When Media and Information Literacy becomes critical

21 November 2017

It is evident that the necessity of media and information literacy (MIL) is bellowed in more and more gathering relating to information, media, technology, education and development in general. This is promising, noted a UNESCO representative.

However, we still have a long road ahead. MIL is still not firmly planted on the international development agenda.

Unlike Global MIL Week that has grown each year, the diffusion of MIL at the national level has been riding the highs and lows of different waves connected to social challenges.

Presently, MIL is buoyed by public concerns about fake news, hate speech and violent extremism. However, do we need crises to justify the necessity of MIL as an integral part of literacy and education in general?

The annual Global MIL Week is designed to entrench MIL as a permanent action on the international development agenda. This year’s celebration took place from 25 October to 1 November 2017, under the theme “Media and Information Literacy in Critical Times: Re-imagining Ways of Learning and Information Environments”.

The theme could not have been more poignant. Its Feature Conference, the Seventh Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) Conference was organized in Kingston, Jamaica from 24 to 27 October 2017. The University of the West Indies, Mona was the host.

Close to 100 celebration events around the globe

As a major occasion for stakeholders worldwide to celebrate and advance the achievements and progress towards “MIL for all”, UNESCO encouraged its partners to plan and organize local events online and offline.

This year, the message of Global MIL Week was transmitted across borders, mountains and communities with 97 celebration events around the globe from 40 countries, covering all the regions of the world. This made it the biggest Global MIL Week ever since its first edition in 2012.

Despite lack of resources, stakeholders in Africa and the Caribbean have strived to organize over 15 local events. Many of them have expressed their strong willingness to be part of stimulating MIL awareness notwithstanding the difficult financial situations they were facing.

In Trinidad and Tobago, an online news organization mobilized their staff members to run around the town of Chaguanas in T-shirts that marked “MIL” in order to sensitize the citizens on MIL.

See all the global events on the event map: https://en.unesco.org/datasets/event/27607/map.

Creating knowledge together on MIL

In parallel with the satellites events, the Global MIL Week Feature Conference assembled close to 200 participants from over 40 countries in Jamaica. They explored how they interpreted ways of educating citizens about MIL in all types of environments. They shared their experience, good practices, knowledge and recommendations for future actions.

It also served as an important platform to strengthen international multi-stakeholder cooperation and partnerships on MIL. The participants were representatives of governments, media, libraries, broadcasting unions, universities, international organizations, and NGOs etc.

Many stakeholders are willing to sacrifice to realize the vision of MIL society. One young woman spoke of how she quit her job to follow her vision by starting an NGO. That vision is to empower youth through information. The demands for the services of the NGO have grown rapidly through the years.

Collaborative knowledge to ensure the great impact of MIL on peoples’ lives cannot happen without diverse stakeholders’ inputs. The Feature Conference demonstrated the vision for a marriage between actions on the side of information, libraries, media, and technology, to ensure that a holistic approach to MIL is taking root.

For the first time, organizations like the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the International Association of School Librarianship, the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries, the Jamaica Library Service contributed to Global MIL Week and committed to put their hands to the sledgehammer needed to dismantle the mountain blocking MIL for all.

Youth as leaders

As was the case of the previous edition, the Global MIL Week 2017 Feature Conference kicked off with the Global MIL Week Youth Agenda Forum, an event designed by youth and dedicated to youth.

The Youth Agenda provided an opportunity for young people, youth organizations and leaders, especially youth from the Caribbean region, to get involved in Global MIL Week; it put an emphasis on the role of youth leaders to promote critical civic engagement via MIL.

The Youth Agenda gathered close to 250 local and international youth leaders from over 10 countries. These include social media influencers, young entrepreneurs, leaders of youth organizations, local young journalists and students, shared their life experience related to MIL, as well as their understanding on MIL.

Among many memorable life stories told by the young speakers, Adama Lee-Bah, a young woman from Gambia passionately shared her story of how she became a MIL activist in a radio station in her teenage years, and encouraged young boys and girls in Gambia to learn MIL to change their lives. She started her study in New York and has been steadily pursuing her dream while shouldering the responsibility of being the Chair of the Youth Committee of the Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL).

One key outcome of the Youth Agenda is the MIL CLICKS Pact, which is a self-commitment to engage in critical thinking and influencing their peers in this regard online and offline. It was crafted in dialogue with the Youth Committee of GAPMIL.

Download the MIL CLICKS Pact in multiple languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic

People who embrace the MIL CLICKS Pact are invited to fill in this simple form and commit to be a MIL CLICKer.

See more on the outcome of the Youth Agenda here. Information about the GAPMIL Global MIL Award 2017 is available here. Follow UNESCO website for a report that will outline the key recommendations that came out of the Global MIL Week Feature Conference.

Contact: a.grizzle@unesco.org; i.viera@unesco.org; and ji.xu@unesco.org.