From 21 to 22 November, the 31st Council session of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) took place at UNESCO HQ in Paris, gathering representatives from 39 UNESCO Member States to discuss the overall direction of the Programme and assess its achievements during the past biennium.
The Council Members were joined in their discussions by several observers, including the Indonesia Press Council, the Virginia Literacy Foundation and others, as well as by experts in the different fields being addressed.
Among the diverse topics discussed during the meeting, the Council elaborated on IPDC’s activities and results in the field of media development, the safety of journalists and issue of impunity, as well as the implementation of the Internet Universality Indicators (IUI).
During a presentation by the representative of UNESCO’s Director-General on the report on IPDC activities for the last two years, the Council was informed about the action of the Programme, including about the implementation of 118 projects in more than 40 countries. The amount of funds has seen a significant increase of almost 150 % since 2015, raising from US$ 965,000 in 2015 to US$ 2,400,000 in 2018. In the same period, the number of donors also increased significantly from 6 in 2015 to 14 donors in the last biennium.
The impact of IPDC’s activities and results achieved was highlighted by IPDC project beneficiary, Ms Aimee Vega Montel, representative of the Global Alliance for Media and Gender (GAMAG). Ms Montel presented the outcomes of an IPDC project that aimed to strengthen gender-transformative media development across the globe. In addition, IPDC’s unique rapid response mechanism for providing support in post-disaster situations was also underlined. As a result, the Council requested the Bureau and Secretariat of the IPDC to reinforce the existing rapid response mechanism.
Subsequently, important decisions were taken by the Council on the Internet Universality Indicators, which is a ‘unique contribution by UNESCO to global Internet governance and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,’ as highlighted by Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development. The Council took the decision to welcome the IUI and to endorse the voluntary application of the instrument for stakeholders to conduct national assessments of Internet development.
The Council was also presented with the Director-General’s report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, which reported an increase in deaths of both men and women journalists in recent years. The Council expressed to be ‘deeply disturbed by the high number of killings recorded in 2016-2017.’ After a vivid discussion between Member States and observers, the Council agreed amongst others to invite UNESCO’s DG to enhance current monitoring of safety of journalists in order to align and reinforce synergies with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the overall reporting on SDG 16.10.1, while encouraging Member States who have not done so, to appoint a focal point on the issue of safety of journalists and impunity. The Council also urged the Director-General and Member States to increase their efforts in mobilizing extra-budgetary funding for UNESCO’s work in the area of safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.
In light of the fact that UNESCO is the custodian agency for global reporting to the UN on progress made regarding SDG Indicator 16.10.2 (access to information), a thematic debate was held to acquaint Council Members with the challenges of monitoring and reporting progress on access to information, as well as possible future IPDC actions in this field. As a result, the Council encouraged the IPDC Secretariat to develop a mechanism that can involve and support Member States in data-collection and reporting on access to information. The IPDC Secretariat was additionally invited to explore the possibility of publishing a biennial report on worldwide progress towards SDG Indicator 16.10.2.
Lastly, following the external evaluation of the IPDC that was conducted in 2017, the findings of the evaluation report and the corresponding recommendations were presented at the Council meeting. The Council agreed to express its satisfaction with ‘the evidence of the important outcomes achieved by the Programme as reported by the External Evaluation.’
The full decisions taken by the 31st IPDC Council can be read here.