30 September, 2018 – Yarmouk University was the ideal meeting point today for students and academics to convene in the “Bride of the North” city – Irbid – for the IPDCTalks event focused on “Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information”, to discuss the crucial role of access to information, and independent and pluralistic media for a sustainable future.
Within the United Nations system and across the international community, the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) is the only multilateral forum with the aim of promoting communication and media development globally. Its mission has been to protect the freedom of individuals and the press in keeping citizens informed. Such objectives are deeply intertwined with the efforts towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As such, the IPDCTalks in Irbid gathered more than 200 students and academics, representatives of youth and sustainable development related organizations, the European Union, UN and diplomatic representatives, Government representatives, media and other actors working towards creating inclusive and informed societies. The event was organized under the patronage of HE Jumana Ghunaimat, Minister of State for Media Affairs and at her presence.
Moderated by actor and broadcast presenter Ahmad Srour, the talks emphasized how a better informed citizenry can more efficiently strive to achieve sustainable development, reduce inequalities, promote employment and realize gender equality. Without access to information, there can be no informed decision making, no informed policy debate, and this is true for all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In her address, Ms. Costanza Farina, UNESCO Representative to Jordan, elaborated, “access to information is a driver for positive change to help with accountability, democracy, and transparency”. It is imperative that citizens take action after having all the facts. She added, “The IPDC Talks are an excellent forum to highlight the importance of access to information and freedom of expression which empower individuals to take part in informed decision-making.”
In his welcoming address, Dr. Zeidan Kafafi, President of Yarmouk University, asserted that Yarmouk University, with its esteemed faculties and media specialization, is “the ideal place” to celebrate the International Day for Universal Access to Information and host the third annual IPDCTalks. “We value our partnership with UNESCO and consider such an event as an opportunity to expose students to the links between the right to information and sustainable development,” he stated.
The five IPDC speakers agreed that individuals must have channels through which they can access and share information, and that effective laws for access to information, and transparency in centers of power, are needed for media to fulfil their function. Ala Al-Shamma, Investigative Journalist from Al Mamlaka TV Channel, stressed that legal frameworks for access to information and transparency help to build a culture of openness, assisting investigative journalists in retrieving information for the public, and reinforcing good governance.
Noor Homoud, Country Director of DOT JO Organization, emphasized that “women are the least likely to demand and receive access to information, yet they are, perhaps, the most group in need of this powerful right”. She explained that digital information and communication technologies increase the voice and influence of women and girls. Through learning new skills and using digital ICTs, women and girls have been able to build self-confidence, increase their economic power and independence and make better-informed decisions.
Another important issue was addressed by Mohammed Ali, a sports commentator known as “the poor people’s commentator.” He reiterated that, “information is a tool to reach the marginalized and to discover other cultures. “Through my work I want to know what is going on, and in order to know what is going on, I look into and hear from many information sources, unfortunately not many local resources are available about sports”.
HE Andrea Fontana, EU Ambassador to Jordan, underlined the role of accessible information in promoting human rights and dignity, and to eradicate poverty. ”What needs to happen, is to work together to create opportunity for everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from” Fontana said in his discussion. “Access to information is a key driver for taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and EU development policies and strategies, since EU sees that the 2030 Agenda is an extraordinary opportunity to eradicate poverty, and achieve sustainable development” The Ambassador added.
The talks were streamed live, fueling a national conversation on social media about the importance of access to information. Globally, the IPDCTalks were generously funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of Finland and the Republic of Lithuania and in Jordan, the European Union has also funded the talks through the “Support to Media in Jordan” project, which has been implemented by UNESCO with strong collaboration and funding from the EU since 2014.
On 17 November 2015, UNESCO’s Governing Body adopted resolution (38 C/70) declaring 28 September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information. The main IPDCTalks event took place in Tunis, Tunisia on 27 September, with eight regional/national IPDCTalks taking place in other countries to celebrate the International Day for Universal Access to Information.