The secondment of two communication experts from the Norwegian Refugee Council since November is promoting UNESCO’s work on freedom of expression in two Member State countries. Mr Ramon Tuazon is working in UNESCO’s Yangon Antenna Office in Myanmar, and Ms Luisa Handem Piette is placed in UNESCO’s Monrovia Antenna Office in Liberia.
Mr Tuazon and Ms Piette’s posts are covered by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an independent non-profit organisation that fosters international efforts for environments that support refugees worldwide.
In the context of Myanmar’s democratic transition and the recent return of exiled journalists, assistance in developing and strengthening freedom of expression and media freedom is needed in the country.
Mr Tuazon’s secondment to the Yangon Antenna Office increases UNESCO’s presence in Myanmar and provides further impetus to UNESCO’s initiatives to support media development and reforms.
“I hope I can help develop opportunities for the continuing education of journalists and other communication professionals,” says Mr Tuazon on his recent secondment:
Among Mr Tuazon’s priorities is the enrichment of the journalism programme at the National Management College, the only institution in Myanmar that offers journalism degrees at the undergraduate and master’s qualifying levels.
Many international development organizations and donors worldwide have committed support to Myanmar’s media reform initiatives. Mr Tuazon said he believes that his secondment could help to harmonise how these resources can be efficiently and effectively utilized in partnership with the government and civil society sectors.
Another country in transition, Liberia is undergoing a challenging phase of post-conflict reconstruction. As experienced by other members of the Mano River Union States of West Africa, violence and political unrest have made efforts to establish democracy particularly difficult.
According to Ms Piette, NRC’s secondee to UNESCO in Liberia, "the key ingredient to ensure development of press freedom lies in building media sustainability through business management training of media owners.”
Working at the UNESCO Antenna office in Monrovia, she is assisting the media and local government to enhance freedom of expression and information. She will also provide guidance in the creation of legal standards for a sustainable media environment.
The Norwegian Refugee Council’s roster, NORCAP, is one of the UN’s most important partners in organizing and carrying out humanitarian assistance operations. Through the deployment of expert personnel, NORCAP supports efforts to develop the media sector and increase freedom of expression in crisis and post-crisis situations.
Mr Tuazon and Ms Piette’s appointments mark the second time the NRC has seconded experts to UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector.
Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, communication programme officer Mehdi Benchelah worked in Port-au-Prince from March 2010 to December 2011 supporting local radio stations as a tool for emergency response and recovery.
Out of the 154 experts currently seconded by the Norwegian Refugee Council to the entire UN System, eight are assigned to UNESCO.
NRC’s secondment of the experts in Myanmar and Liberia is believed to have a profound effect on UNESCO’s work in these regions.
“We applaud NRC’s recognition of the importance of media in developing stable and democratic societies in countries where previous conflicts gave rise to an exodus of refugees,” said Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development. “The cooperation with the two experts seconded by NRC will be a strong asset to our media development work in these two countries.”