Imagine – the UN was closed on Saturday! We’ve just got our #motorsforchange up to cruising speed, so we used our time wisely — with the promise of a memorable jazz session later in the evening at the famous “Showman’s” in Harlem.
We were treated to some great Saturday workshops! Even though we wish cloning was possible so we could attend more events at once, we had to make a choice: attend the SDG16 and Justice: National Civil Society Advocacy Workshop at the World Vision International or Citizen Accountability and inclusion in the Voluntary National Reviews at the UN Church Center. We decided to split into two groups and exchange impressions later.
SDG16 and Justice: National Civil Society Advocacy Workshop took place at World Vision International’s offices, not far form the UN, was organized by the Transparency, Accountability and Participation Network. There were numerous shared experiences and many challenges were brought up regarding the Goal 16.
The SDG16 Advocacy Toolkit (available for download) was presented at the session, and aims at Capacity Building as an important level in pursuit of the SDGs. It provides top level guidance for engaging with Goal 16 at the national level, developing advocacy plans around Goal 16, working with international processes and various other stakeholders and many other tools and tips.
Apart from general announcements and information, several interesting cases were highlighted. One of them included the UNDP Commission in Palestine that was formed with the aim of developing aid strategy and explaining that only a tiny part of population in the country has access to legal aid. Hundreds of citizens do not have legal representatives and private lawyers were too expensive. If they chose the latter, poor individuals just become poorer, selling whatever they owned. But without representation, they received longer sentences because they didn’t have anyone to stand by their side.
This story, and the UNDP strategy, did not work out. They had to determine a different strategy which included working with Government as it was their task to secure the right to legal aid for everyone. This change is pending at the moment, but has put a lot of pressure to the Bar association.
One of the most impressive presentations came from Colombia by Philip Schonrock, CEPEI, who first made a funny intro – he said that he just got off of plane and was happy to join us, even with small eyes :). More importantly, Philip talked about visualizing data and presented one of the best data websites Data Republica, which was created with a view to increasing transparency in the ecosystem.
Many governments do not see Goal 16 as a priority, especially if it serves to throw a light on corruption. This is the case for Portugal, as explained by Susana Duarte Coroado from Transparency International. The Portuguese government included only a paragraph which states that Portugal agrees with international agreements which allegedly makes everything ok.
In reality, it is quite the opposite: there is a lot of high-level corruption, money laundering, and no mechanisms to control the money flow. It is quite common for certain individuals to own numerous real estate properties such as the Angolans building. While the SDGs could make a difference in such situations, governments tend to look at them merely as an external policy perspective.
So, we have been hearing about SDG 16 extensively for the past two days. As librarians who are interested in the UN 2030 Agenda already know, this goal includes target 16.10 “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”. This made us think – why did none of the organizations that participated in the discussions think of librarians or library associations as potential partners? And so we asked.
Eyebrows lifted, but also hands of those who wanted to comment. The bottom line is that it had never occurred to them. As we spoke several times during the discussions, they remembered us, the fierce librarians, as we managed to clarify some of the points regarding libraries and their role in the SDGs, especially the access to information which is more available than they ever thought.
We also used the opportunity to announce the upcoming report on Development and Access to Information #DA2I by IFLA and handout postcards so they remember to look it up on Monday, July 17th.
All in all, good workshop!