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Sustainable Development Goals

Time to boost people’s participation in Sustainable Development Goals, say UN experts

GENEVA (4 December 2019) – It is critically important for States to ensure the broadest public participation in decision-making about development action that affects them, says a group of UN human rights experts*. In a statement marking the 33rd anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, they urge all States to include everyone in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Their full statement is as follows:

“World leaders have promised to step up their efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and it is high time to put these pledges into action.

As recently as the SDG summit in September 2019, they confirmed their commitment to the 2030 Agenda, pledging to boost local action to speed up the delivery of the goals, and promising to empower and support cities, local authorities and communities, which have a critical role to play.

Immediate action is imperative, not least because implementation of the SDGs is not on schedule. Popular dissatisfaction continues to grow, as evidenced by the large number of protests and demonstrations that have swept more than 30 countries in 2019. People have legitimate grievances, fuelled by income inequality, restrictions on public freedoms and civic space, corruption, dissatisfaction with public services, discrimination and climate change.

One of the main reasons implementation of the SDGs continues to lag behind is that policies and programmes fail to identify and address people’s real needs. If efforts to achieve the Goals are not based on these needs, they cannot succeed.

Those who have been denied the benefits of past development efforts remain marginalised, disempowered and excluded. Women, racial, religious and ethnic minorities, internally displaced people, migrants, people with disabilities and the poor frequently bear the brunt of this marginalisation. Unless we address the inequalities, exclusion and entrenched discrimination these communities face, durable and inclusive development for all will remain elusive.

The right to development entitles every human being and all peoples to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development. Ensuring meaningful participation means more than just consulting individuals and communities. It implies placing them at the centre of decision-making affecting their own development.

The 2030 Agenda makes a tangible link between the right to development and sustainability. Throughout its text, the Agenda reaffirms the key principles of the Declaration on the Right to Development. It recognises the need to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies that are based on respect for human rights, including the right to development, on effective rule of law and good governance at all levels, and on transparent, effective and accountable institutions.

To achieve sustainable results, development must be a holistic process involving everyone who has a stake – from States and international organisations to civil society, academia, the private sector, communities, individuals and marginalised parts of the population. As States have previously agreed, priorities must be set by the people who development should benefit most: communities must set development agendas, budgets and processes.

It is therefore essential to remove visible and invisible barriers that hinder community participation, such as lack of legal identity, high financial cost or social restrictions, to ensure that the whole of society benefits from development.

We urge all States to institute planning processes and monitoring mechanisms that enable everyone to participate. Governments should consult with civil society on economic planning and reforms, and ensure their participation in monitoring the implementation of development policies and programmes.

We also call on everyone involved in development processes, including international financial institutions, donors and private and non-governmental partners, to take a hard look at the ways they ensure participation in their work.

Almost five years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and with only a decade left to achieve the SDGs, it is crucial to ensure that efforts are focused on the real needs of peoples and communities. Only then will no one be left behind.”


*UN experts: Mr. Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Ms Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Ms Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Ms Cecilia Jiménez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Ms Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Ms Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; Ms E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Mr. Obiora C. Okafor, Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms Rhona Smith, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Mr. Alioune Tine, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali; Mr. Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Ms Daniela Kravetz, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights; Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (comprising Ms Elżbieta Karska (Chairperson), Mr. Githu Muigai (Vice-Chairperson), Mr. Surya Deva, Mr. Dante Pesce and Ms Anita Ramasastry); Mr. Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact:

Ms Antoanela Pavlova (+41 22 917 9331 /

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:

Mr Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 /

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter


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