Good News Agency – n° 2


Weekly - Year I - Number 2 - 7 July 2000

Editor: Sergio Tripi

Rome law-court registration no. 265/2000 dated 20 June 2000           

Good News Agency carries positive and constructive news from all over the world relating to voluntary work, the work of the United Nations, non governmental organizations, and institutions engaged in improving the quality of life – news that doesn’t “burn out” in the space of a day. Good News Agency is distributed through internet to editorial offices of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations with an e-mail address and is available in its web site: 


Good News Agency is a service activity of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale  a registered non-profit educational organization founded in Italy in 1979. The Association operates in support to the Lucis Trust activities, the U.N. University for Peace, Radio For Peace International and other organizations engaged in the spreading of a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective.

Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy. E-mail:



International Legislation


Cultural Heritage


Human Rights












Economy and Social Development





“Weaving a Web of Lighted Communications”


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International Legislation



Belgium is 14th State to ratify treaty establishing International Criminal Court

Belgium has become the 14th State to ratify the treaty establishing the prospective International Criminal Court (ICC), which will become operational after the Rome Statute receives 60 ratifications.

The decision was announced on 28th June, as the ICC Preparatory Commission continued its work on rules and procedures for the court's operations. Its next session, will be held in November.

Along with Belgium, the Rome Statute has been ratified by Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, San Marino, Italy, Fiji, Ghana, Norway, Belize, Iceland, Tajikistan, Venezuela, France and Sierra Leone.


Preparatory Commission for International Criminal Court adopts rules of procedure and evidence and text on elements of crimes

The Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court (ICC) met its deadline of 30 June for finalization of the operational details of the Statute necessary for the eventual functioning of the Court, as it concluded its three- week session (30 June).

By consensus, the Commission adopted the Rules of Procedure and Evidence for the Court, as well as a text on the Elements of Crimes listed in the Statute as being under the Court's jurisdiction.

The outcome reflected a compromise, Preparatory Commission Chairman Philippe Kirsch (Canada) said. The statements after the adoption were a testament of how difficult it had been to accept some of the compromises reached. For the Court to be effective, though, it must enjoy the widest support possible. It had been the responsibility of the Preparatory Commission to develop instruments to enable the Court to function as fairly and with the widest acceptance possible.



Human Rights



11 July - World Population Day

In 1989, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recommended that 11 July be observed as World Population Day. An outgrowth of the Day of Five Billion, celebrated on 11 July 1987, the Day seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, particularly in the context of overall development plans and programmes, and the need to find solutions for these issues. In 2000, world population stood at 6.06 billion, and was growing by 78 million a year. The United Nations estimates there will be between 7.3 billion and 10.7 billion people in 2050, with 8.9 billion the most likely projection.


11 July - World Population Day 2000: Saving Women’s Lives

“Many women do not have the freedom to make the choices that shape their lives. They are poor—sixty per cent of the world’s poor are women and girls. They have little education—two-thirds of illiterates are women. They lack health care—350 million still do not have access to reproductive health services. They play little part in political decisions—only one parliamentarian in eight is a woman.

“Better education and health services, including reproductive health, give women more power to decide. A woman in control of her life is a woman less at risk. Change calls for Commitment, Action and Leadership.

“On this World Population Day let each of us pledge action to save women’s lives: for ourselves, for our communities, for our world.”

Dr. Nafis Sadik - Executive Director - United Nations Population Fund


Women’s anti-discrimination Committee concludes three-week session at Headquarters

Concluding its three-week twenty-third session, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women adopted recommendations for advancing the status of women in Iraq, Austria, Lithuania, Cuba, Cameroon, Moldova and Romania.

Also adopting its draft report for the twenty-third session, the 23-member expert body noted that the twenty-third session of the Committee was taking place after the very upbeat and positive closing of the General Assembly special session entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace in the twenty-first century", which had reviewed the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.

