“Universities are sisters of freedom,” noted Mr. Marco Antonio Zago, Rector of the University of São Paulo in a keynote speech at the opening session of Global Media and Information Literacy Week 2016.
This profound truth was retransmitted at the Global MIL Week 2017 Feature Conference in Jamaica where the six-year progress report of the Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) Network was unveiled.
“This vision must never be allowed to die, never!” said Professor Esther Hamburger of the University of Sao Paulo, the outgoing Chair/Lead (2016/17) of the MILID Network as she presented the report.
She passed on the baton to the Co-Chairs (2017/18), Dr Paulette Kerr and Dr Paulette Stewart of the University of the West Indies.Birth of a vision
At a time when academic freedom is at risk in many parts of the world, collaboration and setting up consortiums for change needs a rebirth. The vision and dream of the UNESCO University Twinning Programme (UNITWIN) are thus renewed.
That vision is to stir cooperation among university from different parts of the wolrd in connection with knowledge for sustainable development. All 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) and their indicators are of relevance here. Two are foregrounded here in connection with the MILID Network, SDG 4, Quality Education and SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
The MILID network is a conduit that affords youth and adults a with critical information and media competencies for quality education.
It also responds to the need to increase peoples’ critical awareness of access to information, their own communications power in this regard, and their fundamental freedoms through enabling their information and media literacy.
It was with this foresighting of how media and information literacy (MIL) can be a sustainable response to contemporary opportunities and challenges that six years ago the UNESCO-UNAOC UNITWIN Cooperation Programme on MILID was born.
UNESCO and UNAOC combined our individual but shared vision with that of several universities. Many partners and beneficiaries are now reaping the fruits of this cooperation.
It started with eight universities representing each region of the world. Since then, the network expanded to include 19 full members and 21 associate members around the world.
Some of the issues the MILID Network has addressed have proven to be at the heart of contemporary opportunities and challenges: promoting gender, race, cultural and religious diversity, the right to privacy, exposing misinformation, and disarticulating hate speech.
This global agenda suggests that MILID will be strategic in the coming years.MILID Yearbooks – focus on MIL as tool for positive change
Every year since 2013, UNESCO collaborates with UNAOC and the International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media at NORDICOM to publish the MILID Yearbook series, tackling various subjects related to MIL and intercultural dialogue.
This research and knowledge base has promoted global awareness, influenced policy and expressed a variety of MIL experiences taking place around the globe.
The focus of various volumes bring to light localized MIL experiences in the following topics: MIL and Intercultural Dialogue (2013), Global Citizenship in a Digital World (2014), MIL for the Sustainable Development Goals (2015) and MIL: Reinforcing Human Rights, Countering Radicalization and Extremism (2016).
The MILID Network under the leadership of UNESCO formed the backbone for the Global MIL Week Feature Conference. To broaden the reach and impact of MIL initiatives, UNESCO initiated the Global Alliance on Partnerships for Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL) in 2013.
The MILID Network was incorporated into GAPMIL as its research arm but maintains its distinctive mandate.
Besides engaging in the activities of the network, participation in the network gave impetus to other MIL-related activities in universities that already had organized research groups dedicated to the subject.
“National MIL-related associations are becoming active in many countries. It is through movements like these that increased awareness of the importance of MIL will be achieved,” said Alton Grizzle, Programme Specialist, UNESCO.Become a MILID member
However, we still have a long road ahead. MIL is still not firmly planted on the international development agenda.
Unlike Global MIL Week that has grown each year, the diffusion of MIL at the national level has been riding the highs and lows of different waves connected to social challenges.
Presently, MIL is buoyed by public concerns about fake news, hate speech and violent extremism. However, do we need crises to justify the necessity of MIL as an integral part of literacy and education in general?
The annual Global MIL Week is designed to entrench MIL as a permanent action on the international development agenda. This year’s celebration took place from 25 October to 1 November 2017, under the theme “Media and Information Literacy in Critical Times: Re-imagining Ways of Learning and Information Environments”.
The theme could not have been more poignant. Its Feature Conference, the Seventh Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) Conference was organized in Kingston, Jamaica from 24 to 27 October 2017. The University of the West Indies, Mona was the host.Close to 100 celebration events around the globe
As a major occasion for stakeholders worldwide to celebrate and advance the achievements and progress towards “MIL for all”, UNESCO encouraged its partners to plan and organize local events online and offline.
