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EUPDS Public Discussion Series - Where do we stand on implementing SDG 16.10?

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The European Union Ambassador to Rwanda, His Excellence Nicola Bellomo, delivering his message

Kigali: On Thursday September 20, the Delegation of the European Union to Rwanda hosted another edition of their Public Discussion Series at Impact Hub Kigali. With a view to the upcoming International Day of Universal Access to information, on September 28, the discussion focused on Rwanda’s current and foreseen efforts to achieve SDG Target 16.10 on Access to Information.

The Delegation invited key experts to lead the discussion as panelists. Gonza Mugangwa, Executive Director of the Rwandan Journalists Association (ARJ), Louis Busingye, Program Officer at Human Rights First Rwanda, Berna Namata, branch manager of The East African Rwanda, and Jean-Claude Nyirimanzi, from National Institute of Statistics Rwanda.

The event gathered a mixed audience including government officials, journalists, media associations, bloggers, social media platforms, civil society organization and academics to encourage a comprehensive and far-reaching discussion.

What are the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, articulated under 169 specific targets and 304 indicators, are part of the "Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", subscribed on 25 September 2015, by the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly.

SDG Target 16.10 “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”, constitutes a priority item in Rwanda’s development Agenda and is captured in the Rwanda Access to Information Law and in a number of initiatives aimed at furthering the agenda on access to information.

Opening remarks by the European Union Ambassador to Rwanda, His Excellency Mr. Nicola Bellomo

The floor was opened by the European Union Ambassador to Rwanda, His Excellency Mr. Nicola Bellomo. Mr. Bellomo underlined the importance of access to information to grant development and ensure democratic governance, and highlighted the remarkable progresses in terms of adoption of laws on access to information by a growing number of countries world-wide. Rwanda, reminded Mr. Bellomo, in 2013 has adopted a progressive and comprehensive legislation on Access to information.

The Ambassador stressed the relevance of supporting the implementation of and generating awareness on such legislation. He emphasized the role European Union as a facilitator, providing a platform for public debate on the subject and encouraged the audience to reach out to the EU delegation with ideas to further the agenda on access to information.

He also encouraged to make use of social media, in particular through the #EUPDS hashtag to enlarge the community of people involved in the discussion.

Panel Discussion

Gonza Mugangwa recognized the importance of having an enabling legal architecture, however he stressed that additional efforts need to be made, especially by journalist, to fully harness its potential. This view was supported by Berna Namata, who suggested that the main challenge for effective implementation of the law concerns levels of awareness.

Awareness on and capacity to make good use of the law should be enhanced targeting both sides, on the one hand journalists should be trained on their rights to access information, on the other the “custodians” of information should be knowledgeable about their obligations.

A number of gaps still exist, stressed Namata, and the process of education should be continuous and sustained. Namata also pointed out the common misunderstanding that the law only targets the media, while the actors that as experts could make best use of access to information are from the academia and civil society sectors.

These actors, she suggested, should have a key role in raising the level of awareness on the law. Louis Busingye echoed Namata’s observations, and stressed the importance for civil society organizations across different sectors to work in cohesion through joint programmatic agendas targeting both users, especially in support of the most disadvantaged, and public institutions.

Human Rights First Rwanda have engaged in best-practices sharing activities both with international organizations and with the Government of Rwanda. Jean Claude Nyirimanzi remarked the Institute’s mission to boost the statistical literacy of the country’s general population, beginning from youth.

He provided an overview of key initiatives led by NISR to enhance the capacity to access and make use of statistical information. In 2017 NISR launched the first edition of the Rwanda Data Journalism Award, a competition promoting excellence and creativity in statistical analysis, interpretations and visualization for journalistic reportage. NISR also organizes a yearly Infographic Competition targeting graduate and post-graduate university students. One third key initiative, “Reading Data With Children, targets children between 12 and 17 with the aim of nurturing data-driven from the early stages of learning. This initiative is key to shift from a view of children as passive participants in society to active change agents.

A vibrant and diverse discussion

The audience participated actively, bringing the attention to a number of additional topics, such as the inclusion of people with disability in the agenda for the access to information, for example through interventions to expand the use of sign languages;  the need to extend media coverage to vital issues such as data on gender violence; the relevance of elaborating solid criteria for research and data collection to ensure reliable information; the use of social media as a source of information and how to ensure its reliability and accountability; the importance of intersectoral collaboration among different public agencies to combine data and information  and build capacity for complex, integrated analysis; the issue of access to information, especially scientific, for non English speakers; the need to create enough facilities, including newspapers and radio, to ensure outreach to rural and remote areas.

Future appointments

On the occasion of the EU Climate Diplomacy Week, the European Union and Green Drinks, alongside the Embassies of Germany and Sweden in Kigali, extend an invitation to a night of theatre and discussion.

The event will feature a short drama piece from Mashirika Theatre Company, followed by a panel discussion with audience Q&A and by an environmentally-friendly reception. The event is free and will take place at Urban City Blue Hotel on Tuesday 25 September, 18h. (End)

 

 

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