Faced with revolutionary changes following the advent of new technologies, UNESCO has shaped itself to be an international forum for reflecting and debating the social, cultural, ethic and legal impact of such changes on the “information society”. The opportunities for developments in education, science, culture and communication opened up by the new media are balanced by a number of perils: the risk of cultural and linguistic homogenisation, a widening gap in the information distribution between richer and poorer countries, the risk of marginalisation for parts of the population and the loss of our documentary heritage from the rapid technological progress.
Universal access to information and knowledge
UNESCO aims to achieve universal access to information and knowledge. Its objective is to create a knowledge society based on knowledge transfer that includes all socio-cultural and ethical dimensions of sustainable development. The intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP) was established to further these goals and to develop universal ethic, legal and social standards.
Freedom of opinion and expression
Another major priority for UNESCO is to preserve documentary heritage, which also involves the digitisation and long-term preservation of digital documents. Through its successful “Memory of the World” Programme introduced in 1992, UNESCO aims to secure survival of the documentary heritage of humanity (books, manuscripts, audio-visual media) world-wide.
In addition, UNESCO promotes freedom of opinion and expression, especially in regions torn by war and riots. Acting on a proposal by UNESCO, the United Nations proclaimed in 1991 the World Press Freedom Day for the 3rd May. Every year, UNESCO awards the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, which supports independent media, notably in conflict and post-conflict regions.
Another crucial subject is the promotion of cultural diversity and pluralism in the media and global information networks. UNESCO extends its particular support to marginalised and disadvantaged groups as to enable them to produce and disseminate audio-visual programmes.