World Congress 2009

Children are most vulnerable members of society; without respect for their dignity and rights we cannot build a culture of peace. The members of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, work with others, at international, inter-governmental and local levels; to secure a better future for our children — tomorrow’s promise. That is why SIGNIS decided to choose ‘Media for a Culture of Peace – Children’s Rights, Tomorrow’s Promise’ as the theme for its next World Congress (www.signisworldcongress.net) to be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand (17-21 October 2009).

The Congress will highlight how the media can contribute to the building of a culture of peace, especially through the creative empowerment of tomorrow’s generation.

The objectives of the Congress are to:

- Promote a culture of peace and the rights of the child;
- Inspire and give a new impetus to Catholic media professionals to make a culture of peace and children’s right priorities in their work;
- Celebrate the creativity and take stock of the rich achievements of Catholic communicators;
- Reflect on the issue, sharing ideas, experiences, insights and strategies among communicators from across the world;
- Update communicators with knowledge and skills;
- Offer solidarity and mutual support to communicators, some of whom are working in very difficult situations.

The Congress programme is built around three strands; (1) Current global issues on Human Rights and Children’s Rights, (2) Emerging perspectives on Media and Social Transformation and (3) Reflections and challenges of Growing Up in a Digital Age. During the Congress, three major keynotes addresses will highlight the main issues raised in the different strands. Working sessions will deepen the reflection, further elaborate and discuss practical perspectives of how participants can engage in the creative use of media to bring about a culture of peace with and for tomorrow’s generation.

Human Rights – Children’s Rights
This strand will present the major issues and trends in the area of human rights and children. Speakers will be identified from prominent figures with a significant reputation in promoting human rights and especially the rights of the child. This session will also touch on the moral issues raised in the use of media to promote human rights and the dangers of media used to instigate hatred and violence.

Emerging Approaches in Media for Social Transformation
This strand will highlight innovating means of using ‘new’ and ‘old’ media to effect social transformation. Speakers will be identified from personalities or organizations that have gained a reputation for their innovative use of media to promote human rights, manage conflicts and raise social awareness.

Growing Up in a Digital World
The strand will present the work from specialists in the broad area of media education, with a focus on children and new media. Against the background of what has been discussed with regard to children’s rights and media for social transformation, the specialists will explore how children and young people are using and interacting with the changing media environment and new media technologies. The digital world is throwing up new challenges for families, educators and the Church. There are new opportunities and new dangers; the keynotes will challenge Christian communicators to contribute to the shaping of this new culture to accentuate its power for good while helping to combat its negative effects.

Special Activities

In addition to the working sessions there will also be a number of other events and activities within the Congress framework.

Children’s Workshops
A very important event will be the Children’s Workshops designed to both involve children as active participants in the Congress and to provide a unique opportunity for them to develop those communication and media skills they need to make their views and voices heard. Children from three Catholic schools in the Chiang Mai area will be invited for special skills-building Audio Visual workshops organized by SIGNIS-Asia. The workshops will be organized around the theme of children’s rights and the children will have the occasion to mingle with participants, interviewing and interacting with them. The Children’s workshop will showcase their work and insights to the whole Congress on the final day.

Young People’s Perspective
Funding and partnerships permitting, another initiative to ensure that the standpoint of young people is actively part of the Congress deliberations will be to bring to congress a team of young people (2-3 teenagers/young adults drawn from each of the SIGNIS regions). The team, mentored by SIGNIS members, will follow the proceedings of the Congress and make their own critique, report and summary. Their point of view, offered in an audio-visual format, will be presented to the Congress. This process is designed as a way to foster the development of confidence and skills necessary for young people to participate as equal members in deliberative and decision making processes.

‘Show and Tell’ Sessions
One of the objectives of the Congress is to showcase the rich variety of work done by SIGNIS members from all parts of the world. There will be a number of sessions in which members can demonstrate and share their achievements with other participants and learn from each others’ experience.