President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama addresses UNESCO on #AccessToInfoDay
An audience of 100 participants enjoyed UNESCO’s advance commemoration of the new International Day for Universal Access to Information in an event held in Paris on 26 September. The event, dubbed #IPDCtalks, saw a dozen dynamic speakers making links between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the issues of information, media and ICTs.
In the keynote closing address, Ghana’s president HE John Dramani Mahama, said that open societies offered more sustainable progress to sustainable development than open ones.
“Information empowers people and as much info as possible on the SDGs should be made available to citizens,” he added.
The President urged media to go beyond political coverage to include issues such as gender equality and climate change.
Heralding Ghana’s media free and pluralistic landscape, he quipped: “In Ghana, we have 27 million presidents who know how to do my job and they say so on radio.”
The President expressed the wish to complete the process of passing Ghana’s freedom of information bill, so that the public had a legal basis to demand information. After his speech, a bilateral meeting was held with UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova (see below).
Earlier the UNESCO Director-General opened the IPDCtalks saying that “access to information is a fundamental human right, it is part of what makes us human, it is a foundation for good governance”. She called for the information revolution to be a development revolution.
Remarks were also made by Frank la Rue Assistant Director General for Communication and Information at UNESCO. “Access to information is no longer only the basis of democracy but is also now seen as the basis of sustainable development,” he affirmed.
During the day, many speakers gave vivid descriptions of the challenges that ordinary people faced in the areas of the SDGs, bringing to light the role of awareness-raising about the UN’s new development agenda.
Organizer of the event was the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), in association with the Information for All Programme (IFAP). Support came from the delegations of the Netherlands and Lithuania.
In an innovative format, each speaker appeared on a spot-lit stage individually, telling stories about their work. Their experience ranged from promoting information about menstruation to education policy makers, through to the role of videogames in supporting literacy for Syrian children unable to attend school.
In the process, they covered SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 13, dealing with poverty, hunger, health, water, innovation, cities, climate change, growth and jobs. The speeches will be posted on online for further dissemination.
The Day’s proceedings included the launch of exhibitions by Sweden and Finland, marking the 250 years since their shared history gave the world the first freedom of information act.
UNESCO’s 195 Member States approved 28 September as International Day for Universal Access to Information in December last year. The step came in response to calls from African civil society and media groups.
Nigeria, Morocco and Angola initiated the resolution which won support from the other Member States for proclaiming the new day on the international calendar.
In a bilateral meeting held in the context of the #AccessToInfoDay, the Director-General of UNESCO and the President of Ghana discussed issues of migration of stability and violent extremism in the Sahel Bert. The Director General informed about her recent visit to Sahel, while the President of Ghana underlined the impact of climate change in the region, with the lowering of rainfalls causing migration towards the south, and fights between warlords and farmers. Both emphasized the need to strengthen capacities of governments to implement the Sustainable Development Agenda, both a development issue and an imperative for peace.
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