This year, the message of Global MIL Week was transmitted across borders, mountains and communities with 97 celebration events around the globe from 40 countries, covering all the regions of the world. This made it the biggest Global MIL Week ever since its first edition in 2012.
Despite lack of resources, stakeholders in Africa and the Caribbean have strived to organize over 15 local events. Many of them have expressed their strong willingness to be part of stimulating MIL awareness notwithstanding the difficult financial situations they were facing.
In Trinidad and Tobago, an online news organization mobilized their staff members to run around the town of Chaguanas in T-shirts that marked “MIL” in order to sensitize the citizens on MIL.
See all the global events on the event map: https://en.unesco.org/datasets/event/27607/map.Creating knowledge together on MIL
In parallel with the satellites events, the Global MIL Week Feature Conference assembled close to 200 participants from over 40 countries in Jamaica. They explored how they interpreted ways of educating citizens about MIL in all types of environments. They shared their experience, good practices, knowledge and recommendations for future actions.
It also served as an important platform to strengthen international multi-stakeholder cooperation and partnerships on MIL. The participants were representatives of governments, media, libraries, broadcasting unions, universities, international organizations, and NGOs etc.
Many stakeholders are willing to sacrifice to realize the vision of MIL society. One young woman spoke of how she quit her job to follow her vision by starting an NGO. That vision is to empower youth through information. The demands for the services of the NGO have grown rapidly through the years.
Collaborative knowledge to ensure the great impact of MIL on peoples’ lives cannot happen without diverse stakeholders’ inputs. The Feature Conference demonstrated the vision for a marriage between actions on the side of information, libraries, media, and technology, to ensure that a holistic approach to MIL is taking root.
For the first time, organizations like the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the International Association of School Librarianship, the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries, the Jamaica Library Service contributed to Global MIL Week and committed to put their hands to the sledgehammer needed to dismantle the mountain blocking MIL for all.Youth as leaders
As was the case of the previous edition, the Global MIL Week 2017 Feature Conference kicked off with the Global MIL Week Youth Agenda Forum, an event designed by youth and dedicated to youth.
The Youth Agenda provided an opportunity for young people, youth organizations and leaders, especially youth from the Caribbean region, to get involved in Global MIL Week; it put an emphasis on the role of youth leaders to promote critical civic engagement via MIL.
The Youth Agenda gathered close to 250 local and international youth leaders from over 10 countries. These include social media influencers, young entrepreneurs, leaders of youth organizations, local young journalists and students, shared their life experience related to MIL, as well as their understanding on MIL.
Among many memorable life stories told by the young speakers, Adama Lee-Bah, a young woman from Gambia passionately shared her story of how she became a MIL activist in a radio station in her teenage years, and encouraged young boys and girls in Gambia to learn MIL to change their lives. She started her study in New York and has been steadily pursuing her dream while shouldering the responsibility of being the Chair of the Youth Committee of the Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL).
One key outcome of the Youth Agenda is the MIL CLICKS Pact, which is a self-commitment to engage in critical thinking and influencing their peers in this regard online and offline. It was crafted in dialogue with the Youth Committee of GAPMIL.
People who embrace the MIL CLICKS Pact are invited to fill in this simple form and commit to be a MIL CLICKer.
See more on the outcome of the Youth Agenda here. Information about the GAPMIL Global MIL Award 2017 is available here. Follow UNESCO website for a report that will outline the key recommendations that came out of the Global MIL Week Feature Conference.
A new UNESCO publication launched during the eight World Science Forum in Jordan on 9 November provides a series of tools to integrate, monitor and evaluate gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The publication ‘Measuring Gender Equality in Science and Engineering: the SAGA Toolkit’ was developed as part of the project “STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA)”, a global UNESCO project supported by the Government of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
The SAGA Toolkit is not only intended to assist policy-makers in the design of gender-sensitive and evidence-based policies, but also aims help them evaluate gender-related Science,Technology and Innovation (STI) policy coverage and strengthen national gender policy agendas in STI. In so doing, the SAGA Toolkit establishes a new basis for evidence-based policy-making in STI by setting standard definitions and classifications to address the gender gap in STEM more effectively.
The SAGA Toolkit is part of the SAGA methodology on measuring gender equality in science and engineering described in a series of working papers, freely available on the SAGA project website.