The draft report also notes that the twenty-third session was important not only because the reports of the seven countries were analysed, but also because the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention was imminent. The commitment of governments with regard to the Optional Protocol had largely been translated into reality. To date, 41 States parties to the Convention had signed the Optional Protocol and five had ratified it.


UNICEF supports children's consultations in Mexico

Millions of Mexican children went to special polling stations on 2 July -- the same day on which adults vote in the country's Presidential elections -- to register their opinions about their schools and communities and about the state of Mexico's democracy.

The Children's Consultation, as the event is known, is also to put into place certain formal child participation mechanisms whereby Mexican children have the opportunity to express themselves freely on their rights. A child's right to express him or herself freely is enshrined in article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world's most ratified human rights treaty.

This is the second time that a similar event takes place in Mexico (on 6 July 1997 almost four million children aged between 6 to 12 voted to identify which right was most important to them. The overwhelming majority chose the right "to have a school in which to learn and improve ourselves").

Preliminary results of the Children's Consultation will be made public during the week of 17 July.


High Commissioner for human rights convenes central and eastern European seminar on protection of minorities – 5-7 July, Warsaw.

The seminar, organized for Central and Eastern European countries in cooperation with the Polish Government, is part of a series of regional meetings being held in preparation for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which is set to take place in South Africa in September of next year. Experts taking part in the seminar, which is open to observers from all United Nations Member States, had among their objectives the consideration of some of the key issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the region; the exchange of information on 'best practices' in dealing with racism; discussion of action-oriented strategies and the encouragement of a groundswell of Governmental, institutional and public support for the World Conference and its goals.


GAMBIA: Human rights umbrella formed

Human rights NGOs in Gambia have formed an umbrella organisation, 'The Independent' newspaper reported. Its role is to create a hotline for free flow of information for the NGOs and general public and to organise educational fora on human rights issues, according to its coordinator, Mohammed Silla, who is secretary-general of Amnesty International in Gambia.


Launch of Human Development Report 2000 puts rights of the poor in media spotlight

(July 3rd) Hundreds of newspapers in all regions of the world carried reports and commentaries on the launch of the Human Development Report 2000 last week. This year's global launch was led from Paris by French President Jacques Chirac. Other launches were held in more than 70 countries where civic and political leaders embraced its central theme "Human Rights and Human Development."
UNDP Administrator, Mark Malloch Brown said that unfortunately, human rights and human development are largely abstract and unattainable concepts for too many of the world's poorest citizens. Speaking at the Paris launch, Mr. Malloch Brown said that economic, social and cultural rights for people living in extreme poverty had not kept pace with the promises of democracy.


Family planning could save nearly three million of 11 million under-five lives lost annually

Family planning saves the lives of millions of children and mothers all over the world, according to Save the Children, a leading child development and relief body. Family planning, it states, could prevent 25 per cent of the annual deaths of more than 11 million children under the age of five in the developing world. It would do so by spacing births at least two years apart, helping women to bear children during their healthiest reproductive years and by enabling parents to have the number of children they want.

Save the Children says that in its State of the World's Mothers 2000 report, which ranks, for the first time, the status of mothers and children in 106 countries according to a Mothers’ Index it has developed.





Nature preserve in demilitarized zone

Some Koreans are hoping that the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea will be turned into a nature preserve.  The 155-mile-long DMZ -- laced with landmines, razor wire, and chain-link fence -- has been cut off from human interference for nearly half a century, so many plants and animals are thriving there, including some endangered species.  Military borders in other regions have been turned into "peace parks" to promote reconciliation -- Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia share such a reserve, as do Nicaragua and Costa Rica. But the reserve plan will have to compete with proposals from South Korean companies that want to build facilities in and around the DMZ.


