UNESCO champions freedom of expression with the Supreme Court of Justice of Uruguay
On 27 June, 2016, the UNESCO Director-General, Ms. Irina Bokova, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Supreme Court of Justice of Uruguay to strengthen cooperation on issues of freedom of expression, access to information and security of journalists. The ceremony took place in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The agreement with the Supreme Court of Justice of Uruguay was signed by the UNESCO Director-General and the President of the Supreme Court of Justice of Uruguay, Mr Ricardo C. Pérez Manrique, in the presence of other high-level authorities from the judicial branch.
This agreement confirms the determination of the Supreme Court of Justice and UNESCO to deepen their cooperation on issues that are vital for vibrant democracy, open societies and more inclusive and sustainable development across the region. At a time of deep social transformations, defending freedom of expression plays an essential part in advancing human rights and dignity and in strengthening the grounds for social cohesion and more lasting peace.
“Independent judicial systems are fundamental pillars to guaranteeing freedom of expression and transparency in all democracies,” said the Director-General. “ I congratulate the Government of Uruguay for its leadership in promoting and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms – I see this agreement as a model for other countries in the region.
” The President of the Supreme Court of Justice of Uruguay, Mr Ricardo C. Pérez Manrique, underlined also that “this Memorandum of Understanding aims to promote the participation of civil society in defending all human rights”.
The agreement provides a strategic framework for reinforcing the institution and the capacities of judicial officials in Uruguay. On this basis, UNESCO and partners will support the training process and improve the understanding, knowledge and sensitivity among actors in the judiciary systems on international standards, through a wide range of dialogue and capacity building initiatives.
Uruguay currently holds the Permanent Secretariat of the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, and will encourage similar agreements with UNESCO. In April this year, UNESCO signed an agreement with the Ibero-American Judicial Summit in Paraguay (the Supreme Court of Paraguay) to strengthen freedom of expression, access to public information and the safety of journalists in the country. The new agreement with Uruguay is the result of action, including training, taken forward over the last three years by the Latin American Summit of the Judiciary. With the support of the Summit, UNESCO has trained more than 2,000 judicial officers in 22 countries in Latin America.
The Director-General highlighted the importance of the agreement for the country and the region, and also to encourage deeper South-South cooperation to strengthen the role of judiciaries in protecting and promoting freedom of expression as cornerstones of democracy.
This new agreement fits into the wider framework of UNESCO’s action across the region to defend freedom of expression – notably with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency – and is in line with UNESCO’s commitment to accompany States as they implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.
“All of this reflects UNESCO’s deepening engagement across the region,” said Irina Bokova, “Especially to support and accompany governments and societies facing social transformation and leading peace-building processes.”
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