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Working with Civil Society at the heart of a UNESCO Forum

24-10-2007 (Paris)
Working with Civil Society at the heart of a UNESCO Forum
Working with civil society will be the theme of the “International Forum of Civil Society – UNESCO’s Partners” on 25 October, during the 34th session of UNESCO’s General Conference (16 October to 3 November).
Hubert Védrine, former French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nitin Desai, President of the Internet Governance Forum and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs as well as Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman of the Board of Directors of L’Oréal, will give keynote speeches during the meeting.

Working with civil society is of crucial importance for UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector. A good example of this fruitful cooperation was UNESCO’s contribution for the preparation of the two World Summits on the Information Society (Switzerland, 2003, and Tunisia, 2005) that established a new model for the participation of various stakeholders in a major United Nations summit and, consequently, in international cooperation.

From the non-governmental sector, not only NGOs – with their own well-defined fields of competence and activity – but also networks of communities and citizens, development and solidarity associations, groups of various stakeholders, academics, unions and the media all took part in both Summits.

During the four years of the whole Summit process, new practices emerged which, through innovative interaction modes, enabled a wide variety of partners to contribute to the decision-making process. Thus, the Summit provided a laboratory for new forms of governance in the information society and, more generally, for new ways of proceeding in future global negotiations.

Thanks to this preparation, UNESCO helped to build a platform to allow civil society and professional NGOs to take part in the follow-up to the Summit.

Drawing on the non-governmental sector’s professional competencies and its ability to mobilize, UNESCO was helped shift the priority of the Summit away from technologies to contents – a shift expressed in the new concept of “Knowledge Societies” introduced by the Organization.

The strategic partnership established with civil society and professional NGOs will be pivotal for the implementation by several stakeholders of the Action Plan adopted by the Summit. This action will provide an authoritative framework for international cooperation in communication and information in years to come.

The Forum, on 25 October, which opens at 9:30 am in Room II, will be divided into two sessions. In the morning “Citizen’s and Global Governance – Acting Together” will focus on the role citizens play in global governance and on how they can best interact with UNESCO. The afternoon session, “Manifold Partnerships to Achieve UNESCO’s Objectives” will be devoted to the actual modalities for implementing different partnerships based on concrete examples of successful cooperation. A declaration will be adopted at the end of the Forum.

As civil society gets increasingly involved in UNESCO’s fields of competence and seeks relations with the Organization, the Forum will debate on how to reinforce this cooperation at national, regional and international levels, disseminate best practices and develop a culture of partnership. It will bring together representatives of UNESCO Member States, local governments, parliamentarians, UNESCO Clubs and Non-Governmental Organizations as well as representatives from the private sector.
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