In recent years, Media & Information Literacy (MIL) has been increasingly recognized as a critical element in good governance and accountability. This is partly due to the rapid growth in technologies, which has contributed to a changing media landscape and new forms of citizen engagement. To thrive in this environment, citizens need the critical abilities and communicative skills to effectively access, analyze, and evaluate information. These skills will help citizens make informed decisions and form opinions that can impact their daily lives and the communities they live in, as well as minimize risks associated with the very same technologies, such as security, safety, and privacy. With its empowering effect, MIL can foster a citizenry capable and aspired to demand better services, hold leaders accountable and engage as active stakeholders in governance reform. Yet, MIL has struggled to gain the momentum needed to become part of the development agenda. However, this might be about to change.
In June this year, The Global Alliance for Partnership on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL) was launched at the Global Forum for Partnerships on MIL, held in Nigeria, and attended by 300 participants from 40 countries. UNESCO is spearheading the initiative, in cooperation with the United National Alliance of Civilizations, UNICEF, the Open Society Foundation, IREX, the European Commission, and other international development partners who have agreed to join in the near future. In total, some eighty countries have agreed to collaborate to ensure that all citizens have access to media and information competencies.
Specifically, GAPMIL seeks to globally reposition MIL, harmonize international approaches, and tailor those to local realities. One of the principles that underpin GAPMIL’s Framework and Plan of Action is that “MIL is seen as essential to citizen engagement, good governance, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and sustainable development.” The initiative will focus on eight key development areas, including governance, citizenship and freedom of expression; access to information and knowledge for all citizens; and development of media, libraries, internet and other information providers.
The GAPMI is a welcome development in an area that has been progressing only very slowly. UNESCO has been at the forefront of this work for the past 40 years and has undertaken several important activities, including the development of the Media and Information Literacy Curriculum, a Global MIL Assessment Framework, an international clearing house, and the forthcoming Guidelines for Preparing National MIL Policies and Strategies. There is not a doubt that a partnership of this magnitude will help strengthen the impact of MIL in international development. I think it’s safe to say that MIL has finally gained some momentum.