The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) is committed to strengthening networking among its members at the regional level to enhance collaboration and coordination in support of Freedom of Expression advocacy, IFEX officials said at its General Meeting and Strategy Conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last month.
In his opening remarks at the General Meeting titled “IFEX Highlights: From Beirut to Phnom Penh (2011 – 2013)” on June 17, outgoing IFEX Convener, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, gave a two-year overview of IFEX work and progress made in different areas since its last General Meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, in June 2011.
Mr. Ojo illustrated the importance of regional networking, highlighting developments and progress made in Latin America and the Caribbean (IFEX-ALC) network.
Mr. Ojo said: “Through strategic planning, the IFEX- ALC has built a strong alliance which has been highly effective in identifying and acting on key advocacy opportunities in the region.”
He identified some of the actions carried out by IFEX-ALC to include lobbying to preserve the mandate of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression; the launching of a high-profile regional impunity report in Guatemala; and continuing its successful lobbying at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Mr. Ojo also highlighted IFEX regional networking efforts in Asia, saying: ”After eight years of facilitating networking, campaigning and institution strengthening with partners in Central Asia, members from the region are now in a good position to be supported by international members, and by the working relationships developed through the network.”
On the other regions, he said: ”In late 2012, IFEX began an assessment of opportunities for IFEX for regional networking support in the Southeast Europe region,” adding that “In 2013, IFEX also began a regional networking collaboration needs assessment process with IFEX members in Africa”.
Mr Ojo explained that the findings from these assessments would now inform efforts at building effective networks in the two regions as consultations were continuing to determine the frameworks for networking activities.
He also spoke about the International Day to End Impunity (IDEI) which was launched by IFEX members on November 23, 2011 and the important endorsements it has received, including from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr. Frank LaRue, who said in his 2012 Report to the UN Human Rights Council that: “Impunity is one – if not the main – cause of the unacceptably high number of journalists who are attacked or killed each year… (and I) welcomed the declaration by the IFEX network in 2011 of 23 November as the International Day to End Impunity.”
Mr. Ojo said the IDEI campaign has featured multilingual video and tools, case studies, daily actions (for November), contests, an online game, interactive global events map and infographics, adding that “The number of people that were engaged in the 2012 IDEI campaign more than doubled the number of 2011. IFEX members that participated in the campaign also increased from 37 members in 2011 to 54 in 2012.”
Reflecting on other developments in IFEX since 2011, he highlighted the networks new information product, explaining that: “IFEX has launched some dynamic new communication products, resulting from its intensive ‘digital transformation’ planning process since Beirut.”
Mr. Ojo encouraged members to familiarize themselves with the new products and discuss with the IFEX Secretariat staff any areas where they may be having difficulty.
Mr. Ojo explained the role of the IFEX Council, the governing body of the network, in the process, saying the achievements have been recorded through the efforts of a dynamic and committed Council, working and visioning with IFEX Management and staff.
He described the Council is the “Board of Directors” of IFEX, which deals with all strategic and substantial matters facing IFEX in between General Meetings.
Highlighting some of the functions of the IFEX Council, he said it ensures that IFEX complies with its governing document as well as relevant laws and regulations; ensures that IFEX pursues its objects as defined in its Governance Articles; it reviews, approves and oversees the implementation of policies and IFEX’s strategic plan; gives strategic direction to the Executive Director and senior management staff of IFEX; and safeguards the good name, culture and ethos of IFEX, among other functions.
Encouraging good people and organizations to step forward and contest elections into the incoming Council, he explained the desirable attributes of Council members, saying that although Council membership is organizational, not individual but that individuals sit on Council on behalf of their organizations.
Mr. Ojo said “It is important that Council members ‘represent’ the interests of IFEX members rather than their individual organizations” and that individuals on Council should be authorized or empowered by their organizations to make decisions and commit their organizations.”
He stressed that individual knowledge, skills and experience are highly valuable attributes for those aspiring to Council membership in addition to an understanding of the duties and responsibilities of Council. Besides, he said, they should also have a willingness to devote some time and effort to the activities of the Council.
Mr. Ojo advised that they should have good independent judgment, an ability to think creatively, a willingness to speak their minds, and an ability to work effectively as members of a team.