158. Statement by the Director of the International Communication Agency (Reinhardt) Before the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization1

In his opening remarks at this general conference, the President of our 19th session reminded us that 2 years ago there had been a “spirit of Nairobi,” which helped us over difficult times to retain the atmosphere of accommodation that is essential to our activities; and he hoped that we might continue that spirit here in Paris, to aid us in our deliberations at this 20th general conference.2

I join in that hope. I propose that we all once again set aside rhetorical politics and defensive expedients in favor of constructive action based on positive principles. With that recaptured spirit, I submit, we can achieve both unity and progress.

UNESCO has shown us the way over the past 2 years by its significant achievements in the field of human rights. It has adopted the strongest procedures of any U.N. agency for the handling of human [Page 458] rights complaints, thereby guaranteeing full and fair international review for the rights enshrined in the UNESCO Constitution. This represents an important landmark in UNESCO’s work in this, the 30th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.3 We have also made a very important contribution to the international struggle to eliminate racism by adopting, through a consensus of the intergovernmental conference held last March, a draft declaration on race and racial prejudice. When confirmed by this general conference, that declaration will become a major weapon in the continuing struggle, to which we are all dedicated, against racism.4 This new instrument of our unity should command the fullest support and adherence of all governments devoted to human rights. It will contribute to our common endeavors not only at this conference but for generations to come. The United States urges unanimous support of the declaration.

UNESCO has also been making progress in other important areas. It has begun its own preparations for major participation in the U.N. Conference on Science and Technology for Development, a conference on which my government places great significance.5 During the past 2 years, UNESCO has sought to broaden and strengthen its programs to enhance the status of women and their role in our changing societies; its medium-plan statement on this subject is commendable.6

On all those matters, and on numerous others in the fields of education, science, and culture—which UNESCO was created to promote—the United States has been pleased to take an active part. We hope that programs now moving in a promising direction will be carried through to successful culmination. For what we need to strengthen most of all is the sense of direction we recovered in Nairobi, and toward this end to join effective action with the spirit of cooperation.

This general theme—the move to a more effective program of action—will be developed by our delegation in each of the program commissions as we address ourselves to the proposed program and budget presented by the Director General [Amadou Mahtar M’Bow of Senegal]. In education, we look to increasing the links between schooling and the world of work, to the extension of educational opportunities [Page 459] to all segments of society, and to an expansion in the program for population education. In the natural sciences, we will call for a greater focus on priority projects and for the building of scientific capabilities in developing countries. In the social sciences, we will join with others to define major projects and to concentrate efforts on them. In culture, we want to participate in strengthening the sense of cultural identity of all peoples and to recognize, at the same time, the contributions of all cultures to the life of all humankind.

Approach to Communications Development

As I have said, the members of our delegation will develop our views on these matters in the various program commissions. It has always been the view of my government that it is on these matters—the E, the S, and the C of UNESCO—that our major emphasis should be placed. Today, however, I shall of necessity concentrate my attention on the questions that we face in the field of communications. For here we can see the clearest challenge to the continued “spirit of Nairobi.” What are the possibilities for effective action, and how do we find our way from the negative and divisive toward the positive and harmonious?

What we have before us first of all is the sound and generally agreed UNESCO medium-term objectives and the implementing plan of action proposed by the Director General. These give us the opportunity for much-needed research and study and calm reflection, as we seek to relate the extraordinary potential of communications to a human scale. The United States supports that program. But there are other documents on our desks, which aim to force decisions upon us that cannot, by their very nature, have been fully thought through. What are the most pressing communication needs of the various developing countries? How can they best be met—through restrictive declarations or positive cooperation? What are the best ways of addressing those troubling questions? I shall try in my statement to deal with each of these unresolved problems.

