Colombo Declaration

Media, Development and Poverty Eradication, Colombo, 2 May 2006.


We, the participants of the UNESCO-sponsored World Press Freedom Day conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 1-2, 2006: 

1. Recall 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"; 

2. Recognize that the eradication of all forms of poverty must encompass a multi-dimensional human development approach in a number of areas necessary for the attainment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights; 

3. Highlight that freedom of expression is a fundamental right for the promotion and attainment of other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights and that press freedom is part of the agenda for a human rights-based approach to development as elaborated in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals; 

4. Recall the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, which urges the international community to facilitate the empowerment of women; 

5. Recall the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, which commits Member States to promote child participation and inclusion in national media; 

6. Recall the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965; 

7. Reaffirm Resolution 55 of UNESCO’s 33rd General Conference (the Belgrade and Dakar Declarations) finding that independent and pluralistic media are fundamental elements of good governance, human rights-based development and the prevention of violent conflict, all of which are key contributors to poverty eradication; 

8. Recall both the Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005) phases of the World Summit on the Information Society, which affirmed freedom of expression as the first of the four central pillars for creating knowledge societies; 

Unanimously declare that: 

1. Freedom of expression should be made available to all. It requires effective local participation to empower individuals and groups to address poverty, hunger, disease, discrimination, vulnerability, social exclusion, environmental degradation and education; 

2. In order to contribute to poverty eradication, freedom of expression must be recognized as a fundamental right protected through free, independent and pluralistic media; 

3. UNESCO, as lead agency for freedom of expression issues within the United Nations system, should maintain and further policy development and programme activities, acting as a platform for dialogue amongst stakeholders on freedom of expression issues; 

Call on Member States to: 

1. Include press freedom and the development of free, pluralistic and independent media as core components of their strategies for development, poverty eradication and meeting the Millennium Development Goals; 

2. Ensure that those responsible for attacks on media professionals and institutions are investigated and brought to justice; 

3. Develop national policies that address access to, and participation in, information and communication for people living in poverty, including access to licenses and fair spectrum allocation; 

4. Expand the reach of information and communication technologies (ICTs) especially to poor and marginalized populations; 

5. Develop national policies and supportive legal frameworks that enable and encourage community media; 

6. Transform state and government media into independent public service media and guarantee their editorial and financial independence; 

7. Encourage public service broadcasting to address issues related to poverty eradication; 

Call on media outlets, professional associations and media organizations to: 

1. Ensure that the voices of the poor and marginalized are heard; 

2. Be vigilant and steadfast in ensuring the transparency and accountability of public authorities, private enterprises and civil society organizations in the pursuit of poverty eradication; 

3. Work to ensure transparency in the media and combat corruption within the media; 

4. Report incisively on issues of poverty eradication and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and rights-based human development; 

5. Support independent, pluralistic and voluntary professional bodies and associations as vehicles for media development and the defence of press freedom; 

6. Work together to make the case to development institutions that strengthening of media independence is a key element of poverty alleviation; 

Call on the United Nations, the International financial institutions and donor governments to: 

1. Undertake and fund further research into the link between poverty eradication, development of free, independent and pluralistic media and press freedom, as well as disseminate already existing data; 

2. Affirm the crucial role of the media in exposing and combating corruption and take concrete measures to support press freedom in consort with media professionals and other non-governmental actors; 

3. Take a strong public stand when the media’s right to freedom of expression is compromised by national governments or others; 

4. Increase and coordinate their efforts in favour of free, independent and pluralistic media systems through long-term financial support mechanisms, including research, training, capacity building and infrastructural development; 


Invite the Director General of UNESCO to present this Declaration to the General Conference of UNESCO for endorsement and develop a strategy for a concrete plan of action for the United Nations system, governmental and non-governmental donors and civil society partners, following the principles of this Declaration. 

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