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Who should lead UNESCO? Over 170 NGOs weigh in ahead of elections

Over 170 organizations around the world call on the UNESCO Executive Board to consider commitment to freedom of expression in nominating a new Director General in upcoming elections.

Dear Ambassador,

The future of freedom of expression is in your hands.

As a member of UNESCO's Executive Board, you will soon have a say in who will lead the only UN organization with the specific mandate to promote and protect “the free flow of ideas by word and image,” encompassing free speech, as well as its underpinning requirements of access to information, press freedom and the safety of journalists.

In a previous letter addressed to the UNESCO Group of Friends on the Safety of Journalists, 221 organizations urged ambassadors to take into consideration the importance of the candidate's commitment to freedom of opinion and expression. We, the IFEX Network and the Global Forum for Media Development (GMFD), reiterate this call and ask that your vote for the next Director-General of UNESCO be someone who unequivocally stands for the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, and is ready to put words into action when this fundamental right is under attack.

UNESCO's commitment to these essential principles has been, and we hope it will continue to be, the expansion of access to free, independent, and pluralistic media for millions of citizens, which in turn has allowed for the enrichment and progress of vital democratic values around the world.

UNESCO's mandate in this area will also play a critical role in achieving Agenda 2030, which recognizes the need to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms. The next Director-General's role will be central not only to achieve this goal, but the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole.

It is for these crucial reasons that the continuation and strengthening of UNESCO's commitment to the advancement of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes everyone's right to freedom of opinion and expression, be ensured.

We, the signatories, look to your leadership as a member of the Executive Board of UNESCO, to keep this in mind, and encourage others to embrace these fundamental values as a priority when choosing the next leader of UNESCO.

Thank you for your consideration and on-going service to UNESCO and the ideals it aspires to achieve.


IFEX (119 member organizations in over 70 countries)
Global Forum for Media Development (GMFD) (66 member organizations in over 70 countries)

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