We have only just received the interim report of the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems, and my government has not yet had an opportunity to formulate its reactions in full.7 Our comments will be provided, as requested, to the Commission. I [Page 460] can say, however, that we find much to admire in the descriptive portions of the report, which comprise its principal part. The diagnosis is in large measure scholarly and balanced. Our own assessment of world communication importance and needs is—as you will hear shortly—closely congruent with that set forth in the interim report. To that extent we believe a good beginning has been made.

But when it comes to the report’s prescriptions, especially those that imply state controls on the operations of the mass media, we find ourselves unpersuaded. No adequate foundation in fact or in principle has been laid for such prescriptions, nor is there any acknowledgement of the losses—to national development, to peace, to international understanding—that they would entail. The closing few pages of the interim report contrast markedly in this respect with those that precede them. They are less balanced, less well grounded, and I trust will accordingly receive the personal attention of Commission members.

In his introductory remarks on the mass media declaration, the Director General called for a constructive dialogue that could lead to a consensus. Mr. M’Bow also made reference to the horrors of racism inflicted on the world through the state-controlled media of the Nazi regime; and he reminded us that UNESCO was created in part to prevent any repetition of such acts. This reflects my government’s position precisely—that it is state controls that have been primarily associated with the propagation of war and hostility and racialism, and that for UNESCO to sponsor a return to this stifling of human conscience would be to turn its back on its own charter.

Contemporary examples of this basic point are not difficult to find. The governments in southern Africa have reacted to demands for full enjoyment of political and economic rights by closing down newspapers owned by or sympathetic to black Africans. They have also moved to prohibit the circulation of information about the extent and effects of racism in that region. We have recently witnessed similar attempts by governments in other regions to suppress the circulation of documents that draw attention to the violation of human rights. It seems clear from these illustrations that it is freedom of information, and not its control by the state, that is best calculated to achieve the elimination of racism and to promote the attainment of economic and political rights.

Of course freedom must be coupled with justice. We have been learning that ourselves in the United States. America is not a single, monolithic society, and its diversity cannot be fully represented by the major newspapers or networks. And so we have been making major efforts in recent years to encourage ownership and operation of media outlets by blacks, women, Hispanics, and others to the end that the distinctive voice of each of these developing groups within our own [Page 461] society can make itself heard in its own way. It is slow work sometimes, but it is development with and toward freedom.

Let me invite your attention at this point to two statements from the report of a task force on the international flow of news, issued just a few days ago.8 This group of distinguished communication practitioners and scholars, drawn I must emphasize from both the developed and developing worlds, had this to say.

It is our unanimous and deeply held belief that freedom of information and economic and political development are inextricably intertwined and mutually reinforcing.

And as the concluding words of the report:

We reject out of hand the view that freedom is something that only the developed nations of the West can afford—and that it is a superfluous luxury for the developing nations. The practices of a free press may be erratic, even in the West, but the aspirations of freedom should ultimately serve to unite the West and the Third World.

We ourselves would hope ultimately to persuade many other countries of the merits of this point of view. But we do not now seek to impose that view on other governments. We know how dynamically various are the relationships of these governments to their own mass media and how insusceptible they are to being captured within any single formula or code. If there is diversity, let it continue in the spirit voiced by John F. Kennedy 15 years ago, when he issued a call to make the world safe for diversity.9 UNESCO is par excellence a home for diversity, a shelter for many creeds. Let it so continue, and let us work constructively with each other to strengthen cultural pluralism and to enrich the variety of information and points of view that are exchanged.

The Need for Cooperation

This movement toward constructive and principled and unifying action is in the continuing spirit of Nairobi. So also is what I have to say today on the subject of practical cooperation.

Two years ago when I addressed this general conference in Nairobi, I acknowledged the existence of dependencies, disparities, and imbal[Page 462]ances in and among national communication capabilities.10 On that occasion I proposed that measures might be taken by the United States and other developed countries, together with their private sectors and the multilateral institutions, to help other states strengthen their information and communication systems in accordance with their needs. Today I want to describe what has been and is being done on our part, and then move beyond that to propose a system for improved cooperation among all the nations that can, I believe, move us purposefully and measurably toward the realization of our common goals.

