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UNESCO contributes to current Internet debates

As the UN specialised agency covering freedom of expression issues, UNESCO this week championed this mandate at several events related to the Internet, held in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Speaking at three separate meetings, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Getachew Engida, affirmed the Organization’s commitment to promoting the values of free expression online, and to making a positive impact on the post-2015 development agenda and the next phase of the World Summit on the Information Society.

At the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, also known as NETmundial, Engida noted that the principle of free expression, along with others relevant to UNESCO, was integrated within the draft outcome statement of the conference

In his remarks, he also encouraged more emphasis in the outcome statement on social inclusion, gender equality, Africa, and Small Island Developing States, open access, and Media and Information Literacy as a frame for digital literacy.

The transition of the Internet Domain Name System should “maintain the openness, robustness, decentralized and interoperable nature of the Internet, while providing the means for a truly multi-stakeholder involvement in its governance,” Engida told the conference.

The UNESCO Deputy Director-General also spoke at the “Regional Expert Meeting on Internet, Freedom of Expression and Human Rights”, convened by the Office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Instituto Demos, with the support of UNESCO Montevideo Office, Ford Foundation, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee and Global Partners Digital.

More than 30 NGOs and experts based in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, United States, United Kingdom and Uruguay debated how to protect and promote Freedom of Expression in the Internet era.

Engida delivered closing remarks at the meeting, noting that the results of the discussion would serve as a contribution for UNESCO’s Comprehensive Study on Internet-Related issues, and he invited further responses from participants.

The third event engaged by the Deputy Director-General was a consultation by UNESCO, NIC.Br and LACNIC on draft Internet Indicators of relevance to UNESCO’s mandate.

In his opening statement, Engida described the evolution of UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators, and noted that the draft concept of Internet Universality could inform the process of identifying indicators for assessing issues in cyberspace.

The Internet Universality concept pinpoints the principles of human rights online, openness in the Internet ecosystem, digital accessibility for marginalised groups and languages, and multi-stakeholder participation.  

“If the indicators reach a stage of elaboration that is ripe enough, we will present them to the UNESCO governing bodies for consideration,” said the UNESCO Deputy Director General.