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UNESCO Beirut: technology to advance Democracy and Human Rights
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UNESCO Beirut: technology to advance Democracy and Human Rights

On 5 September 2017, UNESCO Beirut announced, in partnership with Samir Kassir Foundation and SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, the results of the Tech4Freedom project, at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

This project aims at empowering Arab human rights and development organizations by providing them with tech tools that can help them advance their causes and objectives. This activity is undertaken in the framework of UNESCO’s project “Promoting an Enabling Environment for Freedom of Expression: Global Action with Special Focus on the Arab Region”, which aims at fostering the development of free, independent and pluralistic media, promoting widened access to information, and enhancing the role of young people in dialogue, reconciliation and sustained peace.

The Tech4Freedom project was initially launched in August 2016. It gathered NGOs and young new online media groups who seek to advance the causes of human rights and freedom of expression, on the one hand, and start-up companies who conceive, deliver and develop tech products, on the other hand. The project aimed to create a match between an NGO/new online media that has a creative idea but needs tech solution to make it happen, and a start-up that can provide them with tech solutions and tools. Once the match is made, representatives of international groups that develop tech solutions for peace, freedom and human rights played, over a year, the role of mentors to guide the "couple" (NGO & start-up) and help them launch a joint product/project.

As the yearlong work is over, UNESCO Paris and UNESCO’s Beirut Office launched, on 5 September 2017, the preliminary projects that the “matches” have been working on. The event included a presentation of projects by NGOs and Tech counterparts (SawaAid Foundation and Emagine; SKOUN with ALEF and Bizaroob; Dustourouna and ArabiaGIS), and a panel discussion entitled “Democracy and Human Rights in a Digital Age”. The latter gathered experts from international start-ups (ICT4Peace in the UK, Webradar in Tunisia, and Elva in the Netherlands), who are developing and using tech innovation to support free speech, humanitarian aid and development initiatives, combat terrorism, and promote democratic values.