The International Peace Poem Project, started in 1996 by a six-year-old girl, now includes over 30,000 lines in 60 languages from over 70 nations. All are invited to compose a two-line poem on peace in the language of her or his choice and send it on papers to the organizing group: Peace Poem, P.O.Box 102, Lahaina, HI 96761 USA. Thus individuals all over the world become co-authors of the  world’s longest poem focused on peace, that will be presented to the United Nations next October.

Radio For Peace International:








Growing Up Alone Campaign - HIV/AIDS A Global Emergency

Launching the second phase of its Growing Up Alone Campaign, which focuses on the 13 million children worldwide orphaned by AIDS, UNICEF UK is calling on the UK Government to acknowledge HIV/AIDS as the global emergency that it really is.

The call comes as two governmental bodies are meeting to discuss HIV/AIDS, and in advance of the World AIDS conference in Durban next month. A UNICEF UK Agenda For Action also calls on the private sector to show leadership and commitment in fighting HIV/AIDS, and urges individuals to support the Growing Up Alone campaign. 

UNICEF UK is inviting visitors to see its website to help break through a virtual Wall of Silence. The aim is to remove bricks one by one as the number of people signing up increases, and bring down the Wall by World AIDS Day in December this year.


SIERRA LEONE: new health clinic for children

The Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) is to operate a clinic for children under the age of five and run an expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) in Mile 91, east of Freetown, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported. The decision followed an ICRC/SLRCS health-needs assessment in the area on 23-24 June.


MAURITANIA: EU helps malnourished children

The European Commission has decided to earmark 365,000 euro (about US $345,000) for more than 2,500 infants suffering from malnutrition as a result of drought in northern Mauritania, along with their mothers, the EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO) reported this week.


Economy and social development



International Labour Office (ILO) announces new social development programme

In a new initiative to implement the Programme of Action of the World Summit on Social Development (Copenhagen 1995), the International Labour Office (ILO) today announced the immediate launch of a new programme aimed at promoting human development at the local and national level.

Initially to be funded by a 15 billion lira (US$ 7.5 million) grant from the Government of Italy, the "Universitas" programme will seek to promote decent work by training development officials and ILO social partners in 15 developing countries in Central America, the Mediterranean, West Bank and Gaza, the Balkans and Africa. The ILO said additional countries were expected to eventually participate in funding the project.

The programme and the Trust Fund agreement were prepared by a Joint Task Force set up by the Italian Government and the ILO in February 2000.



Annual session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

5th July – 1st August – Geneva and New York

The Council was established as a principal organ of the United Nations by Article 7 of the Charter. It generally holds one five-week substantive session each year, alternating between New York and Geneva. Each session includes a high- level special meeting, attended by ministers and other senior government officials, to discuss major economic and social issues. The year-round work of the Council is carried out in its subsidiary bodies, commissions and committees, which meet at regular intervals and reportback to the Council.

The theme of this year's high-level segment, scheduled for 5 to 7 July, is "Development and international cooperation in the twenty-first century: the role of information technology in the context of a knowledge-based global economy".


Geneva special session on social development offers bold solutions to reduce poverty and create jobs in a global economy

Agreement was reached on a wide array of initiatives to reduce poverty and spur job growth in the global economy at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on social development that ended  July 1st in Geneva.

At a time of widely diverging interests between developing and developed countries over trade and economic issues, countries managed to agree on a series of measures to promote social development while mitigating the adverse effects of globalization. The resulting agreement provides specific targets and strategies that will have major ramifications for national governments and international institutions in setting and achieving social development objectives.

Noting that globalization and rapid technological advances offer unprecedented opportunities and benefits, the Special Session found that a growing number of people in all countries and regions remain marginalized by the global economy. Reducing poverty, promoting job growth, and ensuring the participation of all people in the decision-making process were the main objectives of the agreement. To achieve these goals, countries endorsed actions to ensure improved education and health, including in times of financial crisis.


