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The Treaties - 6 - Communication, Information, Media and Networking Treaty


Role of Communication and Information

1. The right to communicate freely is a basic human right and a necessity for sustainable development. Access to information is essential for informed decision-making at all levels. As Chapter 40 of Agenda 21 declares, "In sustainable development, everyone is a user and provider of information considered in the broad sense that includes data, information, appropriately packaged experience and knowledge." The "Green Press" International Meeting of Journalists on Environment and Development (Belo Horizonte, May 20-24, 1992) identified as threats to democratic communication unequal access to the media, the concentration of information resources in the hands of economic groups, censorship and other forms of government control.

2. Governments and international institutions should guarantee the right of all people to communicate, to collect, to put in proper shape, to disseminate and to exchange all information they choose without any risk to personal security. People should have the material and cultural means, including the basic mail and telephone facilities to communicate with colleagues locally and globally. Unfortunately in many Southern countries these facilities are deteriorating.

Networking

3. Networking and sharing of information has been repeatedly emphasized by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) process as essential to being able to work effectively together. Networking involves face-to-face meetings, formal organizations, informal meetings, printed media, telephone, fax, mail, radio, TV, video and computer communications. All are significant; all are to be used in the different circumstances of life and cultural arrangements. Monolithic, monopolistic structures of the mass media in most countries are not sympathetic to NGO issues.

4. Networking involves:

    a. communicating within and across organizational and sectoral boundaries

    b. using all media that enhance the dissemination of ideas

    c. fostering personal relationships with the working press, TV reporters, etc.

    d. sharing and exchanging information with people who have common interests and who are involved with related activities.

5. The promotion of networking is a primary objective of the Communication Treaty.

An Agenda For NGO Communications
(This section includes contributions from the Women's Workshop on media and the Francophone Group's meeting on communication.)

6. The following principles direct this communication effort:

    a. support NGO efforts to expand community participation in decision-making at all levels

    b. establish and strengthen existing interconnected, decentralized networks, that provide a capacity for "thinking globally, acting locally" as well as "thinking locally and acting globally"

    c. enable NGOs from the South and the North, grassroots organizations, women's groups and indigenous peoples to monitor government and business activity that relates to, supports or undermines sustainable development. This effort must include:

      i. an early warning system on projects to be implemented by governments and multilateral agencies

      ii. alert systems on environmental, social and related threats.

    d. encourage governments, educators and information providers to understand that access to information (including information about government and business activities) is an essential part of community education

    e. encourage governments to provide, free of added charges, information about government activities, and information that government agencies develop that relate to sustainable development; governments should subsidize NGO and educational information networks that support open, informed, public activity without restriction

    f. make use of indigenous knowledge, local experience and community heritage as key sources of information

    g. promote and strengthen literacy and education and support all expressions of cultural diversity

    h. give expression to artistic communication and expression techniques as well as other means of popular expression which are used by local communities

    i. promote the establishment and access to free and local radio and TV considered as appropriate means of expression; support democratic movements in urban and rural areas; and implement training programs in order to allow populations to master the above means of communications

    j. support and recognize women's media networks worldwide, both those that supply news on women's activities and concerns to mass media outlets and those that utilize alternative media channels to reach women and women's groups with information that assists and supports them in their community activities

    k. support efforts by NGOs to provide technical assistance and training in communication methods and technologies to local and national groups that are attempting to reach out to otherwise isolated communities, using appropriate languages and channels not available to regional and international networks

    l. support efforts by NGOs to set up resource centers of information and resources for community activities, especially in the area of environmental concerns; the resource centers should contain audio and visual materials in addition to printed publications, and should cover all of the languages most common in the area being served.

7. These principles and goals of the Communications Treaty constitute a social agenda of enormous importance both for the environment and for the cause of social justice. The struggle for social justice is an integral part of environmental restoration and preservation.

Commitments to Immediate Action

8. The signatories commit themselves to contribute to NGO information networking and to act as two-way communication channels, sending, processing and receiving information to and from their constituencies on a collaborative, fair and non-discriminatory basis.

9. The following actions will be taken, to the extent of their means, by the signatories:

    a. establish and strengthen the existing communication channels and networks and their connectivity

    b. share and distribute databases on environment and development issues that will provide the basis for a new set of indicators of sustainable development able to challenge the established (World Bank promoted) view that GNP is the only measure of success

    c. maintain, develop and disseminate an international directory of NGOs and individuals engaged in networking, communication and information activities

    d. encourage universities to provide access to computer resources such as Internet and Bitnet, to NGOs and schools

    e. expand the number of people currently working on these issues by organizing people with time on their hands and a desire to contribute, such as students, elderly people, the unemployed and others

    f. promote effective dissemination of NGO messages through radio, TV and printed media

    g. raise funds to support these activities and develop mechanisms to evaluate their success

    h. promote the appropriate use of computers for information activities, particularly electronic networking, by undertaking the following actions:

      i. develop software that is friendly, allows for connectivity and is portable to the computers of Southern and grassroots users

      ii. provide access to information on available/appropriate technologies, costs, etc.

      iii. make computer hardware and software available to NGOs, grassroots and community-based groups.

10. Bridge the communication and data gap

    a. develop and disseminate training materials, training the trainers, and organizing workshops and seminars

    b. establish information centers and e-mail nodes in different countries, particularly in the South

    c. develop mechanisms to "upload" and distribute information originated locally from non-electronic sources

    d. create mechanisms to distribute information available electronically in appropriate formats (e.g. radio, video, newsletters, diskettes, etc.)

    e. translate data and information into different languages and formats.

11. The signatories of the Communication, Information and Networking Alternative Treaty include NGOs with expertise in communication, journalism, community-based media, education, information processing and electronic networking. We are committed to work for these goals and to address the networking and information-sharing needs of the other Alternative Treaties.

12. The challenge to all NGOs who sign this Communications Treaty is to take up the responsibility and the opportunity to share with others accounts of the tasks in which they are engaged, the issues which they are facing, and the successes which they have achieved with the view to develop a civil society that is informed, engaged and responsible. The signatories will continue discussion on this issue through all appropriate channels, particularly the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) network conference called en.unced.infox.

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