Let me begin by recalling the scope and dimension of those goals. As I said in 1976, the central issue is to achieve growth with equity and to pay special attention to the poorest of the poor within the nations and among nations. Internal and international disparities often go hand in hand. Of the 400 million telephones in the world, for example, only 40 million—a bare 10%—are to be found in all of Africa, Asia, and Latin America combined. What does this imply for the scope of participation in the life of those societies or for two-way information flows within them?

A presently pending UNESCO report to the General Assembly devotes similar attention to the unevenness of communications development within societies, and also points up the existence of gross quantitative disparities among the nations of the world. It reveals that 30 developing countries still have no television service at all nor the technical skills to develop one; in about 40 developing countries, fewer than 5% of the people ever see a newspaper; and in more than 60 countries, where radio broadcasting may be the instrument chosen for nation-building, more than half the population has no radio sets. To this must be added a pervasive shortage of skilled technicians and teachers to build up and extend communication capacities.

It should be apparent from this brief recitation that the challenge of communications development is not one that can be met by simple or random infusions of assistance or by the immediate adoption of any formula for a new world order. If we are to have any serious impact, we must proceed in a far more systematic, long-range, and concerted fashion than any we have previously pursued. And we must attract cooperation from every quarter I mentioned 2 years ago—the more prosperous nations, the private sector in those nations, the multilateral institutions, and the disadvantaged countries themselves.

Why should we collectively take on this burden?

•Because information is increasingly recognized as a basic resource—intangible and inexhaustible but otherwise akin to energy [Page 463] and materials—that is essential to full participation in the modern world.

•Because in the face of this recognition it would be unthinkable for us to allow our nations and our peoples to drift by neglect into two separate and distinct camps, the “information rich” versus the “information poor.”

•Because there are some common goals in which we do agree and around which we can construct an action agenda that draws us together and that emphasizes the value of our common institutions, like UNESCO. Those goals include the steady reduction of disparities and dependencies and imbalances in communication capacities and the progressive fostering of many-sided dialogues rather than monologues in internal as well as international communication structures.

U.S. Efforts

What can be done, then, to get things started? Two years ago I suggested a collegial effort. The responses we have been hearing at this conference thus far are heartening. More will no doubt be heard, and a great deal more is required if we are to move appreciably towards the attainment of our goal. Let me begin my own contribution by recounting what the U.S. Government has been doing in this field since Nairobi.

Our regular foreign assistance program has, in the course of the past 2 years, committed $18 million to the cooperative improvement of basic telecommunications infrastructures in developing countries. A further $19 million has been committed to the communications and information components of some 70 projects throughout Africa, Asia, the Near East, and Latin America in the fields of education, population, health care, nutrition, agriculture, and disaster relief.

We have expended another $4 million on two-way exchanges of communication students, teachers, and practitioners; on studies and conferences; and on media materials—all aimed at improving mutual understanding of communication perspectives. These efforts have directly engaged roughly 1,000 participants from 88 developing countries.

We have continued our technical assistance with communications satellites, of which the most prominent example remains the Indian site project I described to you 2 years ago. Its value has been underscored by the recent decision of the Indian Government to establish its own domestic communications satellite system INSAT, to be launched in 1981.

A number of U.S. Government agencies are engaged in sharing communication resources and information-system design capacity with their developing-country counterparts in specific fields of common [Page 464] interest. These include scientific and technical information, weather and disaster warning, health and environmental data, and agricultural information. Other agencies have been working on a regional basis. We have, for example, assisted in the development of regional health information centers in Latin America and the Middle East, in cooperation with local governments and with the Pan American and World Health Organizations. We provide professional consultation by, and practical training in, U.S. communication institutions at the request of foreign government officials or under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union.

