UNESCO Nairobi Regional Office for Eastern Africa, through its Director, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, participated at an online conference on “Countering online disinformation and hate speech to foster peace”, held on 21 September 2021, as part of a UNESCO global event to celebrate the International Day of Peace, itself under the theme “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”.
This conference provided a platform to discuss the critical role that social media play in promoting peace and enhancing access to information for achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, through experience gained from the implementation of two projects funded by the European Union; #CoronavirusFacts and Social Media 4 Peace. It examined pressing global issues of social media content governance to counter online hate speech and disinformation, and to foster mutual respect as well as the need to develop common principles for a global online space.
Prof. Gijzen in his intervention during this conference outlined the relevance and timeliness of the Social Media 4 Peace project piloted in Kenya, and it expected contribution to strengthen the resilience of civil society to potentially harmful content spread online such as hate speech inciting violence, while enhancing the promotion of peace through digital technologies; notably social media.
Social media definitely provides an opportunity for both governments, journalists, citizens, IGOs, civil society, academics, etc., and is increasingly used to express different views. It is an essential tool for freedom of expression and for the effective exercise of democracy. It can even serve as a barometer of the social pulse, and analyzed to develop evidence-based policies for social cohesion and peace.
-- Prof. Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa
In a panel session that took stock of achievements and lessons learnt from the UNESCO-EU funded #CoronavirusFacts: Addressing COVID-19 related disinformation in Kenya, Mr Kenneth Okwaroh, Executive Director at Africa Centre for People Institution and Society (ACEPIS) shared that since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, ACEPIS worked with UNESCO, Search for Common Grounds, Code for Africa, and EU in Kenya through #CoronavirusFacts project to equip young people in Eastern Africa with Media & Information Literacy (MIL) skills and competencies to tackle disinformation and hate speech online, reaching out to over 1,000 young leaders, journalists, content creators on utilizing MIL to enhance civic engagement, reduce extremism, tackle disinformation & support information needs to fight Covid-19 in Eastern Africa.
Celebrate peace by standing up against acts of hate online and offline, and by spreading compassion, kindness, and hope in the face of the pandemic, and as we recover.
-- Mr. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General on the occasion of the International Day of Peace
Through its global mandate and lead role in the implementation of the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech and in piloting in Kenya of the Social Media for Peace project, UNESCO will continue to leverage its wide expertise and networks to create a safer and peaceful space for all, ahead the 2022 general elections in Kenya.