Global Knowledge Society Forum 2013

Dr Fawaz Salem Al-Husainan, Kuwait. © Saudi Aramco

Building Knowledge Societies for Sustainable Human Development

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, in partnership with UNESCO, organized the Global Knowledge Society Forum from 9 to 10 December 2013 in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Over 500 delegates attended the Forum to listen to global, regional and national experts from government, academia, civil society and the private sector and actively discuss and share current developments in the creation, acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in order to achieve sustainable human development.

The Forum was designed to focus on the need to stimulate public awareness and inclusive dialogue for identifying the best approaches and required policy to support the Saudi Arabia National Strategy for Transition to a Knowledge Society released by the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

Hosted by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, an initiative of the Saudi Aramco corporation, the biennial Forum recognized the fundamental concept that everyone will require universal access and high-level skills and confidence to benefit from and participate in a knowledge society.

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Aramco. © Saudi Aramco

In his welcome remarks, Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Aramco President and CEO, pointed out that nations will depend on ideas and that “The currency of the new realm is knowledge”. He also noted that building knowledge societies would allow development to be more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.

“Our desire is to move to societies of well-educated citizens, using the products of their minds to make the world a better place and build a sustainable higher standard of living for themselves and their families.”

Eric Falt, UNESCO. © Saudi Aramco

Mr Eric Falt, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Information representing Ms Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO, provided a keynote address. He highlighted the four pillars of the UNESCO Knowledge Societies Framework agreed to by all Member State Governments:

  1. Freedom of Expression
  2. Respect for cultural and linguistic diversity
  3. Quality education for all
  4. Universal access to information and knowledge

He reminded the delegates that while new technologies especially broadband internet access and mobile phones were revolutionary and completely changing the fabric of individual lives, countries, regions, and global ecosystems, “fundamentally, knowledge societies are about people, and their capabilities to use information to add value to the human experience.”

UNESCO invited several highly eminent speakers to contribute to the Forum:

  • Professor Nasser Khalili, PhD KCSS KCFO, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
  • Paolo Lembo, United Nations Resident Coordinator Saudi Arabia
  • Dr Ghaith Fariz, Director and Coordinator of the UNDP Arab Knowledge Reports
  • Dr Ilham Laaziz, Ministry of Education, Morocco
  • Dr Fawaz Salem Al-Husainan, Ministry of Youth Affairs, Kuwait

Professor Nasser David Khalili, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador © UNESCO\Abel Caine CC BY SA IGO

Professor Khalili, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and Founder of the Khalili Collections which includes the world’s largest collection of Islamic art, delivered a keynote address for the second day of the Forum.

Focussing on the interrelated roles of knowledge, culture, and mutual respect, Professor Khalili took great pride to launch the Arabic version of the comprehensive UNESCO publication Renewing the Knowledge Societies Vision for Peace and Sustainable Development by Robin Mansell and Gaëtan Tremblay. The Arabic translation and printing was generously supported by the King Abdulaziz Center.

Ilham Laaziz, Moroccan Ministry of Education. © Saudi Aramco

Equating life without knowledge to a fire without flame, the Professor stated that “as citizens of the world we have conquered many distances. We now have to harness knowledge and art to conquer the distance between us and humanity.”

Dr Ilham Laaziz, Director of the GENIE Program at the Morocco Ministry of Education spoke clearly on the successful roll-out of ICTs across all schools in Morocco.

Dr Indrajit Banerjee, Director of the UNESCO Knowledge Societies Division, focussed on the fundamental concepts of inclusion and pluralism in the development of knowledge societies.

Acknowledging the strong, applauded interventions of the women attending the Forum as well as the virtual participants on Twitter, Dr Banerjee provided an overview of the comprehensive capacity-building programmes at UNESCO to assist Governments, universities, and all stakeholders to build universal access to information and knowledge.

Indrajit Banerjee, UNESCO and Professor Nasser Khalili, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. © Saudi Aramco

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