Seeds of empowerment for the world’s rural poor

The Internet can empower the world’s poorest populations to attain their socio-economic potential, as shown by networks financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

After 20 years of combating rural hunger and poverty, IFAD – a Rome-based specialized agency of the United Nations – has learned that the experience of poverty in today’s knowledge-based global economy means more than lacking access to productive resources and capital but also to information.

Known for its use of innovative approaches to rural development, IFAD is linking poor communities to the Internet in order to cultivate grassroots information exchange and e-commerce opportunities.

These initiatives will be showcased by IFAD at a conference on information technology hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, 5-7 July.


General Assembly concludes special session on five-year follow up to Copenhagen Social Summit

The General Assembly concluded 1st July a Special Session which followed-up on the 1995 United Nations Social Summit by calling, among other things, for halving the number of persons living in extreme poverty by 2015; for the achievement of free and universal primary education by 2015; for a reduction of trade barriers affecting developing countries; for gender equality in pay for equal work; for avoidance of 'unilateral measures' affecting the health and well-being of women and children; and for greater steps to ease the debt burdens of developing countries.

The final document also urged reallocation of resources from 'excessive' military expenditures to social programmes; for responses to the debt problems of middle-income developing countries; and for efforts to refrain from using food and medicine as 'tools for political pressure'.


MALI: Improving rural infrastructure

The World Bank has agreed to lend Mali's government US $115.1 million for a 10-year National Rural Infrastructure Project designed to improve irrigation, rehabilitate roads, and supply clean water and sanitation services to rural areas, the World Bank reported. It said the governments of Mali and the Netherlands, along with the beneficiaries, will contribute US $22.7 million to the project, which also aims to increase food security through higher, sustainable and more reliable farm production.

[More information is available at:]


Cultural Heritage



Experts meet on international convention for the protection of underwater cultural heritage

3-7 July – UNESCO Headquarters – Paris

Governmental experts representing some 100 governments from around the world meet from July 3 to 7 to examine the Draft Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage which aims to protect valuable underwater cultural heritage (shipwrecks and archaeological sites) increasingly vulnerable to pillaging by treasure hunters as ever more efficient underwater excavation equipment becomes more accessible.

This is the third meeting of governmental experts to discuss the Draft Convention. In 1999, the Second meeting of governmental experts stressed the importance of training and international co-operation and invited States to take all appropriate measures to limit damage and destruction to underwater cultural heritage immediately, even before an international convention is adopted.

The revised Draft Convention and report will be submitted to the 31st session of UNESCO’s General Conference at the end of 2001.





Pioneer ecologic apartment in New York

A building under construction and set to open in New York City in 2002 may earn the distinction of being the world's greenest high-rise apartment complex.  The 26-floor, 250-unit building is intended to be 30 percent more energy efficient than state codes require.  It will take advantage of natural light, use motion-controlled and dimmable lighting, and feature energy-efficient appliances.  Solar panels will be used to generate electricity for common areas and hallways.  Water from bathtubs and washing machines will be recycled for use in toilets and maintenance work.  The high-tech, eco-friendly features are expected to push up building costs by about 15 percent.


EU proposal for reducing gas emissions

The European Union wants fines to be imposed on nations that fail to meet their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with the money going to support projects that would reduce such emissions and help curb global warming.  The environment ministers of European countries discussed the matter on June 22 in Luxembourg as they worked to develop a position to take to international negotiations on the Kyoto climate change treaty that will take place in November.  The U.S. is likely to object to such fines. Meanwhile, a new report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change found that of five European nations studied, only the U.K. is on track to meet its emission-reduction targets under Kyoto.


Drastic rules to reduce diesel emissions in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles metro area made a national first on June 16 by adopting sweeping rules that will require new transit buses and garbage trucks to be powered by electricity, fuel cells, or relatively low-polluting fuels such as natural gas.  The new rules, intended to cut down on diesel emissions that foul the air and are believed to cause cancer, could spur similar action in other U.S. cities plagued by air pollution.  The rules are a victory for environmentalists, public health advocates, and community leaders who have been fighting to curb diesel pollution in L.A.


