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Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a UN specialised agency, dedicated to contributing to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, and sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.
Some of UNESCO’s objectives and activities are connected to issues pertanining to the information society. At a general level, the organisation aims to strengthen science, technology and innovation systems and policies, nationally, regionally and globally, and to promote freedom of expression, media development and access to information and knowledge. UNESCO carries activities aimed to support member states actions in areas related to the promotion of freedom of expression in the online space, ethical dimensions of the information society, multilingualism in cyberspace, digital inclusion, digital literacy, and bridging other still existing dimensions of the digital divide.
UNESCO is a promoter of the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in education. To support its work in this area, the organisation has established an Institute for Information Technologies in Education, whose aim is to support member states in bridging the digital divide in education and building inclusive knowledge societies.
In addition, the agency is a supporter of open ICT standards and open licenses (such as open access, open data and crowdsourcing platforms, and open educational resources) that could contribute to expanding universal access to information and knowledge. In this area, UNESCO has adopted a set of Guidelines for open educational resources (OER) in higher education, as well as Policy guidelines for the development and promotion of open access.
UNESCO, together with the International Telecommunication Union, have set up the basis for the Broadband Commission, tasked to define strategies for accelerating broadband rollout worldwide and examine applications that could see broadband networks improve the delivery of social services.
In 2013, UNESCO launched a new concept titled ‘Internet Universality’ as a response to a global trend of defining Internet principles. In UNESCO’s views, the following four main principles are at the core of the universal character of the Internet: respect for human rights, openness, global accessibility, and multistakeholder participation.
UNESCO is one of the specialised UN agencies appointed by the Tunis Agenda of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to provide a follow-up on specific action lines related to: access, information and knowledge; e-learning; e-science; cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content; media; and ethical dimensions of the information society. The organisation is involved in the preparation of the annual WSIS Forum, where discussions are held on the progress made with regard to the implementation of the WSIS action lines. UNESCO is also an active contributor to the work of the Internet Governance Forum.