Currently, only 28% of the scientific research and workforce worldwide are women. The SAGA project is helping countries in reducing the gender gap and promoting girls’ and women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Today, the tools are being piloted in several countries and institutions across the world. A final version of the methodology is expected at the end of 2018.
A new map of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves shows the current distribution of all biosphere reserves around the world, including the 23 new sites that were added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2017. The Network currently includes 669 sites in 120 countries, including 20 transboundary/transcontinental sites.
The map is available in English, French, Spanish, and German and also includes an overview of the objectives, tasks and structures of these areas. Biosphere Reserves are learning places for sustainable development whose aim is to reconcile biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. New sites are designated every year by the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, which is composed of representatives of 34 elected UNESCO Member States.
The world map was prepared by the UNESCO-MAB programme with the generous support of the National Commissions of Austria, Germany, Luxemburg and Switzerland to UNESCO.
In one reported case from Tanzania, a woman attempting to press an identified suspect with allegations of rape faced only indifference among municipal authorities. When local leaders demanded a bribe in exchange for the arrest of the suspect, Dodoma FM, one of the stations involved in UNESCO’s project, took up the story. They publicized the woman’s ongoing struggle until the district commissioner was stirred into action. Dodoma’s coverage of the scandal resulted in the arrest of the perpetrator of the crime, as well as punitive measures taken against the three local leaders accused of blackmail.
Gender-sensitive training helps radio staff identify and cover relevant stories, but the interest to remove harmful stereotypes in pursuing these issues is coming from local reporters. “I’m interested in gender-sensitive reporting because gender equality levels are low and more knowledge is needed. Training helped me to report on stories dealing with gender violence and child marriages in ways that can improve the situation in the community,” said Ayo Rebecca, a reporter from Radio Apac FM in Uganda, during a workshop organised by UNESCO.
Even in hard-to-reach areas, local radio stations are creating awareness and broadcasts are sounding out favourable responses in the community. At the gateway to Virunga National Park, Dorika FM in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is receiving strong local support for its programs dedicated to positive action that can contribute to greater social independence and empowerment among women. The broadcasts have been so well-received as to result in the creation of a listener’s club and NGO that in turn supports and promotes the topics of the program.
Social perceptions and tolerance for gender-based violence, especially that occurring domestically, are significant obstacles faced in tackling this problem. Gender issues and their solutions require action that targets both men and women in order to change the social landscape that facilitates such behaviour. “Targeted radio programs have the capacity to challenge masculinity norms and the unfortunate tolerance for gender violence, as shown by Radio Ijwi ry’Umukenyezi (RIU) in Burundi,” said Mirta Lourenço, UNESCO’s Chief for Media Development.
RIU created a dedicated gender unit in their station to monitor the content of broadcasts and host awareness programs. They advocate positive behaviour amongst men and women that promotes intolerance for gender violence and disrepute for perpetrators. The program has been popular enough in the community that listeners’ groups have been formed and grateful residents have even begun to support the station by supplying RIU with water free of charge.
Aside from evoking support from the community, local radio stations are targeting duty-bearers and holding them accountable to the responsibilities of their office. Tumbatu FM in Zanzibar, Tanzania is bringing gender-based violence and the role of authorities to the forefront of social discussion through their programs. Broadcasts stressed the importance of intolerance and the necessity for reporting incidents to the local authorities rather than resolving the issue within the household. As a direct result of the awareness spread, the police have established gender desks at local stations where residents can receive information and report gender-based crimes.
To confront the issue of gender violence further, national policy can contribute in several ways through the creation and development of media regulatory bodies, as well as the promotion of media literacy amongst boys and girls to understand gender equality challenges and stereotypes. UNESCO’s “Empowering Local Radio with ICTs” project (https://en.unesco.org/radioict/), supported by Sweden, is one such international initiative that is giving priority to gender in media, improving media access and control and supplying the tools to radio staff to make positive change in their communities.
The importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women have increased to become leading priorities in both developed and developing countries as nations strive to remove the social and economic disparities between men and women. To combat the cycle caused by gender misrepresentation in media, UNESCO has also created Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (GSIM) to promote gender parity and women empowerment in all forms of media, as in line with the UN’s SDG 5. By addressing the significance of this issue, countries can help advocate for autonomy and the fair treatment of women, such as reducing the social tolerance for gender-based violence.
