About the Understanding World Network: Interview with UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Communication and InformationAbout the Understanding World Network: Interview with Abdul Waheed Khan, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information
As UNESCO and the Government of Indonesia prepared to host a conference of media organizations, NGOs and governmental representatives in Bali, Indonesia, from January 21 to 23, to lay the ground for the Power of Peace Network, Abdul Waheed Khan, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, told the Bureau of Public Information about his expectations for the conference.
Question: What do you expect from the Power of Peace conference?
Answer: The traditional way of dialogue among civilizations and cultures usually consisted in bringing the great and mighty gurus together and they would issue sets of recommendations. But in view of the unprecedented importance of the media in setting the agenda in today’s globalized world, and of the abilities for direct communication offered by the information and communication technologies (ICTs), we thought both the media and ICT could be used together to create dialogue and understanding among people. I trust that the conference will identify practical ways to increase the contribution of mass media and ICTs to cultural self-expression and peace. The main measure that UNESCO will propose is the concept of a new and unique “Power of Peace Network”
Q: How would this work?
A: The working thesis we bring to the conference is that one of the main reasons of conflict is misunderstanding among cultures, or lack of proper understanding of the other. We should be able to use the combined power of the media and ICTs to promote peace, through the Power of Peace Network.
Q: What is the Power of Peace Network?
A: The Power of Peace Network is a network of people. It will create an innovative, alternative system that uses broadcast technologies, satellites and ICTs to produce content locally and distribute it globally in an integrated manner. The network is to promote cultural diversity rather than serving national interests or making broadcasters richer. People and communities in third world countries often lack the means to express themselves and their culture. This is a cause of frustration and a barrier for their ability to gain the respect and appreciation of others. The idea is for the Power of Peace Network to provide training in content production to people from such communities and help share resources to favour the generation and dissemination of culturally diverse content and help people and communities express themselves, their cultures and lifestyles. The network will enable radio and television channels, community multimedia centres and websites to exchange this information, translate it, dub it in other languages and find affiliates who will disseminate this content so that programmes generated in one part of the network will be used in others. The network will also be a platform for best practice examples in the use of media and ICT to create dialogue. It will also include a research element that will examine the causes of conflicts, including negative stereotyping.
Q: So, will the Network be launched at the Bali Conference?
A: Well, during the conference high-level people will examine the link between peace, human security and development. They will also look at both the positive and negative impact of the media in conflict situations. Thirdly, they will carry out a real life evaluation of the contribution that ICTs have made so far to peace, drawing on examples in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Peace Radio in Colombia, and Somalia to name but a few. We hope that they will validate the concept of the Power of Peace Network.
Q: And when do you expect the Network to come into being?
A: It is too early to announce a timetable for the actual launch as yet. We are seeking people’s support for the media and want to set up an independent professional steering group outside UNESCO for the network. We can’t say who will be onboard yet. But we will be looking for partners in the public and private sectors, as well as NGOs. To be successful, this will have to be a multi stakeholder endeavour.
About Abdul Waheed Khan
Photo: Abdul Waheed Khan
Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO