UN Global Alliance on Gender and Media, Part Two

By Lisa McLaughlin, Miami University of Ohio, and Sophie Toupin, McGill University

This “report” has been compiled from a series of posts on the FemTechNet listserv in late November through December 10, 2013. Lisa McLaughlin, Associate Professor, Department of Media, Journalism & Film and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, at Miami University of Ohio, took the lead for FemTechNet in Fall 2013 in the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG). The Alliance was initiated during a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] forum in Bangkok from December 2-4, 2013.  Together with FemTechNet co-facilitators, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz, Lisa decided to submit the online information necessary to join the Alliance.

Sophie Toupin posted to FemTechNet, December 1, 2013:
I am so thrilled to hear that FemTechNet is taking part in the upcoming meeting of the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG)! As highlighted by Anne’s email, continuing to engage at the policy level, despite the frustration and the sometimes apparent disinterest of global players on such issue, it is nonetheless very important.

In the mid-2000s, I took part in international policy dialogues when I worked for and with the Women’s International Network of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). It was at the time of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

It might be worth connecting with other NGOs present at the GAMG and which are working on similar issues (whether big players such as: IREX [International Research and Exchanges Board], Internews and Panos; or smaller players such as: AMARC, WACC [World Association for Christian Communication], etc.) to write a joint letter in The Guardian (or other newspapers) to address the issue of gender and media and the interconnection and intersection between all forms of technologies whether “old” (such as community radio) or “new” (a dichotomy I am not fond of), the concentration of the “media” (whether it be at the media level or at the “internet” level i.e. the “googlization” of everything: see Society of the Query #2  http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/query/past-events/2-amsterdam/) and the importance of pluralism (see: Chantal Mouffe’s new book on Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically [Verso, 2013]). A joint letter could help trigger some traction for a campaign and bring attention to this undervalued issue.

 Having said that, finding one or two permanent missions at the UN or government representatives to champion those issues could also be key. Having an official country or permanent mission to back our initiative could be of much help as government reps can sometimes be our ears, eyes and voices in spaces where decisions are being made, pressure is being applied, but where civil society is not allowed. Also and my last point on this: from my advocacy work experience at the permanent missions level, we do not necessarily have to target the country where we are from, we can target other, friendlier countries.

Sophie

Lisa McLaughlin to Sophie Toupin and the FemTechNet listserv, December 1, 2013:

You will see on the agenda that IREX [International Research and Exchanges Board], APC [Association for Progressive Communications], WACC [World Association for Christian Communication], etc. all are listed as major partners for the GAMG. The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) also is a major partner. One tricky matter is that, to streamline processes, UNESCO decided to separate the academic constituency (and place IAMCR in a leadership position) from the civil society constituency. UNESCO would have preferred that all academics were represented by IAMCR, but, as you might agree, it seems inappropriate to require that one becomes a member of IAMCR in order to participate. Also, academic associations/networks are part of civil society. For these reasons, and because I hope that FemTechNet eventually becomes more inclusive of those not associated with academe, I designated FemTechNet as a civil society, not academic, association. I should mention that I am a member of IAMCR and have no animosity against IAMCR, even though I am somewhat concerned about the representational arrangement.

But, the good news is that, as a civil society organization, even as an academic civil society organization, FemTechNet does have the opportunity to work with the other organizations that you list. I’ve worked with WACC and APC in the past, primarily to lobby for inclusion of specific concerns and language (like “gender”) during the WSIS.

I think that we should have a dialogue about what FemTechNet supports beyond the broad issue of media and gender equality and justice. Optimally, we should have done this earlier, but then, UNESCO didn’t promote the GAMG until September of this year [2013].

Sophie, you’re correct that members of governmental delegations can be effective allies, but, in general, US delegates will do little more than have conversations with civil society representatives (if that). During WSIS, governments were asked to include civil society representatives in their official delegations. While countries such as Uganda were quite inclusive, the US ambassador refused to include anyone from civil society. One female member of the Canadian delegation, on the other hand, even wore the T-shirts that we had made for the prep-coms before the Geneva summit. [As I recall, the front of the T-shirt stated “Something is missing from the WSIS Declaration” and the back of the T-shirt stated “GENDER.”] At the OECD Ministerial on the Future of the Internet Economy, the Brazilian ambassador was quite supportive of civil society.

My guess is that we probably will need to find friendly government officials from countries other than the US.

The live streaming video of the Global Forum on Media and Gender wasn’t working for the first day and there was no interpretation to English or any other language available. Two apparent news anchors spoke in Thai over the video and the speakers’ voices, and it appeared that they were not addressing the forum. No interactive technology seems to have been made available for the forum. Despite UNESCO’s important accomplishments, there is a reason why UNESCO and FIASCO have three final letters in common.

On the upside, in my experience, the important discussions and work do not occur at the events themselves but, rather, before, around, and after these episodic public sphere moments. The Global Alliance on Media and Gender will be announced during the Bangkok forum. What happens after this is the real substance of the GAMG, where we might engage in the dialogue and make a difference.

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/resources/news-and-in-focus-articles/all-news/news/first_steps_taken_towards_gender_equal_media_at_the_global_forum_in_bangkok/#.UqfU22RDs1F

Ultimately, the UN General Assembly will have to officially approve the GAMG.

Lisa McLaughlin, writing on December 10, 2013

The Global Forum on Media and Gender has concluded, not surprisingly with an announcement that there now exists a Global Alliance on Media and Gender. Although the streaming video never worked, there is now video at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/crosscutting-priorities/gender-and-media/global-forum-on-media-and-gender/global-Forum-on-Media-and-Gender-Videos. I’m afraid that it’s not very impressive–just the opening ceremony and some interviews with participants, only one of whom is a Civil Society representative from an organization that takes a very progressive and critical approach to gender and media issues (the woman from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, China Desk).

At this point, my primary comment on the proceedings, including the opening ceremony, is that while the forum focused on some significant issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and the Internet and the vulnerability of women journalists in war zones (both worthy of great attention), it was too heavily weighted toward women as victims, at the expense of focusing on the contributions of women to efforts to increase gender equality and justice within the context of media/communications. GBV and the Internet seems to be at the top of the list of issues as they involve women.

FIRST GLOBAL FORUM ON MEDIA AND GENDER (GFMG)

Bangkok, Thailand

2nd-4th December, 2013

FINAL STATEMENT

We, the delegates to the First Global Forum on Media and Gender, held in Bangkok, Thailand from 2nd-4th December, 2013, declare our commitment to the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the promotion of gender equality in and through media, the empowerment of women, and to the creation of a Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG).

We reaffirm the outcomes of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

We recognize that the media has a crucial role to play in promoting women’s full participation in every aspect of life and society and, to this end, we invite UNESCO and UN Women to endorse this Statement and implement its recommendations.

We also invite other UN agencies, intergovernmental bodies, media organizations, training and development institutions, professional organizations, donors, commercial businesses and foundations, relevant NGOs and education institutions, to embrace this statement and to support the implementation of its recommendations as appropriate.

COMMITMENT

We are committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment across generations to fully participate and enabling women’s access to expression and decision-making by promoting a gender-inclusive media and communication environment that reaches gender equality in media organizations, unions, media education and training institutions, media professional associations, media regulatory and self-regulatory bodies; attains gender balance in media governing boards and in management, whose levels set company policy, make key financial decisions, and oversee media operations, thereby influencing the following aspects:

  • access to and participation in digital platforms;
  • safety of women in media;
  • a positive, non-stereotypical and balanced portrayal across all forms of media and media content;
  • promotion of ethical principles and policies supporting gender equality;
  • improvement of the gender spread within media occupational groups;
  • empowerment of communicators with media and information literacy skills that can help advance the cause of gender equality.

We support the establishment of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG) in line with principles and objectives outlined in the Framework.

We call on UNESCO and UN Women, as well as the UN family and all partner organizations to join the Global Alliance on Media and Gender and contribute to the implementation of its Framework and Action Plan.

We call on UNESCO and UN Women to disseminate widely through the United Nations system our proposals for the inclusion of Gender and Media in the Post 2015 sustainable development agenda, in particular to the goal related to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (Annex I) and the goal of good governance, and in the 2015 UN Conference on Women (Annex II).

We also call on all who can assist the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG) to join us in supporting women in accessing the opportunities and benefits which the knowledge society and media technologies are bringing to humankind today, and which can do so even more in the future.