Historic Victory for Brazilian Amazon

The Environmental Defence Organization of Brazil has announced that leaders of Brazil’s Congress have just shelved proposed legislation to increase the area and rate of Amazon forest destruction, handing the Brazilian environmental movement its first major and precedent-setting victory in protecting the rainforest.

Representative of powerful special interest groups had pushed a draft law through a joint House/Senate Committee that would have loosened restrictions on Amazon deforestation and could have caused a 25% increase in annual rates of clearing and burning. Massive e-mail and fax protests to Congress and the President from all over the world, and broad national media coverage killed the measure before it could come to the House floor.

Radio For Peace International:

For further information:


IOC adopts new measures to favour ocean study and protection

Paris, June 30 - The Executive Council of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), ended its annual meeting at Organization Headquarters yesterday, with a reinforced commitment to monitor and protect the world’s oceans.

Among the decisions approved by the Executive Council’s 36-members in its 33rd session, chaired by Su Jilan (China), was one to co-operate in the launch of the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS), encompassing land, ocean and climate observation. It is to be operated with a number of space agencies (CNES, NASA, and EUMETSAT along with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA), several United Nations agencies, international science institutes, and funding agencies.

The IOC was established in 1960 to provide the Member States of the United Nations with a mechanism for global co-operation in the study of the ocean and to serve as a common body for co-ordination amongst UN agencies and programmes with a responsibility for marine affairs.





UN Food and Agriculture Organization announces final steps to eradicate deadly animal disease; world expected to be rinderpest free by 2010

Rinderpest, one of the world's most devastating livestock diseases, is expected to be eradicated worldwide by 2010, officials of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today (20th June). Rinderpest is a highly infectious viral disease that attacks bovine animals often destroying entire populations of cattle and buffalo.

The remaining reservoirs of rinderpest are located in southeastern Sudan, where the virus was last seen in 1998, southern Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Iraq.

Once the remaining pockets of infection have been cleaned up, the next major milestone will be worldwide cessation of vaccination against rinderpest by the end of 2002.





World Health Organization assesses the world's health systems; France and Italy are the best.

The World Health Organization has carried out the first ever analysis of the world’s health systems. Using five performance indicators to measure health systems in 191 member states, it finds that France provides the best overall health care followed among major countries by Italy, Spain, Oman, Austria and Japan. The findings are published in The World Health Report 2000 – Health systems: Improving performance.

The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance, the report finds. The United Kingdom, which spends just six percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on health services, ranks 18th . Several small countries – San Marino, Andorra, Malta and Singapore are rated close behind second- placed Italy.

The full report is available on


Success of organic foods in U.K.

Sales of organic foods in the U.K. are expected to be five times higher in 2000 than in 1996, compared to a doubling of U.S. organic food sales during the same period.  Why the surge in Britain? Opposition to genetically modified ingredients, now common in
nonorganic foods, has been widespread and strident in Britain, pushing organics so much into the limelight that 70 to 80 percent of sales have occurred in conventional supermarkets.  Observers also surmise that organic foods in the U.K. have been helped along by a supportive press, historic connections to the land, the high profile of vegetarianism in the country, and consistent government standards for organics across the European Union.





NIGERIA: Clerics call for harmony

Christian and Muslim leaders say the implementation of Sharia anywhere in Nigeria should not violate the freedom and legitimate interests of non-Muslims as guaranteed by the constitution, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The recommendation came at the end of a recent two-day seminar on Sharia by the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC). NIREC noted in a communique that Muslims have the right to practise Sharia in accordance with the demands of their religion and within the provisions of the Constitution. However, it said it also appreciated fears by non-Muslims about the application of Islamic law, especially its provisions on apostasy and capital punishment.



