UNESCO and its Chairs in Communication thrash out new strategy for future cooperation
The network of UNESCO Chairs in Communication (Orbicom) explored a common strategy for co-operation with UNESCO in Paris this week. Held from 29 to 30 May at UNESCO Headquarters, the meeting brought together 30 Orbicom members and associate members as well as 13 UNESCO staff, mainly from the Communication and Information Sector.
Welcoming the participants, Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, called for greater programmatic alignment and collaboration between Orbicom and UNESCO, emphasising that the two organizations were united in seeking to promote knowledge relevant to freedom of expression and media development, and to enhance universal access to and preservation of information and knowledge.
Underscoring Karklins’ words, Prof. Rosental Calmon Alves, Orbicom’s President, observed that “the chemistry of talking to each other would reenergise the network”, adding that it was in each Orbicom member’s interest to make the relationship between Orbicom and UNESCO work more profitably for both organizations.
Outlining UNESCO’s strategic directions, Guy Berger, Director of the Division for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, said, “UNESCO offered the Chairs an opportunity to amplify their work on a global level and to enrich the activities of the Communication and Information Sector.”
For their part, the Orbicom participants outlined a variety of activities, representing a broad spectrum of teaching and research interests, but all underpinned by a common intellectual commitment to understanding and advancing the role of information and communication in democratising their societies. On display were such intellectual preoccupations as crisis communication, global communication commons, community radio, communication for sustainable social change as well as sustainable environment through culture. Others were ICT for development, media and gender, global communication and governance, communication as business as well as intercultural communication.
In an attempt to break new collaborative ground, UNESCO staff highlighted their own work to Orbicom in a session dubbed “speed-dating”. As a result, several chair-holders expressed interest to work bilaterally on such issues as revising the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education, taking forward the media agenda of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), supporting the community radio initiatives of UNESCO, among others.
The meeting also discussed the audit report on the UNESCO Chairs Programme prepared by the Internal Oversight Service (IOS). The participants generally affirmed the findings of the audit and called for greater communication between UNESCO and the chair-holders.
Key conclusions from the two-day deliberations included:
- the need to include chair-holders’ critical perspectives in developing the new Medium-Term Strategy for UNESCO;
- keeping chair-holders abreast of key developments within the CI Sector, as a way of increasing their opportunities for possible bilateral or multilateral collaboration with the Organization; and
- sharing good practices as a way of exemplifying and encouraging dynamism among the chair-holders themselves.
The meeting also explored the idea of developing an online journal which would serve to advance the “think tank” role of Orbicom, and further leverage the international academic standing of each contributing chair-holder. Many participants felt that UNESCO could tap into the chair-holders to shape its programmatic responses to the changing ecology of information and communication. Prof. Jan Annerstedt of the Copenhagen Business School said, “As chair-holders, we are a strategic resource for UNESCO, who can add value to its work”.