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Civil Society, Rights Groups Call for Greater Transparency in Fight Against Poverty

  • Joe DeCapua

Next month, the United Nations meets on the status of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The target date for the goals, which address such things as poverty, health and development, is 2015. The September U.N. meeting will look at how much progress has been made toward achieving them.

Wednesday, a number of civil society and human rights groups called on governments to make a stronger commitment to transparency in the fight against poverty.

Sejal Parmar, senior legal officer for the group ARTICLE 19, says the groups have sent a letter to the ambassadors responsible for coordinating the U.N. High Level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs.

“We think that the 2010 summit happening in New York is an exceptional opportunity to take stock of the international community’s commitments on the Millennium Development Goals. And we believe very strongly that access to information and transparency are crucial to ensuring that the MDGs are achieved,” said Parmar.

Transparency International, the Carter Center, CIVICUS, the International Budget Partnership and Publish What You Fund have also signed the letter to the U.N. ambassadors.

Poverty

The groups have placed an emphasis on poverty in reaching the MDGs.

“The issue of global poverty is a human rights issue,” Parmar says. “It concerns such economic, social and cultural rights as the right to food, the right to housing, the right to water. And as an international human rights organization… we think that human rights are indivisible.”

She says the MDGs “overlap very significantly with economic and social rights,” adding, “We think that we can promote economic and social rights… through… the enabling rights of free expression and the right to access to information.”

Access to information and transparency are needed, she says, “because they promote better governance, better accountability of states who are seeking to achieve the MDGs targets.” She says they also help fight corruption and increase citizen participation in a country’s development efforts.

2015 target date

With the target days for the MDGs just five years away, how much progress has been made? Over the past year, there have been a number of assessments saying some goals are much closer to being achieved than others. Parmar would agree.

“The failure to achieve the MDGs as a whole and individually so far is not because they are unreachable or because the time is too short. But it’s really because of a lack of political will and commitment and, crucially, a lack of focus by international leaders and also accountability of the international leaders by the public,” she says.

She says the groups will consider the September U.N. meeting a success if there is “at least a clear and unequivocal commitment on the part of the international community to access to information and transparency as essential to the achievement of the MDGs.”

They also want what she calls “timely, credible and desegregated information on public resources expended to achieve the MDGs.”

ARTICLE 19 takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

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