Weaving a Web of Lighted Communications


Article from the World Goodwill Newsletter, no.1, 2000 is the address for World Goodwill on the Internet



The energy of synthesis is once again at work in the field of mass communications in a far more magical way than 500 years ago. For today, what is being synthesised is not just the devices that make up one tool, but rather the many communication tools that constitute ”the new media“, i.e. computer-based telecommunications. With a typical personal computer one can access written information, audio and video presentations, conferences and concerts, and telerobotic devices which are operated via the World Wide Web. Even cell phones are being designed to access the Internet. In short, the vast treasure trove of human thought and vision is available with the click of a mouse. Symbolic of this synthesising process is the vastly reduced ”signalling time“ it takes for information to go from sender to receiver. Humanity has transcended a significant span of time and space in this respect, for we’ve gone from needing days, months, even years, for messages to reach their destination to the few seconds it takes via the light and sound waves of the air. From our separate places of work or residence, we can come together by way of email, Internet newsgroups and chat forums, and websites. A nascent sense of ”isolated unity“ has begun to emerge as an identifiable state of awareness.

   The word ”media“ is derived from the Latin word meaning ”middle“. Clearly, the basic role of the media is to function as a channel of communication. Just as language between individuals acts as a relay point between two or more people, the aggregate of media acts as a mediator or transmitter of ideas and information among the whole of humanity. This transmitter function is all the more true with respect to the new media. But the pattern of transmission has changed. Prior to the advent of the new media, the pattern was largely pyramidal; information went from authority figures and the scholarly to those in need of information, usually ranking members of society themselves. Now, the pattern is more akin to that of a honeycomb. Thanks to the Internet and its multi-media branch, the World Wide Web, the public is sharing information and knowledge directly with each other. In the process, they are learning to better evaluate news and data that comes their way whether from traditional authority sources or their peers. But does additional information equal greater understanding? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The recipient of information must be able to sift through it, evaluate it, and integrate it properly into an intelligent world view. For their part, conveyers of information must be able to discern that which is worthy of communicating to others and present it with clarity and a minimum of words.

   The Internet user is presented with unlimited access to virtually the whole of formulated thought and activity, spanning all of known time and space such that in one evening it is possible to access anything from the writings of ancient philosophers to the current news report from Istanbul, or elsewhere. The abundance of articulation in the world has been referred to as ”disproportionate discussion“. Language, and the related ability of the concrete mind to continually produce thought-forms, must be brought under control so as to avoid creating a form of mental pollution. Another problem is the role and influence of the handful of international corporations that own a large percentage of media outlets. Scholars, journalists and ordinary citizens are expressing increased concern about the trend of profit-oriented corporate owners to influence the factors which determine newsworthiness by ”customising“ news and information products according to market surveys. William Randolph Hearst III speaks for many when he expresses a preference for ”an editor or some agent or somebody out there that’s kind of testing, probing, trying things out for me.“ 1 There is also the additional ethical problem posed when the editorial policy of media companies may be influenced by the other business interests of their parent corporations, business interests of which their readers/viewers may be unaware.

   Bearing the above issues in mind, just like the newspapers, radio and TV before them, the new media will increasingly be called upon to address the civic importance of good journalism. The exercise of civic responsibility is especially important in places such as Sierra Leone, where journalism is reduced to an act of survival due to on-going civil strife. Mohammed Jalloh of Sierra Leone, a communications officer with the Media Section of UNICEF, recently remarked that, ”International media has a big role to play in hopefully highlighting the facts and truth about the situation and in giving Sierra Leoneans hope.“ 2              (…) 


   If it seems clear that the purpose of the media is to act as an intermediary between senders and receivers, it is less clear how well it fulfils this purpose. Indeed, the quality of thought communicated via the media ranges from that which is powerfully inspiring to that which is harmfully persuasive. One thing is evident. The stronger the light, the darker the shadow, and the new media displays both light and shadow in abundance. Wisdom Networks is an example of a lighted convergence of electronic media through the creation of radio, cable TV and Internet programmes which highlight ”ageless wisdom and universal truths“.4 Their aim is to ”serve humanity with something that is good for the soul “ according to Founder and Chairman, William ”Bill“ Turner. 

