20.06.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

IFAP fosters open government through media and information literacy

Evgeny Kuzmin, Vice-Chair, Intergovernmental Council for the UNESCO Information for All Programme. © Russian IFAP Committee

More than 100 experts from 45 countries gathered in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russian Federation from 6 to 10 June, 2016 for the first IFAP international conference on “Media and Information Literacy for Building a Culture of Open Government”.

In his statement to conference participants, Mr Frank La Rue, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, pointed to “access to information and freedom of expression laws based on international standards, a citizen-centric approach, and a commitment to sustainable development based on human solidarity and peace as crucial pillars for unlocking the potential of open government for enhancing well-being”. With a view to preventing the exacerbation of existing inequalities and divides, Mr La Rue also highlighted the importance of ensuring that “awareness about the right to access information be more widely expanded among the population, particularly the marginalized and vulnerable”.

According to Ms Chafica Haddad, the recently re-elected Chair of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental IFAP Council and Deputy Permanent Delegate of Grenada to UNESCO, “the conference marked another important stage in IFAP’s journey to ensure that every person is able to access and utilize information and knowledge to reach their full potential and contribute to human development and peace”. Ms Haddad recalled that, “through a range of normative instruments, declarations and guidelines, IFAP has been consistently bringing attention to the need for policies in these critical areas”. She also pointed to “the Internet Universality Principles adopted last year at UNESCO’s 38th General Conference as an endorsement of the importance of MIL and multi-stakeholder partnerships between governmental and the range of non-governmental actors, ideas that IFAP earlier emphasized in its 2012 Moscow Declaration on Media and Information Literacy for Knowledge Societies”.

The conference facilitated rich, global exchanges on such aspects as the conceptualization of open government, strategies for developing media and information competencies amongst civil servants and citizens as well as the development and introduction of media and information literacy curricula in national educational programmes.

Participants adopted a conference declaration that recognizes media and information literacy (MIL) as essential for effective systems of open governance, calls for the development of MIL standards and assessment systems, and encourages investment and capacity-building needed to create enabling ecosystems. Proceedings of the conference are expected to be released in the second half of 2016.

“By bringing together a range of key actors from almost 50 countries, this conference has given impetus to global efforts to boost information and media competences of citizens, to encourage and enhance civic engagement and support the development of open government systems in cyberspace”, said Mr Evgeny Kuzmin, Vice-Chair of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental IFAP Council and President of the Interregional Library Cooperation Centre, during his reflections on the importance and impact of the conference. “Through IFAP’s network of global partners we will be working to realize the vision set out in the conference Declaration”.

The organization of this international conference was made possible through the collective efforts of the Government of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug – Ugra, the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme, and the Interregional Library Cooperation Centre who worked in close cooperation with IFAP’s Intergovernmental Council and UNESCO’s Secretariat. The event also benefitted from the support of the Federal Agency for the Press and Mass Media, the National Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, and the LUKoil petroleum company.

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks in the areas of information accessibility, information for development, information ethics, information literacy, information preservation and multilingualism.

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