Our private sector has also been helping. On the media side, there is one press group that was formed as a result of the Nairobi general conference, with broadly international participation, and that has now raised more than half of its projected million dollar treasury for a variety of projects to assist Third World media development. Our two major wire services11 have similarly volunteered their services to help in the establishment of national news agencies. On the very important telecommunications side, we have no comparably specific or coordinated data, but clearly the development potential of this industry’s export and investment transactions is very large.

We also need to recognize the contributions of the U.S. private, nonprofit sector, principally the charitable foundations and the universities. Some of them serve in a consulting capacity to UNESCO, others underwrite the work of such scholarly bodies as the International Institute of Communications and the International Association for Mass Communication Research, while still others actually produce the studies and conferences and reports that will help us gain a better understanding of the communication issues we are faced with. In my own country, there is an effort now underway for the first time to design a comprehensive and readily accessible clearinghouse of all communication policy research undertaken in the various relevant disciplines; upon eventual completion, this should be suitable for interconnection with national research centers in other countries through the UNESCO-affiliated network known as COMNET.

There are other institutional developments taking place at the government level in my country with definite implications for communications development. One of these is the creation last April of the International Communication Agency, which has been specifically charged by President Carter to promote two-way communication between our people and those of other lands. The new agency has been asked to engage in the development and execution of a comprehensive national [Page 465] policy on international communications. “Such a policy,” President Carter stated, “must take into consideration the needs and interests of others, as well as our own needs.”12 This represents, I submit, a significant evolution in the attitude of the United States toward communications development—and one that has taken place since we last met in Nairobi.

A second and equally important institutional development was, as many of you know, announced by President Carter in a speech to the Venezuelan Congress in Caracas last March.13 This involves the creation of a U.S. foundation for international technological cooperation. As its name suggests, the foundation will work on a cooperative basis to build technological self-reliance within developing countries. It will work to end dependencies at the same time as it lessens disparities. Since President Carter’s announcement, the process of creating the new foundation has moved forward steadily. We expect to be in operation within the coming year.14 I am pleased to tell you today that one of the key programs of the foundation will be devoted specifically to cooperation in the field of information and communications. I personally have high hopes that its efforts with other nations in this sector can make a substantial contribution to our common goals.

New U.S. Initiatives

These developments reflect a genuine commitment on the part of our new U.S. Administration. So do the two specific new projects, growing out of that commitment, that I wish to announce to this conference. The first will devote American assistance, both public and private, to suitably identified regional centers of professional education and training in broadcasting and journalism in the developing world, where such assistance could help the centers equip themselves to produce fully qualified practitioners for the media in the region. Our role will be to work with the faculties and the institutions on their premises. We will undertake to send a senior faculty member or dean of communications to each center for a year’s service as a faculty adviser on curriculum or resource development. Private U.S. news organizations will underwrite the visit to the centers of senior correspondents and [Page 466] editors, on rotating 3-month assignments, to demonstrate professional skills.

As equipment needs are identified, efforts will be made to locate available consoles or studio facilities or printing presses that can be donated to the centers. Institutional funding needs, if any, will be reviewed and assistance offered in presenting them to suitable funding agencies. The visiting professors and journalists will stay no longer than requested; but so long as they are there, they themselves will be learning about Third World development needs and perspectives, in a way that will stay with them when they return to their regular jobs as teachers and gatekeepers of American journalism.

This should be a broadly cooperative undertaking. We have assurances of positive participation from media organizations. We solicit the advice and will welcome the participation of other experienced countries. It must of course be the developing countries themselves who identify the regional centers that seem best qualified to serve the joint purposes we would be pursuing. We are working actively with the UNESCO Secretariat to implement the necessary processes.

The second new U.S. project is a major effort to apply the benefits of advanced communications technology—specifically communications satellites—to economic and social needs in the rural areas of developing nations.

