstone SewanyanaIndependent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international orderMr. Obiora C. OkaforIndependent expert on human rights and international solidarityMr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental healthMr. David KayeSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;Ms Rhona Smith,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in CambodiaMr. Alioune Tine, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in MaliMr. Javaid RehmanSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of IranMs Daniela Kravetz,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in EritreaMr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or beliefMr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky,Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rightsWorking Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (comprising Ms Elżbieta Karska (Chairperson), Mr. Githu Muigai (Vice-Chairperson), Mr. Surya DevaMr. Dante Pesce and Ms Anita Ramasastry); Mr. Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somaliaand Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro,Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Statement marking 33rd anniversary of UN Declaration on Right to Development