The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication announced this week an agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to establish the UNESCO Institute for Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict-Sensitive Reporting at the University of Oregon. The agreement was approved on November 13, 2013 in Paris.

The new institute continues the work begun by the UO’s Center for Intercultural Dialogue — which was established in 2008 to engage students, faculty, and community members in building a global community through education and dialogue — and incorporates the work of the SOJC’s James Wallace Chair in Journalism Peter Laufer, by adding the crucial dimension of the role of media in building such a world community.

The combined effort grew, in part, out of Laufer’s course in Conflict Sensitive Reporting in the spring of 2012. As part of the class, Laufer took a team of SOJC students and faculty to the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day Conference in Tunisia, where his students worked with other student journalists from around the world to produce a daily newspaper for the three days of the conference. Laufer continued the conversation with UNESCO on global press issues, returning with another group of students and faculty to the conference the following year, this time in Costa Rica.

The UNESCO Institute, housed at both the UO’s George S. Turnbull Center in Portland and in Gerlinger Hall on the Eugene campus, will host conferences and other public programs, provide grant funding for research and innovative teaching, and publish a journal – all devoted to fostering improved cross-cultural communication and understanding the impact of news reporting on conflict.

“We are delighted to formalize our relationship with UNESCO,” said Laufer, who co-directs the Institute with Steven Shankman, UNESCO Chair for Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue, and Peace and Distinguished Professor of English and Classics. “We certainly share a mission to engage in the current issues of international dialogue, with conflict-sensitive reporting being at the forefront of our concern.”

Shankman sees the increase in impact that comes with a UNESCO collaboration as a significant opportunity for students and scholars at UO and ultimately a benefit to reporters and the conflicts they cover.

“Media has a huge impact on society, ” Shankman noted. “It is our fervent hope that this new UNESCO institute will encourage news reporters to fulfill their ethical responsibility as journalists in an increasingly intercultural world.”