This was the second Future Forum in a series pertaining to foresight issues launched by the Director-General in March 2009, when a group of eminent experts discussed the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on multilateralism and UNESCO.
“We have gathered today to consider the future prospects for knowledge acquisition and sharing”, began the Director-General. He recalled his address at the March Forum, in which he had argued that the current crisis required UNESCO to intensify its efforts to promote the ‘free exchange of ideas and knowledge’, noting the relevance of information and knowledge as being crucial in tackling the challenges and crises that societies face.
Mr Matsuura underlined that the dramatic advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) over the last twenty years have provided the ideal conditions for widening and globalizing the public access to and sharing of knowledge. “Never before in human history has so much information been so readily available to so many. In an increasingly connected global community, the ability to access information and transform it into meaningful and useful knowledge is a key driver of sustainable social and economic development,” he said.
“Yet, knowledge acquisition and sharing is still far from equitable”, continued the Director-General. “Huge numbers of people, particularly in developing countries but also marginalized groups elsewhere, are denied the opportunities to acquire, use and share knowledge in this way. Narrowing the digital divide is essential. But that is not all. We also need to narrow the knowledge divide which cumulates rifts in knowledge creation, preservation, acquisition and sharing”.
The Director-General underscored that UNESCO was founded on a presumption of the importance of accelerating knowledge acquisition and that it has always sought to promote a vision of how knowledge societies could be built. He went on to highlight some examples of contributions towards that reflection made by UNESCO, such as the findings of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century; the concept of knowledge societies – based on the principles of quality education for all, universal access to information and knowledge, respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, and freedom of expression that UNESCO promoted in the framework of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS); and the related UNESCO World Report ‘Towards Knowledge Societies (2005). “UNESCO initiatives such as the Community Media Centres or the World Digital Library Project seek to translate the vision of knowledge societies into concrete action”, he added.
“In their search for viable responses to the global crises that are currently destabilizing societies around the world, government leaders have recognized that investments in the social sector are critical to laying the foundation for recovery, sustainable development, economic growth and prosperity. Investment in the large and complex knowledge domains will be of particular relevance”, emphasized the Director-General.
In conclusion, Mr Matsuura stated that “UNESCO wants to work with all stakeholders to identify the challenges arising from these developments and to determine areas in which international policy planning and governance might be necessary to address them”.
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 082-2009 - Publication Date: 12-05-2009