Read more about UNESCO’s work on Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media here.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has denounced the killing of journalists Alaa Kraym, known as Mohammed Al Qabouni and Mohamed Abazied, also known as George Samara, in Syria.
“I condemn the deaths of journalists Alaa Kraym and Mohamed Abazied,” said the Director-General. “I call on all parties to the conflict in Syria to protect the safety of journalists and respect their civilian status, in keeping with the Geneva Conventions.”
Alaa Kraym, alias Mohammed Al Qabouni, was killed on 4 May while covering fighting in Qaboun, a suburb east of Damascus. He had been working for the Qaboun Media Center, the Syrian Media Observatory and the Syrian Revolutionary Forces’ media office.
A reporter for satellite television Nabd Syria and Syria Media Organization (SMO), Mohamed Abazied, aka George Samara, died on 12 March while covering the war in the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa.
The Director-General of UNESCO issues statements on the killing of media workers in line with Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO Member States at the Organization’s General Conference of 1997, entitled “Condemnation of Violence against Journalists.” These statements are posted on a dedicated webpage, UNESCO condemns the killing of journalists
Media contact: Sylvie Coudray, firstname.lastname@example.org, +33 (0)1 45 68 42 12
UNESCO is the United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this the Organization is requested to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”
A range of programs from education to freedom of expression to the protection of African World Heritage Natural sites, among others, will benefit from a new annual funding agreement between UNESCO and Norway for approximately USD 14 million, representing a nearly 30% increase in the government’s voluntary contribution compared to last year.
While signing the first funding agreement of her mandate, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay expressed her deep appreciation for Norway’s outstanding support to the Organization. “I am grateful for your generous commitment to the Organization over and above your assessed contributions. You set an example for other Member States against the backdrop of the current financial challenges faced by the Organization. Your decision to increase your annual contribution, and provide funding with such flexibility is also a mark of confidence in UNESCO that is highly valuable.”
H.E. Ms. Elin Østebø Johansen, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Norway to UNESCO, reinforced her government’s confidence in UNESCO’s capacity to deliver.
“Norway’s support is based on the Organization’s performance and results, also reflecting Norway’s priorities. We are confident that UNESCO will use it strategically, especially to lead the Sustainable Development Goals agenda.”
In addition, Ambassador Østebø Johansen emphasized education as the number one priority of the Norwegian Government. “We are a strong supporter of UNESCO’s normative work and will continue supporting the convention on recognition of higher education qualifications. The monitoring function is critical and this is the reason why Norway has decided to increase its contribution to the Global Monitoring Report and to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Norway is happy to also contribute to other important areas such as freedom of expression and safety of journalists, ocean-related work through the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the protection of natural heritage in Africa.”
In education, the funding agreement will focus on supporting Member States in their efforts to develop sector-wide policy and planning including literacy, Technical and Vocational Education and Training, higher education, teachers, health education, and monitoring progress towards Education 2030.
“Freedom of expression is not an option, it is an obligation in media policy – especially if the aim is to build knowledge societies and achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,” he said.
The UNESCO official was delivering a keynote speech on “Essential principles for contemporary media and communications policy making”, at the conference in Belgrade, Serbia this week. The event was titled “Agenda for change: developing media in the digital age”, and was organised by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on 16-17 November.
Berger suggested that a rights-based policy-making for contemporary media could be understood in terms of building social consensus based on common interest, but it should also be kept in mind that policy was also invariably about power contests.
“In addition, digital media policy is sometimes chaotic and piecemeal, and at times it serves mainly as symbolic theatre,” he said.
“Nevertheless,” elaborated the Director, “seriousness and co-ordination is certainly needed for media policy in the light of the recognition in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the need for public access to information and fundamental freedoms.”
He went on to highlight the policy relevance of countries now adopting, and adding to, global SDG indicators in order to be able to assess their individual progress towards public access to information as part of sustainable development.
Berger listed examples of long-standing media policy issues that were being intensified in the digital era. These include matters like press freedom, licensing independence, fairness of state advertising, various subsidies, professionalism, concentration of ownership, community media, transparency of ownership, content and staffing diversity, whistle-blowers, confidential sources, freedom of information, criminal defamation, insult laws, media role in elections, and local content amongst others.
