UNESCO and UN System Staff College to support UN field staff in promoting freedom of expression and safety of journalists

On 23 December 2021, UNESCO and the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) signed an agreement to upscale the UN-wide understanding of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and safety of journalists.
The two UN entities, respectively specialized in training UN staff (UNSSC), and in promoting the free flow of information and safety of journalists (UNESCO) have joined hands within the framework of the human rights-based approach (HRBA), which is one of the six Guiding Principles of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework.

The agreement, which extends to August 2023, follows the call by the UN Secretary General, who had recommended to “scale up the UN awareness and actions to prevent and address attacks against journalists and media workers and consider integrating risks faced by them into relevant UN strategies at national and regional levels”. Furthermore, the outcomes of the joint action will advance progress on SDG target 16.10 and the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity launched in 2012 calling on States to set up mechanisms for the prevention and punishment of attacks on journalists.

Through a self-paced online course, in-person workshops, webinars, advocacy and the championing of UNESCO resources, UN staff members, including Resident Coordinators and their offices, in-country representatives of agencies, and UN Human Rights advisors in the field will strengthen their knowledge on the importance of these fundamental rights and other related issues, such as countering hate speech and disinformation, the role of media during elections, and media’s role in peacebuilding and countering conflict, and the complementarity of UNESCO’s mandate with the various mandates within the United Nations.

This initiative will further reinforce the Dutch-initiated Global Drive on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists launched at the 2020 World Press Freedom Day conference in The Hague where The Netherlands announced €7 million to promote media freedom and the safety of journalists worldwide. Through a cooperation between UNESCO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) the Global Drive aims at fostering an independent and free media and public recognition of the value of access to information, and contributing to ending impunity for attacks against journalists, including a particular focus on women journalists.

Made possible within the framework of UNESCO’s Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists, this agreement will help ensure the Organization’s mandate is better reflected in UN country planning, such as the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, as well as in response plans to crises.


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