UN Special Rapporteur Invites Stakeholders to Make Inputs into Thematic Report on Freedom of Opinion, Expression and Sustainable Development

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Ms Irene Khan
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ms Irene Khan is inviting Member States, national human rights bodies and other relevant State institutions, international and regional organizations, civil society, scholars and other interested individuals and organizations to provide written inputs for her next thematic report on freedom of opinion and expression and sustainable development.

The inputs will inform the Special Rapporteur’s thematic report to be presented at the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council, from June to July 2023.

Ms Khan also hopes that her thematic report, with valuable input from governmental, non-governmental and corporate stakeholders, will be used in the lead up to the 2023 Sustainable Development Summit in September 2023, to encourage discussions on concrete ways in which human rights generally, and the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression in particular, can advance the Agenda on Sustainable Development and related issues.

At the Summit, UN Member States will review achievements at the mid-way point of the Agenda and discuss ways to reach the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The thematic report will highlight the critical relevance of freedom of opinion and expression to sustainable development. It will analyze concrete opportunities and challenges of freedom of opinion and expression in the context of sustainable development as well as the international legal and policy framework and progress or gaps in implementation. Drawing lessons from good practices and concrete examples, the report will make recommendations to address the challenges.

Building on the previous work of this mandate on gender justice, digital technology and media freedom, the report will focus on the right to information online and offline as a means of enhancing transparency and accountability of governments and companies; the equal and full participation of poor and marginalized communities in sustainable development; and the role of the media in promoting sustainable development. Drawing inspiration from SDG 5 and in line with the commitment of the Special Rapporteur to gender equality, the report will take a strong gender perspective.

The Special Rapporteur would appreciate inputs that include observations, data, case studies and concrete examples of challenges, opportunities, good practices and recommendations relating to freedom of expression, including the right to information, in the context of sustainable development in the following areas:

  • Transparency, accountability, and the fight against corruption and misuse of resources in the public and private sector;
  • Equality, inclusion, participation and empowerment of women and girls, indigenous communities and other poor and marginalized groups;
  • The role of independent media and investigative journalism in promoting sustainable development and the barriers, threats and challenges they face;
  • Policies and practices of digital technology companies in promoting sustainable development and reducing inequalities in access to information and communications.

The following questions have been provided as a guide for making inputs, please note that it is not necessary to answer all questions.

  1. In your view, how does the right to freedom of opinion and expression contribute to the achievement of the SDGs? Please provide examples, where possible, with concrete data relating to impact. Please also mention relevant laws, policies and other measures.
  2. Are there restrictions or other challenges to freedom of expression or access to information that affect the delivery of public services and achievement of economic, social and cultural rights in your country? Which groups of people are most affected by these restrictions and in what ways? What measures would you recommend to address their problems? 
  3. What factors affect the right to expression and information of women and girls, indigenous peoples and other poor and marginalized communities and their access to information and communications technology in your country? What legal, policy or other measures has the government taken to overcome these problems? How effective are these measures and what improvements would you recommend?
  4. What have digital companies done to promote safe and uninterrupted online access to timely and pluralistic information and communications of women and poor and marginalized communities? How can information and communication technology companies better engage with governments and communities to promote sustainable development?
  5. What laws, policies and practices exist in your country to facilitate public participation and access to information and data relating to sustainable development? Where have there been successes, or conversely challenges, with facilitating access to information and data relating to sustainable development in relation to a) governments and b) companies?
  6. What role does the media play in promoting sustainable development in your country? What challenges and threats do journalists face in accessing public information or reporting on or criticizing development policies?
  7. What laws, policies and other institutional measures exist in your country to protect investigative journalism and whistleblowing? How effective are they and what further measures should be taken to protect journalists and whistleblowers? Where possible, please provide concrete examples of investigative journalism or whistleblowing related to sustainable development, e.g. exposure of corruption or misuse of natural resources.
  8. What do you believe are the key issues in relation to sustainable development in addition to or instead of the bullet points above that deserve attention by this mandate? Do you have any specific recommendations that you think the Special Rapporteur should make in her report?

Additional supporting materials, such as reports, academic studies, and other types of background materials are welcome and may be annexed to the submission. 

All submissions will be published on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) website unless there is a request to keep them confidential. 

Submissions should not be more than 2,500 words and in MS Word, or PDF formats. Accepted languages are English, French, and Spanish.

Inputs should be mailed to hrc-sr-freedex@un.org, “Input for the report on FOE and sustainable development” should be included in the subject line.

The submission deadline is February 3, 2023.