Over 350 participants representing academia, civil society, governments, private sector and the technical community gathered at UNESCO from 3 to 7 March, 2015 to participate in the CONNECTing the Dots Conference: Options for future Action, and to discuss the draft Internet-related study on access, free expression, privacy and ethics. Following two days of exchanges, the conference adopted an outcome document which will be submitted to the forthcoming session of UNESCO’s Executive Board for consideration.
Also present at the CONNECTing the Dot conference were partners and network members of UNESCO’s intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP), who participated as panelists, discussants rapporteurs and supported the drafting of the outcome document adopted by the conference.
Since receiving a mandate from UNESCO’s General Conference at its 37th session in November 2013 to conduct the Internet study, a series of consultations, surveys and other processes have been undertaken to advance this work and IFAP has been closely following and contributing to this process. As a consultative and advisory body to the Organization that supports Member States to create and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks that support the building of knowledge societies, IFAP was ideally placed for playing this role.
In his intervention during the opening ceremony, the Chairperson of the Executive Board, His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Amr, paid noticeable tribute to IFAP’s important contribution by underlining: “From the outset, I would like to thank the intergovernmental Information for All Programme, which has been closely associated with the organization of the Connecting the Dots Conference. As I am certain you all know, IFAP is one of the most important frameworks for international cooperation in our global effort to build inclusive knowledge societies.”
Ms Chafica Haddad, Chair of the IFAP Council, played an active role throughout the event, and also participated in the High-level governmental dialogue and the Multistakeholder Input Coordinating Group responsible for guiding the preparation of the Outcome Document. Ms Haddad also used the conference as an opportunity to raise the visibility of IFAP’s policy tools such as the National Information Society Policy Template and to highlight upcoming events on the IFAP calendar. As Ms Haddad explained in her intervention, “IFAP has long recognized the power of increased access to information as a vehicle and tool for positive social transformation and development and the importance of engaging and empowering youth. Accordingly IFAP will be organizing an international conference at UNESCO on the Internet as a tool for development of youth against all forms of extremism and radicalism in June 2015. The conference will share experiences amongst experts and policy-makers on policy interventions and develop pilot projects which benefit youth and serve as a learning lab to closer link policy, practitioners, academics and stakeholders”.
Current and past members of the IFAP Bureau and its Working Groups, many of whom were in Paris to attend the 24th IFAP Bureau immediately following the CONNECTing the Dot conference also contributed significantly to the discussions.
Reflecting on the outcomes of the two-day event Dr Indrajit Banerjee, Director of the Knowledge Societies Division and Secretary of IFAP had this to say: By helping to bring the right people together around the right agenda, IFAP is contributing to crafting innovative solutions to the challenges that all societies face today. The study and outcome document are an important landmark that will orient UNESCO’s response to the opportunities and challenges of cybserpace.
The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.