UNESCO participates in the opening of 2021 Forum of World Summit on the Information Society
UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu addressed the opening of the 2021 Forum of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), highlighting the relevance of UNESCO’s alignment to WSIS Action Lines as a means to address challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and help regain momentum over the final decade of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The WSIS Forum 2021, which concludes on 21 May, is the largest annual gathering of the ICT community, this year hosting 200 live cast sessions drawing record numbers of viewers through a 100% virtual format on Zoom and Facebook Live. The annual WSIS Prizes, this year dedicated to ICT and Older Persons, drew a record 1.3 million online votes.
Deputy Director-General Qu accepted the handover of the rotating annual Chair of the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS), an inter-agency mechanism for advancing policy coherence and programme coordination on matters related to information and communications technologies (ICTs) in support of internationally-agreed development goals.
The UNESCO secretariat organized or participated in some 15 sessions, events and live interviews during the 2021 WSIS Forum, culminating on 21 May with the closing sessions.
As part of World Press Freedom Day commemorations, UNESCO organized a WSIS session on combatting the global ‘disinfodemic’ through measures that strengthen universal access to information on health and human rights and democratic processes. The session explored practices to enlist the public to become active consumers of fact-checking services, in order to make fact-checking a more broadly participative and inclusive process of education, and media and information literacy.
A WSIS session held on 3 May draw attention to young professional voices on AI Ethics. It brought together perspectives from young experts, including those working with victims of online abuse and domestic violence as well as advocating for persons with disabilities as sources of innovation.
On 4 May, UNESCO highlighted the multistakeholder Global Education Coalition, which has shown evidence, through its 175 partners, that collective multilateralism can offer an innovative framework for delivering EdTech interventions during COVID-19. The session highlighted the three main initiatives of the Coalition: namely the Global Skills Academy which, as of end of March 2021, has helped 142,000 young people and adults to build skills for employability and resilience; the Global Teacher Campus which is reaching 30,000 with ICT skills to ensure quality and inclusive remote, hybrid and in-presence teaching models; and the Global Learning House which has provided quality, free lessons and tutoring to 149,000 learners, with a special focus on STEM.
A 5 May session on Advancing Internet Universality for responding to the pandemic and supporting SDGs highlighted the implementation process of UNESCO’s Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators (IUIs): a holistic tool based on universal principles to assess the various dimensions of the Internet, examining whether it is human Rights-based, Open, Accessible, Multi-stakeholder governed, and aligned to cross-cutting “X” indicators. Implementation is seen across five continents this year, with transformative impact evident particularly nurturing multi-stakeholder coalitions to discuss evidence charting the future of the Internet, and of formulation and adoption of ICT polities at the national level. ROAM-X principles has also contributed to digital collaboration in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, aligned to WSIS Action Line C3 (Access to information and knowledge).
A session held on 7 May addressed approaches to fully harness the concept of openness for science and Sustainable Development. The session noted the need for an ideology driven and multistakeholder design for e-science that support scientific communication for innovation, equity, fairness and bibliodiversity. UNESCO has been championing a broad range of “Open Solutions”, notably through implementation of the global Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER), adopted at UNESCO’s most recent General Conference in November 2019, and the elaboration of a new normative instrument on Open Science, in the form of a UNESCO Recommendation, which will be considered for adoption by the Organization’s 192 Member States at the upcoming 41st General Conference this Fall.
Also on 7 May, UNESCO and the United Nations University organized a session on Media and Information Literacy for government official and policy makers, addressing a major programme within UNESCO. Connected to the launch of the new resource Media and Information Literate Citizens: Think critically, Click Wisely (Second Edition of the UNESCO Model Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Educators and Learners) last month, the session highlighted the ongoing development of a practical online Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for government officials and policy makers to be launched in the coming months. The MOOC focuses on how to design, implement and assess media and information literacy policies for building Knowledge Societies, advancing the Sustainable Development Goals, and for democratic participation within a human-rights based approach.
During the opening week of 23 March, the UNESCO secretariat also provided facilitation to three High-level Policy Sessions on Inclusiveness, Access to Information and Knowledge for All and Media; on Knowledge societies, Capacity building and e-Learning; and on the Ethical Dimensions of Information and Knowledge Societies. UNESCO further contributed to the 3 May STI Forum Side Event: ICTs for Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable Societies and Economies.