The Right to Know: A Global Goal

hands holding a globe

In a statement released today, the Center for Effective Government joined nearly 200 organizations from around the world in calling for the right to know to be enshrined as a global goal for sustainable development efforts.

Our statement calls on the United Nations’ (UN) Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals to put forward a goal for countries to “ensure good governance and effective institutions” and to “guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data.” The working group, which was established by the UN General Assembly to design a set of global goals for sustainable development, is meeting this week to discuss governance and rule of law.

Global goals

The framework for the sustainable development goals is modelled after the Millennium Development Goals. Adopted by UN member countries in 2000, the Millennium goals set global, 15-year targets on topics such as reducing poverty, improving health, and strengthening environmental sustainability. With 2015 approaching, work is now underway to prepare a new batch of goals, which are likely to include ideas developed through the working group.

In June 2013, a UN panel of global dignitaries recommended that a future development agenda include goals on strengthening governance and right-to-know. Our statement endorses those recommendations. According to the dignitaries’ report, the 2000 goals fell short by not including “the importance to development of … open and accountable government.”

Similarly, in September 2013, the UN Development Group released the results of its consultations with more than 1 million people around the world. In the survey, the global public consistently voted “an honest and responsive government” as one of their top issues. The report notes, “Accountability and transparency, underpinned by international human rights standards and principles, are essential for ensuring that development is sustainable and responsive to people’s needs.”

The long road toward transparency

Months of further negotiations are expected before UN member countries agree on a set of global post-2015 goals. Today’s statement expresses our hope that delegates will heed the recommendations of world dignitaries, civil society, and the global public by committing to the goal of making the world’s governments more transparent.

At the Center for Effective Government, we believe that open, accountable government is a vital element for reducing poverty and safeguarding the environment around the world. Setting a global goal for transparency could bring more attention to the issue here in the United States, including greater monitoring and scrutiny of government decisions that increase or decrease transparency. As we’ve seen with the Open Government Partnership, the U.S. will not want to fall behind a rising standard for government openness.

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