This program will be implemented with the funding of the U.S. Agency for International Development, using facilities of INTELSAT [International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium] or other appropriate satellite systems, and will enable nations in the developing world to disseminate valuable information to people in remote areas. My government—in cooperation with officials in developing areas—will work to design projects to promote basic literacy for children and adults and to share information on basic health care and other subjects vital to rural development. The basic result should be to take important information—much of which is already available in urban centers of developing nations—and distribute it to remote sections where people have little or no access to knowledge that can improve their way of life.

The project I am announcing today will build on the lessons—and the hopes—which have come out of the Indian satellite project and similar smaller experiments in recent years. A major part of the American contribution will be the provision of technical assistance, equipment, and training to promote fully informed use of satellite capacity in the developing nations.

We expect to learn much from this new project. But it is much more than a technological demonstration. It is a committed U.S. effort to build communication skills and experience which will enable developing countries to strengthen their own global, regional, and national [Page 467] communications systems. The programming will be managed by the recipient countries themselves to help meet the basic human needs priorities which they identify. The project will be aimed at building permanent communication technology skills in these countries. At its conclusion, all aspects of management and control will be turned over to the recipient nations, and throughout all of this we hope that the project will develop expertise that will be transferable to other parts of the world.

We believe that this can mark an innovative, productive approach to urgent problems of rural development and communications, and we are pleased that this project will be moving forward in the months ahead.

Coordinating International Efforts

These are the major new initiatives that the United States is taking to help develop a better balance of communications capability throughout the world. But as I have stressed repeatedly, we need more. We need in particular to gather the strength and purpose that can come from the interchange of insights, experiences, and plans—whether bilateral, multilateral, public sector, or private—and from the systematized presentation of development objectives.

A large part of communications development is now accomplished through bilateral cooperation. It is in this sector that collaborative consultation could serve to detect gaps and overlaps, and to strengthen the presently fragmented process. The bilateral character of such activities need not be changed, but ways should be found to focus them on priority needs in a cooperative way with identifiable goals and measurements of progress. Our study has suggested to us that the international community may have already discovered at least a partial precedent for what is required, in the organization and work of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.15

The applicability of this precedent to our purposes is not perfect. The agricultural research centers had been in existence for several years before their funding was coordinated; so that the sponsoring institutions took over a fully proven concept. We have nothing like that at present in the field of communications assistance. But is the [Page 468] analogy nonetheless perhaps worth pursuing? My government believes it may be.

The present consultative group is jointly sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, and the U.N. Development Program. We could substitute UNESCO for FAO as a sponsor. Like the existing group, we could establish an integrated and effective membership consisting of both developed and developing countries, the regional banks, concerned multilateral agencies, and nonprofit foundations. Other appropriate international organizations could certainly be invited to participate. Out of the meetings and studies of a communication consultative group there should emerge a shared sense of development priorities and of the effectiveness of existing and proposed remedies. More than that, we would with the help of the sponsoring institutions—including UNESCO—engender cooperation on a scale that simply is not possible under presently existing arrangements. My government would invite our fellow members to consider this possibility with us.

The chief obstacle to this kind of constructive endeavor, as I see it, has been the introduction of extraneous political elements. I hope that will change. I hope we can discover and display the seriousness of purpose that alone will attract the sponsorship of serious international bodies. Therefore, I invite the Director General to convene a planning meeting within the next 6 months at which government delegations can seek to reach agreement on a specific proposal that can be presented on behalf of developing and developed countries alike to the institutions whose coordinating sponsorship we would seek. My government is prepared to take full part in these deliberations.

My concluding hope is that we will come to agreement—on the communication issues and on all the others we confront—so that together we can move toward making UNESCO a more effective instrument for meeting historic challenges. For it is through such strengthening of our common purposes that UNESCO makes its contribution to the cause of peace and international understanding. The minds of men and women are stirred by purposeful participation in programs of effective action—not by mere rhetoric or political posturing. This is UNESCO’s mission: to provide the means for enhancing practical cooperation in education, the sciences, culture, and communication. Let us get on with the job.

