GPD has responded to a call for input on the upcoming thematic report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which will focus on freedom of opinion and expression and sustainable development.
In our submission, we examine how the right to freedom of opinion and expression can directly contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We also provide analysis on how various challenges to freedom of expression and access to information in the digital environment can negatively impact progress on sustainable development, particularly with respect to the inclusion, participation and empowerment of women and girls, as well as other marginalised groups.
In addition to these challenges and trends, we provide a number of recommendations for states, companies and civil society to promote and protect freedom of expression and advance sustainable development.
Key recommendations include:
- States should take appropriate measures to promote affordable, reliable and secure access to the Internet to facilitate the full enjoyment of human rights and achievement of the SDGs. States should also undertake efforts to address the digital divide and digital gender gap outside of their jurisdictions, particularly in regions with less economic resources.
- States should condemn the abuse, harassment and targeting of journalists by state and non-state actors, particularly journalists from marginalised identities, including women. They should publicly reaffirm that such acts hinder their ability to exercise freedom of expression and make progress on sustainable development goals.
- Companies should take a rights-based approach to their activities (whether expanding access to the internet or creating a safe, enabling online environment). They should continue to provide tools to ensure safety online, including through encryption or other means of providing protection for all online users.
- Civil society organisations, including human rights organisations and sustainable development groups, should enhance their cooperation on issues relating to freedom of expression and SDGs because they are often engaging on the same issues, albeit from a different perspective. Enhanced coordination would bolster their ability to promote freedom of expression and sustainable development.
The thematic report will be presented to the Human Rights Council at the 53rd session, in summer 2023.