Dr. Dieter Danckwortt: I would like to get a little more precise definition of civil society. In our country, a part of the civil society are the churches: They have a very good level of dialogue with our government. Also the associations of private firms have a very intensive dialogue with the government and the political parties. Are these sections of the civil society really interested in the young generation? I don't think so. So my question, what form of dialogue must we anticipate for the future?
My own experiences at the level of the city of Bonn where we try to implement a local Agenda 21 are very negative because the civil servants in the city are just not trained to talk to the NGOs in the city. They suffer from what we call in German 'Berührungsängste'. There is really a fear to sit around a table. This applies to the NGO representatives also. They argue: "What? Why should we sit together with those people of the town government, these bureaucrats? They will not understand what we really mean."
So I think we need to look at the possibility of training for dialogue on both sides the table.
Walther Lichem: The church has been a part of the civil society as it existed in the past. The current structure however relates to governance....I would say, the definition of civil society is one of citizens in a structured way without the authority of government acting and deciding in the public space.
Reinhard Keune: Good governance calls for a solid training of journalists. Today they are interested in: a plane crashed, the president says...and man bites dog. They are not interested in the events we are talking about. They are not interested in as to what in the region is brought together to perhaps one day replace a government in power because it is incapable of solving the problems of tomorrow. How are we going to motivate these people in the media to accept the discussion which will be difficult but in my view will be powerful in the end? How can we solve that problem especially in view the fact that it cannot be solved in a fortnight? Do you have any suggestions, Mr Lichem?
Walther Lichem: Mahbub ul Haq (main author of the Human Development Report of the UNDP, died mid-year 1998 - editor ) made a very important contribution to the development debate when he said: "Development is a movement to a broadening of choices." That means development is a process of change towards more freedom.
How do we move from the man bites dog type of news to a communication and information strategy that empowers the decentralised free society to make the right decisions? I would plead for back-to-culture in the broader anthropological sense as the totality of values and patterns that are determining our decisions. We need to look very carefully at what type of political culture we are developing. Do we really have a political culture of governance or are we still with the mentality of the subject vis a vis the sovereign authority of government and not with the mentality and skill and eagerness to absorb information and participating in communication that makes me a free and responsible citizen?
Roberto Savio: I am afraid that the problem as expressed in stories based on dog bites man, crashes etc. - the event versus process - is compounded by our outlook, that we still look at the world as a number of circles our town, country, But the interaction and the interconnection of the circles with my town far away is not coming from the media because of the structure in which media is based is extremely self-centred and is not able to open to issues like globalization.
For instance, the cost of having correspondents, of having a structure of information makes it impossible for a newspaper to meet the challenges of globalization. They depend from the news agencies which in my view are widely missing the issue of globalization because they are part of a very self-centred structure of information with always the same actors and with always the same people. A change in this attitude will not come from the media. It will come only from the civil society. Because civil society for the first time in history is the effect and cause of the process of communication.
And more and more you have a number of things that do not go through information but are a part of communication for sharing and for exchanging and for informing each other which has a different mechanism than from the media which is a very vertical mechanism. Those are horizontal mechanisms and they make much more participation than the media. Therefore they play a much more direct role for the benefit of democracy because there cannot be any democratisation without participation.
Now, new unions' papers are coming out. They are much more open to the category of interest to the civil society than the traditional ones. They are more open to environment, to issues to which society is grouping itself. The participation of citizens is to a large extent the mechanism of exchange which is creating a lot of websites, a lot of newsletters, a lot of other mechanisms. All these will generate a change of values which would change the media from being event-oriented to more process-oriented.
Peter Phillips: I have the feeling that everything that was said until now is true for democratic countries but that we lost the word global on the way somewhere. The four points you mentioned Mr Lichem: democracy, freedom, goal formulation or formulation of values, citizen empowerment and communication and information - these are inter-linked points. One does not go without the other. You cannot have citizen empowerment without having freedom. You cannot have formulation of values and goals without empowered citizens and so forth. And you don't have this in many countries of the world so aren't we talking about Germany or other nice countries where even we have problems in formulating our problems and goals? There are enough people here that would say we don't have goals, we don't have values. And that is why so many people go to the elections every four years and think that's enough because they elect the ones that will formulate the goals.
