UNESCO General Conference Endorses the Windhoek +30 Declaration

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Audrey Azoulay
Director-General of UNESCO

The 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference has endorsed the principles of the Windhoek+30 Declaration on Information as a Public Good. UNESCO’s new General Conference resolution also requested the Director-General to ensure that support is given to activities that will facilitate their achievement.

The Namibian Delegation submitted the draft resolution “Windhoek+30 Declaration made on World Press Freedom Day 2021”, to the Conference and was co-sponsored by 47 other delegations. It was approved by acclamation by the Communication and Information Commission on 18 November 2021 and with the conclusion of the General Conference and validation of Commission decisions, the resolution takes official effect.

The three principles in the Windhoek+30 Declaration highlight the need to address a number of key challenges including: the economic viability of journalism; opacity of Internet companies; and the need to improve media and information literacy among citizens to foster informed engagement with digital communications issues.

Following the long round of applause acclaiming the endorsement, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Mr Tawfik Jelassi, said: “As Secretariat, we are committed to carry forward the principles of the Declaration and aware that such an endorsement will have a high value in further mobilizing the widest possible range of stakeholders, including in preparation of the next World Press Freedom Day 2022 Global Conference in Uruguay.”

The Windhoek+30 Declaration was developed and then adopted on May 3, 2021 by the participants of the 2021 World Press Freedom Day Global Conference. It marked the 30th anniversary of the historic 1991 Windhoek Declaration, which advocated for free, independent and pluralistic media and led to the proclamation of World Press Freedom Day by the United Nations in 1993.

The 2021 Conference was hosted by UNESCO and the Government of Namibia, and took place from April 29 to May 3, 2021 combining both digital and in-presence participation. It brought together over 3,000 participants from more than 150 countries, who attended 40 sessions with 250 speakers.

The Windhoek+30 Declaration takes forward the spirit of the original 1991 Windhoek Declaration, and responds not only to persistent, but also new threats to press freedom.

These include the risk of media extinction amid a “severe economic crisis” and disruption of traditional media business models. Also addressed with regard to online content is the “increasing proliferation, amplification and promotion of […] disinformation and hate speech”, as well as “enduring and new threats to the safety of journalists and the free exercise of journalism, including killings, harassment of women, offline and online attacks”.

The Windhoek+30 Declaration calls on mainstreaming media and information literacy, as well as on ensuring transparency and accountability of technology companies. Furthermore, it contains recommendations to take effective steps to continue to nurture a diversity of viable public, private and community media, while safeguarding their independence.

The Declaration was also taken note of with appreciation by the 76th United Nations General Assembly, within the resolution on “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” (A/C.3/76/L.49/Rev.1.

Both the original Windhoek Declaration and Windhoek+30 have informed UNESCO’s flagship series of reports on World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development (WTR).

The highlights of the latest WTR 2021/2022  edition were released at a side event to the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference at a high-level side event that featured the participation of the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay; Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy, Anna Lind; Joseph Stiglitz, laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; Antonio Kerle, Policy and Insights Research Manager at Economist Impact; Catalina Botero, vice-chair of the Facebook’s Oversight Board; and Shahir Zahine, Founder and Director of the non-profit Afghan media group Killid.