The opening session of this two-day conference was chaired by Mr Jean Réveillon, Director-General of the European Broadcasting Union, with the participation of Ms Margareta Wahlström, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, and keynote speaker Dr Rachendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Nobel Peace Prize winner, through video-link. A message was also read out on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Director-General began his intervention* by emphasizing the importance of “strengthened international collaboration for an increase in the quality and quantity of programming and reporting about climate change, one of the most serious challenges facing the planet in the twenty-first century.” He recalled UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement at the World Climate Conference -3 on 3 September for the international community to act urgently to confront climate change (see Flash Info N°155-2009**).
Mr Matsuura noted that “as the UN agency charged with promoting “the free flow of ideas by word and image”, UNESCO is committed to developing programmes to empower people through access to information and knowledge by working with Member States to promote free, independent and pluralistic communication and universal access to information, as well as through training and lifelong learning for media professionals, especially in developing countries.” He added that “as an interdisciplinary Organization with expertise in education, the sciences and culture, as well as communication and information, UNESCO is in a unique position to deliver a comprehensive and coordinated response to the multi-faceted challenge of global climate change.”
The Director-General went on to underline that “if we are really serious about encouraging people to adopt vital mitigation and adaptation processes, we need to work together to ensure that quality information about climate is made widely available and harness the full potential of the broadcast media in this vital task. This demands proactive broadcasting.”
Highlighting the fast approaching UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, Mr Matsuura emphasized that “public broadcasters have a special responsibility in promoting awareness of what is at stake and generating the response that is so badly needed. Indeed, I would argue that they have a duty to do so. While the functions of public broadcasting are varied, its underlying purpose is public service,” he added.
Mr Matsuura then underscored that changes in human behaviour, the key to confronting climate change successfully, could only come about “if people understand why it is necessary. It means making available the knowledge that will empower communities and policy makers to make these changes. It means broadcasting quality content on climate change in order to awaken audiences both to the realities and the opportunities; to alert those who are at risk; to reach those who may be considered unreachable; to provide knowledge and understanding to those who do not know, to help lay the groundwork for a sustainable future.”
In conclusion, the Director-General stated that the conference offered the opportunity to exchange experiences, audiovisual material and know-how, and, he hoped, “the seeds of more and improved reporting about and understanding of climate change.”
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 156-2009 - Publication Date: 04-09-2009