Virtual Side Event on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Academic Freedom today 9:00-10:00 EST in New York

October 21, 2020

Co-organizers:

●UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

●Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN

●Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN

●Open Society Foundations’ Education Program

●Scholars at Risk

Context: On Friday 23 October 2020 the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly will consider the report on academic freedom presented by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The report focuses on the ways in which the freedom of opinion and expression protect and promote academic freedom, and the special role played by academics and academic institutions in democratic society when assured of institutional autonomy and self-governance. Without academic freedom, societies lose their capacity for self-reflection, for knowledge generation and for a constant search for improvements of people’s lives and social conditions. Drawing on examples from all regions of the world, the report highlights the repression and harassment of scholars and students, unlawful restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression that interfere with research, teaching, debate and discussion by the academic community in their institutions or in other fora, and various measures, from funding of research to hiring of professors and administrators, that are used to erode and attack the autonomy of academic institutions.The report provides clear guidance on the scope of academic freedom, recognizing that it is protected by a wide range of human rights norms and principles, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It encourages individuals and organizations to articulate their claims as violations of academic freedom, and concludes with a set of recommendations to States, academic institutions and civil society. The side event is aimed at discussing how the report’s findings and recommendations can be used to ensure the realization of the freedom of opinion and expression to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers as an integral aspect of academic freedom and enhance the ability of academics and institutions to contribute to democracy and development around the world.Objectives

This side event will provide a forum to discuss the challenges to academic freedom, including social harassment and political repression of scholars, students, and institutions around the globe, as well as legal protections offered by international human rights law, including in particular the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and how the report’s analysis and recommendations can be used to protect the freedom of opinion and expression aspects of academic freedom worldwide.Modalities.

The one-hour moderated discussion will have the following format:

Opening remarks: H.E. Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-ThaniPermanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations and H.E. Juan Ramon de la Fuente Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations

Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Presentation of the main findings and recommendations of the report Prof. David Kaye, former Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Panel discussion:

●Ms. Camilla Croso, Director of the Education Program of the Open Society Foundations, will highlight the role of academic freedom and its importance in advancing open and democratic societies

●Dr. Maleiha Malik, Executive Director, Protection of Education in Insecurity and Conflict, Education Above All Foundation, will discuss the particular challenges to academic freedom in countries affected by conflict

●Mr. Robert Quinn, founding Executive Director of the Scholars at Risk Network, will describe some current legal challenges and responses to pressures on academic freedom around the world

Concluding remarks: Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur.

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