“Universities are sisters of freedom,” noted Mr. Marco Antonio Zago, Rector of the University of São Paulo in a keynote speech at the opening session of Global Media and Information Literacy Week 2016.
This profound truth was retransmitted at the Global MIL Week 2017 Feature Conference in Jamaica where the six-year progress report of the Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) Network was unveiled.
“This vision must never be allowed to die, never!” said Professor Esther Hamburger of the University of Sao Paulo, the outgoing Chair/Lead (2016/17) of the MILID Network as she presented the report.
She passed on the baton to the Co-Chairs (2017/18), Dr Paulette Kerr and Dr Paulette Stewart of the University of the West Indies.
Birth of a vision
At a time when academic freedom is at risk in many parts of the world, collaboration and setting up consortiums for change needs a rebirth. The vision and dream of the UNESCO University Twinning Programme (UNITWIN) are thus renewed.
That vision is to stir cooperation among university from different parts of the wolrd in connection with knowledge for sustainable development. All 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) and their indicators are of relevance here. Two are foregrounded here in connection with the MILID Network, SDG 4, Quality Education and SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
The MILID network is a conduit that affords youth and adults a with critical information and media competencies for quality education.
It also responds to the need to increase peoples’ critical awareness of access to information, their own communications power in this regard, and their fundamental freedoms through enabling their information and media literacy.
It was with this foresighting of how media and information literacy (MIL) can be a sustainable response to contemporary opportunities and challenges that six years ago the UNESCO-UNAOC UNITWIN Cooperation Programme on MILID was born.
UNESCO and UNAOC combined our individual but shared vision with that of several universities. Many partners and beneficiaries are now reaping the fruits of this cooperation.
It started with eight universities representing each region of the world. Since then, the network expanded to include 19 full members and 21 associate members around the world.
Some of the issues the MILID Network has addressed have proven to be at the heart of contemporary opportunities and challenges: promoting gender, race, cultural and religious diversity, the right to privacy, exposing misinformation, and disarticulating hate speech.
This global agenda suggests that MILID will be strategic in the coming years.
MILID Yearbooks – focus on MIL as tool for positive change
Every year since 2013, UNESCO collaborates with UNAOC and the International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media at NORDICOM to publish the MILID Yearbook series, tackling various subjects related to MIL and intercultural dialogue.
This research and knowledge base has promoted global awareness, influenced policy and expressed a variety of MIL experiences taking place around the globe.
The focus of various volumes bring to light localized MIL experiences in the following topics: MIL and Intercultural Dialogue (2013), Global Citizenship in a Digital World (2014), MIL for the Sustainable Development Goals (2015) and MIL: Reinforcing Human Rights, Countering Radicalization and Extremism (2016).
Global celebration of Media and Information Literacy Week
The MILID Network under the leadership of UNESCO formed the backbone for the Global MIL Week Feature Conference. To broaden the reach and impact of MIL initiatives, UNESCO initiated the Global Alliance on Partnerships for Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL) in 2013.
The MILID Network was incorporated into GAPMIL as its research arm but maintains its distinctive mandate.
Besides engaging in the activities of the network, participation in the network gave impetus to other MIL-related activities in universities that already had organized research groups dedicated to the subject.
“National MIL-related associations are becoming active in many countries. It is through movements like these that increased awareness of the importance of MIL will be achieved,” said Alton Grizzle, Programme Specialist, UNESCO.