Before assuming duties as the Assistant Director General of Communication and Information of UNESCO, Ambassador Karklinš served as the Latvian Ambassador to France, Andorra, Monaco and UNESCO. He was also the Permanent Representative of Latvia to the United Nations in Geneva.
During his stay in Geneva, he served as the First Vice-Chairman, and one year later as Chairman of the Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). He has held several elected posts in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and UN Commission of Science and Technology for Development, as well as presided over the Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). He also served as the Vice-President of the Preparatory Committee of the Geneva Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and was President of the Preparatory Committee of the Tunis Phase of WSIS.
Ambassador Karklinš represented Latvia in the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN and chaired this Committee from 2007 until June 2010. Prior to the posting in Geneva, he served as the Under-Secretary of State in Latvia. He also served as Counsellor in the Latvian Embassies in both France and Finland. He has an engineering degree from the Riga Technical University in Latvia, and attended an Executive Education Program for Eastern European diplomats at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University in the USA.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
What is the mandate behind UNESCO for 2013? What are your key goals?
“….This is a crucial time for us to analyze what is the role of UNESCO in the international concert, what is our added value, what functions UNESCO should continue to perform in the next 8 years and what functions should be dropped. It’s a very important time for the organization from a strategic perspective….”
What is your mandate as Assistant Director General (ADG) for 2013?
“….Ensuring that media all around the world can develop freely that it is pluralistic and independent….Promoting technology in education….Working in the field of internet governance to advocate for freedom of expression on and off the internet, the multilingualism in the cyberspace and development of local content….In the field of the preservation of documentary heritage, this year we are focusing on development of methodologies for digital preservation of digital information….”
Ambassador Karklinš talks about World Summit and Information Society (WSIS) and briefly profiles WSIS’ milestones.
“….This was a Summit organized in 2 phases in 2003 in Geneva and 2005 in Tunis….This year we are planning to organize a conference which will review the work which was done in the past 10 years, identify what the perspectives are and what needs to be done in the future; particularly what is important to ensure that technology finds a proper place in the sustainable development agenda which the international community is developing for 2015 and beyond….”
Can you discuss any additional planned outcomes from the Paris Summit?
“….There will be more than 60 sessions on different aspects ranging from purely UNESCO mandated issues like use of technology in education, freedom of expression and freedom of press, freedom of the internet, multilingualism of cyberspace but equally there will be discussions about general aspects of internet governance, about enhanced cooperation which was one of the important outcomes of the Tunis phase of the Summit….”
You mentioned the February Summit in Paris and the WSIS Forum in Geneva in May. Who is going to be attending and who should attend?
“….The WSIS Forum in May to which you referred is the annual gathering of what we call the WSIS community. These are government representatives, representatives of industry and civil society interested in the development of information and knowledge societies….The Paris gathering is a review conference of WSIS outcomes and that is specifically geared towards refining what has been done, what are the successes, what are the shortfalls and how we see post-2015 arrangements….”
What are the top challenges facing the world today that would impact the work you are doing?
“….The biggest challenge as I see it is to put development on a sustainable path….To ensure sustainable peace in the world….Understanding how to harness the potential of new technologies in the best possible way in different parts of the world….To understand how to prevent the bad effects of new technologies that we see developing….The complexities related to long-term digital preservation….”
Do you see some additional opportunities available that will impact the world?
“….Ensuring access to education for all people around the world would create a lot of opportunities and would bring many people out of poverty….”
Do you work with or partner with corporations or with some of the academic institutions (the Commonwealth of Learning on the massively open online courses and how that is impacting education)?
“….Yes, we are working with industry very closely and that is one of the advantages of UNESCO which has a long-standing tradition of engagement with the civil society and industry in different areas of activities….”
Are you also involved with things like the Raspberry Pi (credit-card-sized single-board computers with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools), or perhaps smartphones under $50 — or is that something which is left to other groups?
“….We are not involved in initiatives putting in place developing hardware because that is not our area of activity and expertise. Instead we are very much involved in other aspects in the development of the ecosystem….When all these elements of the ecosystem are put in place we can really talk about use of technology in the education process. UNESCO is working on these other issues….”
How does UNESCO relate to national economies both in the developed and developing nations?
“….If you do not have a proper educational policy in place, you cannot expect that the people will be well-trained for the labour market. If you do not have proper cultural policies in place you cannot expect that the social cultural life of the nation will be rich and conducive to innovation and development. When you do not have free press you cannot think of active civic participation of citizens in the social or political life of the nation. So different aspects of our activities have direct or indirect impact on the economic development of nations….”
From your prior roles, do you have any key lessons that you can share with our audience?
“….Be yourself….Be open….Be patient….Know how to listen….Understand what the issues are that concern people and look for the compromise….”
What policies need to be implemented to foster innovation?
“….I’m not really an expert in innovation policies, but I’m a firm believer in individual freedom…. Governments need to ensure an enabling environment for individual freedoms and that will naturally bring innovation. Of course it should be accompanied by economic policies, proper educational systems and there should be some incentives in place which lead to innovation….”
There’s a lot of controversy in the world and as a senior leader within UNESCO, how do you manage that controversy?
“….Controversies exist because there are diverging interests. It’s very important to know how to listen and to try to understand different points of view, and then analyze where the points of convergence are and try to develop those areas where development of convergence is possible…..”
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
“….I think there are many examples of good cooperation of professionals with different and sometimes diverging interests which are not really regulated by the government. The first thing that comes to mind is IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) where internet professionals and the technical community come together to discuss and then to develop necessary standards. I mentioned that we observe not only the advantages of the internet and technology, but also the misuse of technology and we need to think of the best way to help counter that misuse. Our computing professionals should certainly be part of that reflection and also action to counter the misuse of the internet or technology in general….”
Ambassador Karklinš shares a story from his extensive speaking, travels and work experiences.
“….It was really amazing professionalism of an Ambassador who could go from deep sleep right to the subject and to deliver his message….”
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask and then what would be your answer?
“….Should the internet be regulated or further regulated than it is?….In my opinion the answer would be the internet is already highly regulated, but it is regulated not in the traditional sense of regulation which we understand under international law where governments are setting the rules and others are following….One of the best results of the World Summit in Information Society 2005 was agreement that internet should be regulated in a multi-stakeholder manner where each stakeholder group has its own roles and responsibilities and that would ensure proper regulation. We see that in 10 years time that the internet has known enormous development and we can say that this multi-stakeholder model of regulation of internet works and needs to be preserved….”
Ambassador Karklinš, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O’Leary