New policy issues included matters like: Broadband Internet access and affordability, new media sustainability, digital television transition, filtering and blocking, the interlinked aspects of surveillance-privacy-data retention, digital safety, disinformation, ‘the right to be forgotten’, self-regulation and co-regulation of internet platforms, jurisdictional questions, and the power of technology companies.
He commented that the evolution of the European Union’s digital single market would further enable traditional non-media actors to enter into mass communications, requiring existing media entities to anticipate and respond to increased competition. “This is another issue that Serbia’s policies on media development may need to consider,” he said.
Referring to UNESCO’s new report, World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, the Director highlighted four areas of relevance to contemporary policy-making:
It would be of interest for Serbia to assess how it compared to these international trends, said Berger.
UNESCO’s concept of “Internet Universality” is a useful tool for for holistic policy-making, added the UNESCO official, because it covered the principles of rights, openness, accessibility and multistakeholder participation. The project of developing related indicators could help a country assess gaps where digitally-related policy could be improved, he said.
The critical importance of education in international responses to climate change was the key message of “Education Day”, held at the UN climate conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany on 17 November 2017.
UNESCO, together with national, international and UN partners, held a series of side-events and discussion rounds all day, comprising a high-level panel discussion “Uniting for Climate Education – Further, Faster, Together through Partnerships”, co-organized with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the COP Presidency, Fiji.
High-level governmental representatives and international organizations discussed how education and global partnerships can accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and engage a critical mass of children, youth, professionals, decision-makers and wider society in climate action.
Need for education and strong partnerships to enable societal transformation
Speaking at the event, Mr Shyamal Majumdar, Head of the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training said: “Climate action needs more implementation, implementation needs education and skills.”
Ms Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, said: “I believe we stand at the edge of an incredible transformation - one with enormous economic opportunities. But transformations don’t happen in isolation. Education is key. And good education requires good partnerships.”
Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco, President of Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection, said: “There is no need to dwell on the crucial role of education in order to rise to the climate challenge. However, what is of the utmost importance is to regularly pool and compare our approaches in order to enrich them.”
Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji, called for long-term solutions: “We need to restore a respectful relationship with nature, and for this we need education. We need to get children out of the classrooms and see, understand and judge for themselves for needs to be done.”
Changing minds not the climate
Another side-event, co-organized with nine other UN Agencies, also explored how partnerships at all levels and in all sectors are key to boosting the contribution learning and skills make to climate change adaptation and mitigation It presented new types of partnerships that can help more actors, with examples coming from different sectors from all parts of the world.
One of the examples presented was the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) which mobilizes more than 11,000 schools around the world. The schools use UNESCO’s guidelines for “Getting climate-ready”, and develop partnerships with their communities. Jan Hendrik, a 14 year-old student of a German ASPnet school, said that international school exchanges were enablers for changing minds towards climate action: “I can now contribute to changing my school towards sustainable learning.”
Good practices show how education leads to climate action
During a press conference entitled “Good Practice in Action for Climate Empowerment”, organized by the Centre for Environmental Education (CEE), India, UNESCO and UNFCCC a compilation of case studies on climate change education for mitigation and adaptation in all parts of the world was launched. Representing UNESCO, Ms Julia Heiss, Team Leader on Education for Sustainable Development, said: “The case studies are an important proof and example of how education efforts lead to action which involves people in adapting and contributing to climate change mitigation. I hope they will inspire many more people and associations to follow a similar path.”
Throughout the day, short discussion rounds and presentations were held at the UNESCO Pavilion on a variety of subjects, including schools’ climate readiness, teacher education for climate change, youth leadership and greening technical and vocational education and training. These discussions were led by UNESCO, ASPnet schools, partners, experts, practitioners and youth representatives from around the world.
COP23 participants also visited UNESCO’s thematic booth on SDG 4 on quality education, co-organized with UNEP and UNITAR, to learn about the UN’s joint work in climate change education.
This year’s COP, which is taking place from 6 to 18 November, focuses on vulnerable nations and aims to develop a full set of guidelines to help government and non-government actors meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, to be finalized in 2018. The role of education and training in climate change was strongly emphasized at the Paris Climate Conference COP21 and again at COP22 in Marrakesh.
UNESCO promotes climate change through its Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) programme, and through the UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD, the follow-up to the UN Decade for ESD (2005-2014). UNESCO and partners seek to support countries to mainstream climate change into their education and training systems. Harnessing partnerships is one of the key strategies for the implementation of the GAP on ESD.