But aren't the problems more in those countries that are not democratic? And how will you get those four points through in these countries? In my view it is not a problem of the press. I belong to the press. I don't think it is because we report what some people want to read. Here in Germany you have a variety of newspapers. People read what they want to read. In other countries other people chose what the public has to read. Give journalists in those countries the freedom and they will do what is necessary. It's very nice and academic but how will you go from the academic approach to the practical approach and make it global?
Walther Lichem: Recent statistics say that meanwhile we have 135 countries in the world that are democracies and almost half of them have become democracies over the past 15 years. So there is a process under way...But there is also a need to place democracy and freedom on the top of the objective agenda for building that global regime. This is why the Human Rights' Commission has become such politically important, why China, Iran, Cuba are looking for months at the consultations taking place within the community of nations.
Hans-Dieter Klee: I listened to your brilliant presentation with great interest... But let us come to the practical side as Mr Phillips already mentioned. There is no doubt as Savio said, civil society should play an important role in future development. But the prevailing powers are those interests in market and those interests in financial and global financial flow. So, governments in power, wherever they are, even here, they fear on the one hand the overwhelming influence of corporations and on the other hand an increasing influence of the civil society because quite often civil society endangers what government is doing, especially when it is not democratic. So the practical question is, who really wants to give support to the civil society in the southern hemisphere.
A lot of lip-service is being paid to the importance of NGOs. But the funding of NGOs is going down and down and down. And now everybody says 'ah globalization is a question of the media'. Of course it is a question of media as well. But who helps those people like women who group together? And other global networks? Who really helps them? And that's what I am looking for and that's what we ask for. Our own ministry (of economic co-operation and development) which published a paper recently on the new era of development co-operation between our country and Africa, does not mention communication and media anywhere. And everybody knows that those people in the ministry including the minister have to fight for the budget. So, what should we really do?
Walther Lichem: The fact is that both the government and the public sphere are in crisis. And they are in crisis at almost all levels of governance....There are no patent solutions available. Freedom, also the freedom of action, within the process of governance, has never been handed out for voluntarily, it has always had to be fought for. It is up to each and every citizen. In the developing world you hear the most marvellous stories of how citizens take their destiny into their own hands. But how are they able to defend themselves against the powerful interests of certain transnational corporations, major capital, the proportions of financial transfer? In a time of change there is always a major imbalance. Look at us: we are now living through a post-war society in a global scale. The imbalances that you find in post-war societies which ever you take, European post war societies after World War II, post-war societies in the western Balkan in former Yugoslavia today, post-war society in Russia today - you always find the same imbalances until the interactions between the individuals within a society and the public interest find a new balance. Now we live in a global post-war society....I would say IPS is the answer.
Roberto Savio: I think that there is a very serious problem in regard to the debate on free flow of information. The problem is that the free flow without controls means something very aching to the free market. The free market without any governance is in fact not a free market, is a predatory market. The imbalance is not an imbalance in quantity, its an imbalance of quality. But if for example Germany tomorrow decides to produce 1,000 cars less because Kenya will produce 1000 cars more, it would very well fit into the framework of a new international economic order, whose proponents in the 1970s wanted to increase the share of the South in industrial and economic output. But if Germany tomorrow writes 1,000 words less, and the same exact words are written in Kenya you don't have any reduction of imbalance.
Unfortunately today, with the concentration of media, which is proceeding at a terrific speed and which will dramatically change the choice of leaders in the next 20 years, not in terms of number, not in terms of title of newspapers but in terms of ownership, it will create a situation where again the information will tend to be even more standardised because when we have different newspapers owned by the same company you standardise the service to reduce costs and therefore the choice will become even less and less. What will make a difference will be the editorial page or the columns but the basic information will come again standardised more and more.
This is why I agree with the view that there is no direct relation between just increase of flow of information and democracy. Democracy is based on participation and development is based on participation and without participation you can have no democratisation and development. And when you have information without participation which is what basically is the dream (of media barons) today, there will be concentration in some very rich hands. The number of the media has halved in the last ten years. Now of 1,600 media already 300 are owned by one person and this trend is continuing more and more.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Dezember 1998