Sunday, December 19, 2004

UNESCO Communication and Information Program Progress

UNESCO Progress Report for the 170th Meeting of the Executive Board (The meeting was in October, 2004; the next meeting is in January, 2005.)


"165. During the first six months of the 2004-2005 biennium, a good start was made in the implementation of Major Programme V in line with the three principal strategic objectives assigned to the programme in the Medium-Term Strategy for 2002-2007 (31 C/4): (i) promoting the free flow of ideas and universal access to information; (ii) promoting the expression of pluralism and cultural diversity in the media and world information networks; and (iii) promoting access for all to information and communication technologies, especially in the public domain.

"166. Although it is still early in the biennium, certain trends and developments are already becoming apparent in Programme V.I, which contains the principal priority of “fostering equitable access to information and knowledge for development, especially in the public domain”. The Intergovernmental Council of the Information for All Programme (IFAP), the younger of the two intergovernmental programmes in the Communication and Information Sector, has been consolidated and its focus refined, following the third session of its Intergovernmental Council (May 2004) and two meetings of its Bureau (March and May 2004). The latter included a virtual meeting which brought together all eight Members in a virtual conferencing setting. Members agreed that this was a positive and productive experience and could be a role model for meetings of similar organs. The IFAP Council and its Bureau have submitted proposals for the preparation of the draft of document 33 C/5. In so doing, Council members identified needs and responded with suggestions for initiatives that could contribute greatly to achieving the IFAP goals and illustrate their potential benefits for people and communities. A major trend shaping implementation during the period under review was the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS, Geneva, December 2003). To improve coordination and monitoring as well as provide information on the variety of activities initiated by UNESCO in this context, an online platform has been launched. The Organization also commenced a new round of discussions with members of the NGO community to identify examples of best practices and to guide UNESCO’s planning for the second Phase of the Summit (November 2005) and participated in the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee of WSIS held in Hammamet, Tunis (June 2004).

"167. There is a growing demand for the building of networks in, and facilitating access to, the huge collections of information contained in the world's libraries and archives. In this context, information infrastructure, such as libraries and specifically designed ICT tools, is increasingly being recognized as a valuable resource that is currently under-utilized in the policies and strategies to build knowledge societies. Those communities engaged in the preservation of their documentary heritage are reporting a continuing struggle for funding and profile, which is where the Memory of the World Programme and other awareness-raising efforts continue to have such a vital role to play in catalysing preservation work. Similarly, increasing emphasis is being given to the needs and opportunities for the use of ICTs in education, especially for (i) enhancing teaching and teacher skills through the integration of ICTs into pedagogy and curriculum design; (ii) sourcing relevant quality educational content; (iii) coordinating and sharing technical solutions in this field; and (iv) improving access to distance learning and reducing the costs of learning for professionals in developing countries. As lessons are learnt, previous shortcomings with regard to quality, relevance and affordability are being addressed and improvements will continue to ensure empowerment through ICT-based education, particularly for the exchange of curricula and new methods of ICT training in priority areas.

"168. Another noticeable trend during the period under review is the growing number of organizations working in the area of community access using a variety of models and technologies; this is increasing the need for closer coordination and collaboration. It is in this regard that, during the period, UNESCO continued its efforts to build alliances with significant stakeholders and partners, including other United Nations agencies and the private sector to achieve common development objectives in communication and information. Particularly noteworthy here is the letter of intent which the Organization signed with Microsoft for collaboration in promoting the effective use of ICTs in teaching and learning; improving lifelong learning opportunities for disadvantaged youth and adults; and exploring the potential to include a Microsoft-based Open Application Sharing platform to UNESCO’s global programmes.

"169. A concern which continues to shape part of UNESCO’s work in Programme V.2, promoting freedom of expression and communication development, is the need to enhance awareness about and respect for freedom of expression. Thus, a major thrust of activities in this period was the celebration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the modalities of which ranged from seminars and conferences to the distribution of press freedom material to schools and through the media. Further ways of strengthening this work and collaboration with all relevant media professional organizations, international and national media NGOs will be developed in the course of the biennium. Recent successful activities in assisting governments in introducing media legislation conducive to freedom of expression will also be continued and reinforced. The comprehensive framework for providing assistance to media in open and post-conflict zones developed by UNESCO, together with key NGO and donor partners, proved successful in promoting the Organization’s special mandate and increasing its visibility in this field. Thus, UNESCO is now engaged in developing assistance to the media in Haiti, Iraq and Sudan, in addition to ongoing activities in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda.

"170. The promotion of the expression of pluralism and cultural diversity in the media and world information networks requires consistent work to (i) encourage the formulation of policies which create an enabling environment for pluralistic media and information networks; and (ii) ensure continuous support for communication media distribution systems and access facilities, in different languages and appropriate user orientations. UNESCO’s actions in the January-June 2004 period reflects the understanding of this interdependence between encouraging enabling policies and supporting the development of free and pluralistic communication media and the promotion of content diversity.

"171. On partnerships, it is worth noting that, in implementing its activities during the first six months of the 2004-2005 biennium, the Sector collaborated closely with a number of international, regional, and national NGOs, professional bodies, training and research institutions as well as civil society groups whose activities and concerns lie in the domains of the Programme. A number of actions undertaken by UNESCO in communication and information contribute to strengthening participation in decision-making about development programmes by different segments of society, particularly women and youth, which is considered essential for attaining the Millennium Development Goals."

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