   In his book, Weaving the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, shares his vision of the Web as a universal, information-sharing medium, utilising freely available technology rather than being controlled by one or a few powerful companies. The availability of information via the Internet and the Web is especially important to the poor, yet often they lack the means to purchase computers and pay for service providers. Mr. Kwese Botchwey, Director for Africa Research and Programs, Center for International Development, Harvard University, mentioned at a recent conference that the Internet “offers Africa the chance to get knowledge almost free of charge but the big problem is the cost of Internet service provision is much higher than for other regions.” 3 This goes to the heart of the shadow side of the new electronic media; that despite putting information and ideas into the hands of far more people than ever before, many are still unable to travel the ”information superhighway“. Yet the same media that bypass them in one way, shine a spotlight on their plight in another, for this problem of ”communications technology marginalisation“ is recognised and, hopefully, will soon be rectified. 4 And the impetus may well come from the disenfranchised themselves who today, due to the pervasiveness of mass communications, know in a general way what they do not know.

   Access to the new electronic media may be restricted for political rather than economic reasons. Numerous governments, particularly those lacking a tradition of democracy, sometimes view the Internet as a threat; individuals who are enabled by the Internet may use it in a way that goes against some traditions. Using tools of the media to break up crystallized customs is not new; the printing press is often cited as an indispensable factor in Martin Luther’s religious reformation efforts. The speed, availability, greater reach and cross-fertilisation of ideas made possible by the descendents of the printing press are the new factors. Even among the more open, democratic societies ”direct digital representation“, as distinct from representation by elected officials, poses challenges not yet fully grasped. This ”bypassing“ function of the Internet is present in the field of journalism as well as politics. People are increasingly able to access news and information on the Internet and on certain cable TV channels from many of the same sources used by journalists, a process called ”disintermediation“. While an argument can be made that the direct accessing of information will lead to brighter, more well-informed people, others are more cautionary – such as Peter Arnett, formerly of CNN Cable TV Network and now foreign correspondent for the first international, Internet-only TV network, Recently, Mr. Arnett emphasised the ”added value provided by the experience, training and insight of a trained intermediary such as a journalist.“ 5

   When all is said and done, the over-arching purpose of the media is to use the energy of mediation to foster right human relations. Through its capacity to bring light into dark places, to radiate images of the good, the true and the beautiful outward for all to see and hear, the media can help foster right human relations. Language has always served to express either the material or the spiritual aspects of life. It now seems called upon to express, on a large scale, a synthesis of both in order to help humanity envision a material world infused with spirituality and a spiritual world brought into closer contact with the material. Surely only beneficial results will occur when the spiritual side of life infuses and elevates the material, and when the material side is clarified and made wholly available to those in need. The new electronic media makes it possible on a larger scale than ever before for a vast interplay of ideas to take place – and through this mindful cross-fertilisation the germ of a more enlightened humanity can be nurtured and seen through to fruition.



1 Remarks made at News in the Digital Age – Forum One, 5 June 1997, organised by The Center for New Media, Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism, New York, New York, 10027 USA.  Web:

2 Remarks made at a meeting of the Committee of Religious NGOs held at Church Center for the United Nations, New York, New York, 16 December, 1999.

3 Presentation to the United Nations Department of Public Information and Non-Governmental Organizations Conference, Meeting the Challenges of a Globalized World, New York, New York, 15-17 September, 1999.

4 For a more detailed examination of inequality of access to communications, cf. Ch.2 of the Human Development Report 1999, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Also available for download from the United Nations Development Programme web site at

5 Presentation to Meeting the Challenges of a Globalized World, cf. note 3.