The Agenda 2030 affirms that democracy, good governance and the rule of law are essential to achieving sustainable development. SDG 16 commits Member States to protect fundamental freedoms (SDG 16.10) and ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making (SDG 16.7). Fundamental civic rights are, however, relevant to achievements across the SDGs, including the SDGs under review (SDG 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17). Not least because fundamental rights such as the freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression provide and protect an enabling environment for civil society (civic space).
Civil society contributes to development through service delivery, holding governments to account, advocacy, shaping public policy, defending human rights, collecting information and evidence, and contributing to global governance. In relation to the SDGs civil society plays a pivotal role in the fulfillment of the commitment to ‘leave no one behind’.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association has identified a number of trends, which currently impact civic space negatively. This include use of legal measures to suppress civic space and limitation of rights during elections; repression of social movements and peaceful protest; stigmatization and attacks on civil society actors and targeting of specific groups; negative impact of rising populism and extremism and obstructions of the digital space.
These trends should raise concern not only for human rights activists around the world, but for all actors who work to towards the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
- Martin Bille Hermann, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations.
- Clément Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association: The importance of democratic freedoms and implementation of SDG 16
- Eugene Owusu, President’s Advisor on SDGs, Ghana: How civil society enabling environment contributes to sustainable development in Ghana
- Naomi Hossain, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies (IDS): Presentation of ACT Alliance/IDS report “Development Needs Civil Society – The Implications of Civic Space for the Sustainable Development Goals”
- ActionAid young civil society representative: Amplifying voices of young women and men for democratic freedoms, SDG 16 and the 2030 Agenda
- Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen, Secretary General, Care Denmark and Chair, Global Focus: Joint CSO-government strategies to counter shrinking civic space globally and methods to achieve SDG 16.
- Lakpa Nuri Sherpa, Environment Programme Coordinator at the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact: The importance of civic space in achieving SDG 16 and the Agenda 2030 with a particular focus on climate action (SDG 13)
- Tim Whyte, Secretary General, MS ActionAid Denmark
- Marie Ottosson, Deputy Director-General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)