  1. Source: Department of State Bulletin, February 1979, pp. 50–54. All brackets are in the original. Reinhardt’s statement is entitled “UNITED NATIONS: The Challenge for Communications Development.” The 20th UNESCO General Conference took place from October 24 until November 28. The records of the 20th session—Records of the General Conference, Twentieth Session Paris, 24 October to 28 November 1978—are printed in three volumes: Resolutions, Reports, and Proceedings. (Paris: UNESCO, 1979) In telegram 35811 from Paris, October 30, the Embassy transmitted the full text of Reinhardt’s statement, requesting inter-agency comments and clearance. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  2. Reference is to Deputy Head of the Canadian Delegation Napoleon Leblanc. In his October 25 address upon assuming the presidency of the 20th session of the UNESCO General Conference, Leblanc stated: “The name of my eminent predecessor [Taaitta Toweett] will always be linked with what has so rightly been called ‛the spirit of Nairobi’, that is: a firm resolve, whatever the difficulties we have to face and the diversity of our respective ideas, to arrive at a consensus that satisfies our fervent desire to achieve a universality based on respect for one another and on mutual understanding, in short—on dialogue.” (“Address by Mr. Napoleon Leblanc,” 20 C/INF.7 2 November 1978, p. 1)
  3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted December 10, 1948.
  4. UNESCO subsequently adopted the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice on November 27.
  5. Scheduled to take place in Vienna, August 20–31, 1979.
  6. Presumable reference to UNESCO’s Medium-Term Plan for 1977–1982 (19C/4) adopted at the 19th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Nairobi in 1976. Chapter I of the Plan focused on human rights and contained Objective 1.3, focusing upon the status of women and their integration into all aspects of modern society.
  7. Following the 19th session of the UNESCO General Conference, M’Bow established a commission to undertake a review of communications in contemporary society. M’Bow appointed Seán MacBride (Ireland) to head the Commission; members included Elie Abel (United States), Hubert Beuve-Méry (France), Elebe Ma Ekonzo (Zaire), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia), Sergi Losev (Soviet Union), Mochtar Lubis (Indonesia), Mustapha Masmondi (Tunisia), Michio Nagai (Japan), Fred Isaac Akporuaro Omu (Nigeria), Bogdan Osolnik (Yugoslavia), Gamal el Oteifi (Egypt), Johannes Pieter Pronk (Netherlands), Juan Somavia (Chile), Boobli George Verghese (India), and Betty Zimmerman (Canada). The Commission’s final report, entitled Many Voices One World was released by UNESCO in 1980.
  8. Presumable reference to the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on the International Flow of News report, entitled A Free and Balanced Flow.
  9. Reference is to Kennedy’s June 10, 1963, commencement address before the graduates of American University. In it, the President stated, “So, let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small plant. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” (Public Papers: Kennedy, 1963, p. 462) The President’s complete address is ibid., pp. 459–464.
  10. See footnote 8, Document 63.
  11. Associated Press and United Press International.
  12. See Documents 93 and 121.
  13. See footnotes 3 and 7, Document 123. In his remarks before the Venezuelan Congress, the President asserted, “For the rest of this century, the greatest potential for growth is in the developing world. To become more self-reliant, developing nations need to strengthen their technological capabilities. To assist them, I am proposing a new United States foundation for technological collaboration.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, p. 621)
  14. Title IV of the International Development Cooperation Act of 1979 (P.L. 96–53), which the President signed into law on August 14, 1979, authorized the President to establish an Institute for Scientific and Technological Cooperation.
  15. An initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation and supported by the World Bank, FAO, UNDP, and IFAD, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), at the time of the Carter administration, was a confederation of autonomous research centers and donors who supported the transmission of global agricultural research. The four major research centers included the International Rice Research Institute (Philippines), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (Mexico), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (Nigeria), and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Colombia).