The first-ever “Conference and Consultation on the Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society and Internet Privacy” for Member States - Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Martin, St. Lucia and St Vincent & The Grenadines, and Associate States - Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) opened in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts-Nevis yesterday.
This major event, organized together with the Government of St. Kitts-Nevis in the framework of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP), will examine the current information ethics challenges and particularly those facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It is also expected that the event will provide a number of strategic recommendations for shaping national and regional information and knowledge societies programmes and policies, thus enabling SIDS to develop a range of proactive responses.
The Hon. Shawn Richards, Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Youth, sports and Culture welcomed the some 100 participants who included Cabinet Ministers, diplomatic corps, senior Government officials from the OECS and St. Martin, civil society, the private sector as well as teachers and student representatives from high schools on both islands.
Dr Boyan Radoykov, from the Knowledge Societies Division, in his capacity as official Representative of UNESCO, extended welcome remarks on behalf of the Organization and stressed that “(…) We have to strengthen even more our efforts in addressing the info-ethical dimensions and their social implications, and in promoting the basic values and principles that are to be further convincingly enshrined in the information society such as peace and democracy, free flow of information in the public domain, freedom of expression, tolerance, cultural and linguistic diversity, solidarity, etc.” He ended by emphasizing: "It is our role, it is our task, it is our utmost responsibility to ensure the progress of civilization in cyberspace”.
Mr Antonio Maynard, Secretary-General of the St Kitts-Nevis National Commission for UNESCO, who played a key role in the organization of the event, underlined his confidence that the Conference will contribute to “raising awareness and support for the development of a holistic regional approach by OECS States to the complex issues around the Internet”.
Ambassador Dr David Doyle, Permanent Delegate of St. Kitts-Nevis to UNESCO, was of the view that “the proliferation of IT use is now indelibly linked with youth, their learning aspirations, friendships, hobbies, games etc. But it comes with risks to internet use in areas of cyberbullying, privacy violations and unwanted solicitations. The St. Kitts-Nevis conference is timely stakeholder event aimed at contributing to the SIDS dimension of UNESCO’s work on ethical practices in information society and internet privacy.”
Also in attendance was Ms Sandra Cortesi, Director of Youth and Media at the Berkman center for Internet and Society at Harvard University who underlined, “the importance of including youth voices and perspectives into the conversation” and “welcomed the participation of a contingent of youth representatives from high schools on St Kitts and Nevis”.
The Conference is expected to close with a press event during which the Declaration endorsed by the participants will be presented.
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.