The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its partners from over 80 countries have agreed to join forces as a Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL).
The ground-breaking initiative was launched at the Global Forum for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (MIL), entitled: “Promoting Media and Information Literacy as a Means to Cultural Diversity” held in Abuja, Nigeria from June 26 to 28, 2013.
The event brought together over 300 persons from more than 40 countries where speakers and participants discussed, amended and adopted a framework and a plan of action for the GAPMIL which was prepared in advance through a global call for interest and a three-month online debate.
At the launch, an eleven-person steering committee comprising two people from each region was set up. The steering committee includes six women (one female youth representative) and five men.
The event witnessed high quality presentations from 30 eloquent speakers, 17 women and 13 men, on issues relating to MIL, journalism and intercultural dialogue.
Sessions sought to highlight the link between MIL, intercultural dialogue and journalism education, providing an opportunity for participants to discuss how journalism education and MIL contribute towards intercultural dialogue. Journalism education institutions were encouraged to build MIL and intercultural competencies into their pedagogical framework.
An important aspect of this debate involved a reflection on possible editorial guidelines on intercultural reporting, which will form part of a chapter in the forthcoming book on MIL policy and strategy guidelines.
Sessions also served to preview the book recently published by UNESCO, entitled “Model Curricula for Journalism Education: A Compendium of New Syllabi”. The syllabus on Intercultural Journalism was particularly highlighted for the benefit of the journalism educators present.
With Africa as central focus during the event, the African Chapter of the GAPMIL was also debated and launched by stakeholders from Africa.
Participants also had the opportunity to review and offer recommendations to improve draft model MIL Policy and Strategy Guidelines and the Global MIL Assessment Framework. These will be published later in the year.
Participants called for access to MIL competencies for all citizens and a complementary widening of the landscape especially for more community based media platforms such as radio, television, newspaper, libraries as well as investigative reporting of events so that citizens can be better empowered with information needed to make decisions and engage in intercultural exchange.
Participants urged authorities take advantage of the growing influence of social media on societies, especially on youth and harness these potential positives for civic empowerment and also address the risks by promoting national MIL initiatives.
Participants also bemoaned challenges of basic infrastructures like power and broadband Internet facilities.
One of the speakers, Cecile Coulibaly from International Association of Francophone Librarians and Documentalists said, “it is good that we are debating media, media literacy, information literacy and intercultural questions. Sometimes we have the impression that media is different from libraries. I think that we should all sit together and think about how we should educate people to be informed … we should put our experiences/skills together in order to create national programmes that will help citizen’s at all social levels to avoid being overwhelmed with over-information through social networks, being misinformed, being overwhelmed with advertisement propaganda, which divert attention and could steer them towards separations and conflicts.”
The event was supported by the Saudi Arabian, the Nigerian, and the Swedish governments. Practitioners in MIL, librarians, journalists, ICTs specialists, educators, journalism training institutions, civil society organisations, private sector, university professors, and state and UN representatives – who together formed a kaleidoscope of cultures – contributed to the success of the event.
UNESCO expressed its gratitude to all local sponsors as well as the experts from all over the world who could not attend in person but contributed to the online debates and the realization of GAPMIL.