The UNESCO Deputy Director-General Mr Getachew Engida represented the Organization at the 5th Conference of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) held on 4-5 May 2015 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and attended by more than 200 participants from 60 countries in all regions.
The annual conference of the 26-country coalition to promote Internet freedom was opened with a keynote by H.E. Mr Tsakhia Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia. He described online freedom as a “global commons” that is essential for human and sustainable development, as well as for the realization of human rights.
Opening remarks were delivered by eight senior government officials from FOC Member States, and by Mr Engida, who thanked FOC for contributing to the global multistakeholder consultations that informed the comprehensive study on Internet-related issues, which UNESCO Secretariat undertook on mandate from the UNESCO General Conference.
Mr Engida recounted the components of the consultative process that culminated with the CONNECTing the Dots conference, held at UNESCO on March 2015. He referred to the Outcome Document, which encourages the sharing of best practices between Member States and other stakeholders, in order to address security and privacy concerns on the Internet in accordance with international human rights obligations. (Access the full text of Mr Engida’s speech: please click here).
For two days, representatives from governments, civil society organizations, and Internet companies discussed in plenary and side sessions around the 2015 FOC Conference’s theme: Internet Policy Making – Best Practices for Promoting Internet Freedom.
UNESCO’s contribution to the Conference included also chairing the session on “Framing Plenary Progressive Policy Making for States” which was participated in by Mr Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for the USA; Ms Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media; Mr Viktors Makarovs, Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia; Professor Kyung-sin Park, from the Seoul-based Korea University; and Ambassador Maria Leissner, Secretary General of the Community of Democracies.
Speaking at the plenary Future Internet Trends, the Director of Ranking Digital Rights Ms Rebecca MacKinnon mentioned the recent publication of the UNESCO Internet freedom series which she compiled: Fostering Freedom Online: the Role of Internet Intermediaries. Another recent publication from the same UNESCO series, titled Building Digital Safety for Journalism: a Survey of Selected Issues was featured in an article in the special edition of a magazine distributed to all the Conference’s participants.
On 3 May 2015, in the build-up to the FOC Conference, Mr Engida opened a Roundtable “Focus on Mongolia” on the occasion of the local celebration of the World Press Freedom Day. This was co-organized by the Confederation of Mongolian Journalists, the specialized Mongolian media NGO Globe International Center, the Open Society Forum, and with the support of UNESCO Beijing Office and of the Austrian Embassy.
Addressing the Roundtable in the presence of more than 80 Mongolian media managers, members of parliament, journalists, and civil society leaders, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Ms Mijatovic said that democracy was not compatible with journalists being attacked, threatened, harassed, and imprisoned.
The President of the Mongolian Globe International Center Ms Khashkhuu Naranjargal stressed the importance of realizing freedom of expression in practice. Ms Migeddorj Batchimeg, Member of the Mongolian Parliament, highlighted how “free media contributes to protect national sovereignty and national security”. The Roundtable’s opening was also attended by Mr Gundegmaa Jargalsaikhan, Secretary-General of Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO, and by representatives of the diplomatic corps.
During the visit to Ulaanbaatar, Mr Engida had also a series of bilateral meetings, including with the Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr Lundeg Purevsuren, and with Mr Buya Tulga, Vice Minister for Education, Culture and Science. Mr Engida also attended a special meeting of the UN Country Team, and he was conferred the title of “honorary professor” at the Mongolia University of Science and Technology.
At the Closing Plenary of the 2015 FOC Conference, the Director for Human Rights Policy at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ms Nina Nordstrom said that Finland will be the venue of UNESCO’s flagship celebration of World Press Freedom Day in 2016.