UNESCO celebrates International Day for the Universal Access to Information in JUST
Irbid, 4 October 2017 – UNESCO Amman Office today celebrated the International Day for the Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) at the Jordan University for Science and Technology (JUST) in Irbid. Under the theme "Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information", the outdoor TEDx-style event brought together community leaders in a public discussion on the role of access to information in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Jordan.
IDUAI has particular relevance with the new 2030 Development Agenda, and in particular with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.10 which calls for ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms. The event was organized in the context of the Talks that the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) is encouraging worldwide as well as under the framework of the Regional ICT Accessibility Week in the Arab States that UNESCO is organizing with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to raise awareness on the critical role played by information in supporting holistic and sustainable national development.
In his keynote address, Mr. Anders Pedersen, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Jordan, highlighted the critical role that access to information can play in reducing inequalities:
"Access to information and knowledge is a key element to addressing inequalities, since it gives individuals the opportunity to make informed decisions that affect their lives. Poor and vulnerable groups often lack information that is vital to their lives. They usually do not have access to information on basic rights and entitlements, public services, health, education, work opportunities, public expenditure budgets, etc. They also lack visibility and voice to enable them to define and influence policy priorities and access resources," he noted.
Mr. Ziad Obeidat, Acting Secretary General at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, described Jordan's commitment to the 2030 Agenda and the next steps ahead. The engaging talks were moderated by radio journalist Ms. Rawan Jayousi. Professor Omar Al-Jarrah, President of JUST, elaborated on the strategic importance of access to information in advancing scientific research and how academia can contribute to that.
Professor Al-Jarrah described that the recent rapid developments in the ICT sector have influenced academia dramatically, "future universities will have to adapt to the new age of complete democratization of information accompanied by its unlimited accessibility and the impact it will have on teaching and research," he noted. JUST has taken several measures to meet the demands of this changing environment including investing heavily in its IT infrastructure and the recent establishment of the Open Educational Resources Center at its campus to design and implement strategies to meet the future demands of this sector.
Ms. Hadeel Abu Sufa, activist on the rights of persons with disabilities, illustrated how information and communication technologies (ICT) can concretely support the enhancement of the livelihoods and the participation of persons with disabilities in the social and economic development of their communities. Mr. Loay Malahmeh, Fab-Lab Irbid Founder, focused on the latest modern technologies, knowledge, and means for product innovation as tools to develop the local economy and create new job opportunities for the communities of Irbid and Mafraq. Mr. Naser Jarun, from Tashweesh Wade7 -a sarcastic Jordanian TV news program- told stories of young people and access to information leading to more informed societies.
Ms. Costanza Farina, UNESCO Representative to Jordan, noted the importance of celebrating this Day and putting a spotlight on the critical role of information in achieving the 2030 Agenda:
"Access to Information is embedded in the SDGs as Goal No. 16, Target 10 within the overarching aim of promoting peaceful societies. Its inclusion reflects the growing recognition by the international community that peace and justice, as well as effective, accountable, inclusive institutions are at the core of sustainable development."
"It is inspiring to hear what different professionals, with their diverse expertise and professional backgrounds believe is the essential role that access to information, independent and free media and freedom of expression play to achieve a sustainable future," she added.
This celebration was held with financial contributions from the regional EU-funded project "Networks of Mediterranean Youth", as well as from the EU-funded project "Support Media in Jordan," both of which are implemented by UNESCO.
2017 is the second year of UNESCO marking 28 September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. On 17 November 2015, UNESCO's Governing Body adopted resolution (38 C/70) declaring 28 September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).