Basseterre, St.Kitts June 22nd- Caricom Youth Ambassador, Ms. Sonia Boddie recently represented the Federation and the region at a Youth and Internet: Fighting Radicalization and Extremism conference organized by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, from June 16th to 17th, 2015.
The two day international conference which was conducted in both English and French, brought together over 250 officials, academics, policy-makers, youth NGO’s, experts and practitioners from a range of institutions and disciplines from across the world, to share experiences, highlight gaps and explore options in reducing the internet as a tool for youth extremism and radicalism.
The conference which was organized in the framework of the Intergovernmental Information for All Programme was organized in partnership with International Programme for the Development of Communication. The conference was born out of the idea that even though the internet, which is heavily used by youth, has catalyzed innovation across all spheres of contemporary life, it has also at the same time been associated with rising challenges with young people, and that is an issue which the international community must recognize and collectively try to tackle.
The conference highlighted the need for more media and information literacy programmes, along with education for global citizenship and the integration for human rights in all education and life-long learning, to better nurture the new generation of ‘digital citizens’ who are on the rise. It also called for the internet to be better supported by the public and private sectors, as a tool to empower young people, while assisting them to reach their full potential and achieve their goals.
According to Boddie, “The conference was very educational and timely. The average person in the Federation may think we do not have an issue with Radicalization and Extremism, but what we need to recognize is that we live in a global village and with the use of the internet and other avenues of ICT, we cannot play naïve to the other issues that are more prevalent in other jurisdictions, thinking they would not reach our shores. We recently saw where a Jamaican youth was deported back to Jamaica from Suriname, having transited to that country in his quest to allegedly go to Turkey to join ISIS. Therefore, we must begin to dialogue with our youth on these issues and discuss creative ways to minimize our own youth becoming susceptible to the negativity that is on the internet, and encourage them to be more responsible when online. Ms. Boddie further lamented, “One thing that particularly stood out for me at the conference was the discussion on Hate speech, Freedom of Expression and the abuse of the Comments section on websites and social media as we have seen it right here in our federation, where persons abuse the comments section, on Facebook and popular news websites, defaming others and even partaking in libel and slander in some cases and these are unethical and unacceptable behaviours, which we must discourage our young people from partaking in.
Ms. Boddie’s participation at this event also served as a fact finding and networking mission, as this conference precedes an event of a similar nature, which is slated to be held in the Federation in September by UNESCO, to continue raising awareness of the Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society.
Ms. Boddie wishes to express her profound gratitude to Mr. Antonio Maynard, Secretary General of the St.Kitts –Nevis National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO office in Paris, for facilitating her participation at this event.