Renata Lok-Dessallien, United Nations Resident Coordinator in India
(Speech as prepared)
Honourable Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Gehlot,
Dignitaries on the dais,
Representatives of the Government of Rajasthan and civil society,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The first thing that strikes me about the unmitigated potential of this great state is the following: in terms of population, Rajasthan is bigger than Australia and Canada put together. I don’t have to tell you what this means in terms of its impact on our common global trajectory of development, or the world’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is why I am especially encouraged by Rajasthan’s leadership and ownership of Agenda 2030 within the state, through the institutionalization of the goals in the government’s vision, including the establishment of a centre for SDG Implementation, and through its many focused initiatives on inclusive and sustainable growth and remarkable achievements in the renewable energy sector.
For me, one of the core foundations of development, of any definition of development, is democracy – and a core aspect of democracy is ‘Jan Soochna’ – a transparent and accountable government, answerable to an informed public aware of its rights.
I extend my congratulations to the Government of Rajasthan, and to the Honourable Chief Minister, for the launch of this important initiative today.
The Jan Soochna portal is a critical breakthrough in optimizing service delivery, certainly, but also in strengthening the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in the state.
This is the first initiative, anywhere in India, for the proactive disclosure of information within RTI, at the Panchayat level, and across 21 schemes.
I want to express my appreciation for the process behind the creation of this portal, and for the leadership and voices of Rajasthan’s civil society.
A critical, but often overlooked, aspect of initiatives to strengthen accountability, is ease of use. I have seen the interface of the portal, and I am impressed by its simplicity, ease of access and navigation. This is a portal which anyone can use, and that is what makes it democratic.
It also speaks to the potential of India’s innovations in fueling a rights-based discourse on development. Technological digital innovation is not just about optimizing service delivery or the digitization of records. It can be the means to link people with their fundamental rights to information, access, and dignified lives.
In our collective efforts towards Digital India, this initiative serves as an important example of how the wisdom and needs of ordinary citizens can combined with the mandate of the government. More practically, it is a good example of how the RTI Act can be strengthened everywhere.
The scale of our global interconnected challenges is massive: the impact of climate change on the livelihoods of those who are most marginalized, the alleviation of extreme poverty and inequalities, improving access to healthcare and sanitation, and strengthening democracy through quality education, the empowerment of women, social justice, and digital innovation.
India today is standing at the threshold of an unprecedented opportunity – 3 billion people are working together to build not only one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but also one of the world’s leading voices on climate action, sustainable development, and social inclusion.
And much of this work is happening from the bottom up, through the voices and efforts of people, the civil society, and the stakeholders of growth.
The Jan Soochna portal (literally, People’s information portal) is, to me, really, a Jan Aandolan (people’s movement), towards the full attainment of Agenda 2030.
I will conclude by reiterating my confidence in India’s progress on sustainable development as the key to global progress. If India achieves the SDGs, the world will achieve them.