Friday, October 12, 2007

Towards inclusive knowledge societies


Towards inclusive knowledge societies

2007 - number 8

Over the coming two years, UNESCO is committed to continue working for freedom of expression and press freedom and to promoting the use of the information and communication technologies to foster inclusive knowledge societies that empower individuals and communities.

"Contributing to the construction of inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication," is how UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information (ADG/CI), Abdul Waheed Khan encapsulates the objectives of his sector for the coming biennium.

This echoes objectives established by World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which UNESCO helped organize in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005. UNESCO remains active in the WSIS process, destined to build people-centered information societies that are mindful of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, of the basic human right of freedom of expression.

That strategy focuses on fostering free, independent and pluralistic communication and universal access to information. This is essential for the strengthening of participatory democracy and for the struggle against poverty, as communication and information play a central role in development. However, in many parts of the world, the media need to be reinforced so as to contribute to the international development drive, says Mr Khan.

Media development has long been at the centre of CI's work, notably through programmes such as the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) which, over the last 27 years, has raised some US$ 93 million for over 1,100 projects in 139 developing countries and countries in transition. IPDC is the only forum in the United Nations to discuss and promote free and independent media in developing countries and countries in transition.

The CI sector is also committed to continue serving as a watchdog for freedom of expression around the world, an area in which UNESCO plays a leading role, reminding Member States of their obligation to respect this fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and recognized by the WSIS.

Creating resources

"Creating the resources in Member States for them to develop free and independent media is our bread and butter," says Mr Khan, recalling that universal access to knowledge depends on adequate communication and information infrastructures.

"At stake is the empowerment of individuals and communities", says Mr Khan, who recalls that the link between empowerment and knowledge is becoming ever stronger. It is therefore not surprising that another major objective for CI, is to support UNESCO in working towards fulfilling the ambitious goals of the Education For All (EFA) drive adopted by the international community in Dakar in 2000. EFA concerns overall improvements in the provision of quality basic education and life skills to all and achieving gender parity in education by 2015.

The multiplier effect

Mr Khan explains that the information and communication technologies (ICTs) can have a "multiplier effect," contributing to the education of learners and the training of teachers. "Likewise, CI works to ensure that the multiplier effect of ICTs benefits UNESCO's promotion of cultural diversity and dissemination of scientific knowledge." Thus, argues Mr Khan, CI is the leader when it comes to cooperation between UNESCO's sectors.

In addition, the ADG recalls that ICTs not only help generate and disseminate knowledge but are also important for the preservation of knowledge. Programmes such as Memory of the World serve to preserve and disseminate the heritage of documentary material and archives. Thus, through ICTs, UNESCO's Communication and Information sector has become involved in the preservation of knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, and in cultural heritage.

The new technologies have operated a deep change in the flow of information and its sharing. Mr Khan strongly believes that UNESCO must play its role in bridging the knowledge gap to ensure that this multidirectional flow of information and knowledge does not pass by those who are less privileged. With programmes such as the Community Multimedia Centres, and a wide range of partners including some of the world's leading private sector companies and NGOs, as well as networks such as the new Power of Peace Network, Mr Khan is convinced that UNESCO can contribute to world peace and development.

    Author(s): By Roni Amelan (UNESCO) -  Publication Date: 24-09-2007

    © UNESCO 1995-2007 - ID: 39551

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