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Ambassador Walther Lichem* of Austria is President Inter Press Service (IPS).
– The past seventy years since the end of the second world war have been marked by profound changes in our international system. Relations between states have become more horizontally structured interactions with a rising significance of the common good articulated and pursued by newly-created international programmes and organisations.
The international agenda increasingly consists of items addressing internationally and globally-shared challenges of dependencies and interdependencies.
The traditional security and peace focus has been broadened into areas of concern which require contributions and activities not only by states but by international organisations and programmes who jointly with non-state actors such as academic institutions and associations, civil society organisations, the private sector including those who joined the Global Compact, have contributed to a new pattern of leadership in the processes of defining our global goals and in the implementation of the related programmes of action.
Another characterizing element in our Global Agenda related-approach is the inter-sectoral interdependence reflected in the international community’s agenda marked by “AND” – “climate change and international security”, “human rights and societal cohesion” etc.
These agenda—and interrelated-ness—require, however, also institutional integration cutting across the institutional development marked by sectoral segregation. There is a rising need for each agenda sector to be fully up-to-date regarding the entire pattern of global challenges and the related plans of action, using this level of information for the development of institutional integration.
There is also a rising need for information flows between governmental/ intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The new global agenda benefits from the work and conclusions of academic institutions and programmes, a relationship which regrettably has not yet been fully recognized by the international system.
Many of our important global agenda items based their policy approach on research and academic discourse – e.g. the issue of environmental protection, the concept of sustainability, the process of climate change, the societal development needs and human rights etc.
Another dimension of the pluralisation of global governance affectedness and responsibility is the role of each and every citizen on the globe to know and understand these challenges and assume a rising responsibility in addressing them.
Certain agenda areas, such as environmental protection, the sustainable development and use of our natural resource systems, human rights and human security have given the citizen an almost central role in the achievement of the declared objectives.
Today, every citizen can contribute to the recognition of the dignity of the other and the related human rights. The impact of citizen-focused human rights programmes is visible in human rights cities in all regions of the world. The citizen creating conditions of societal cohesion also essentially contributes to peace and security.
Private sector decisions can make important contributions to both the natural resources related and societal cohesion-related challenges. Academic institutions must adjust their programmes of research and of university education to the global agenda-related challenges.
The cultural sector provides important inputs into the development of values and related behavioural patterns related to the challenges of pluri-identity societies and the integration of otherness.
All these new patterns of responsibility and contributions to achievements for our Global Agenda, however, do require qualified information. It must be recognized that complex academic or policy-process related studies and reports are not accessible to the general citizenship including those in positions of responsibility at local and national levels.
Even governmental institutions and the international diplomatic community cannot internalize all the documents which are to serve as a basis for multilateral negotiations.
The development of this new participatory system of global governance with intergovernmental institutions and processes, national governments and local authorities has led to the recognition of an urgent need for qualified patterns of information which translate challenges, achievements and failures to the political responsibilities at local, national and also international levels, to governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental institutions who have increasingly shaped our Global Agenda and articulated the rising need for societal understanding and information.
Media are the classical providers of such information combining data with assessments and the vision of our common future. Yet, as analysis of the current situation underlines, there is an urgent need to strengthen qualified information systems which would provide not only governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental institutions and the citizens but also the media with pertinent and needed information.
There is no way into a future of shared global responsibility without a qualified and also ethically committed system of information related to our processes of global change.
There is a need to recognize that such highly pertinent information related to our common future requires recognition and support from the global society as a contribution to our shared global public space.
This implies that support is to be provided from governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental institutions. A respective policy discourse with participation from these institutions is to be envisaged in order to prevent the decay or elimination of qualified programmes like Inter Press Service.
*Walther Lichem, retired Austrian Ambassador with studies in law and oriental archaeology (Univ. of Graz, Austria) and political science (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna) started his professional career in 1966 at the United Nations Secretariat in New York in the field of international water resources with development cooperation missions to Ethiopia (1971), Argentina (1971-74) and to the Senegal River Development Organisation (1980). He was also Rapporteur on international river basins at the International Conference on Water Law (Caracas, 1976) and at the IVth World Water Conference (Buenos Aires, 1982).
Ambassador Lichem undertook major assignments in the UN system at the Human Rights Summit in Vienna in 1992 and as Ambassador to Chile and to Canada, as a member of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and as an adviser to the 16 countries sharing the Guinea Current in West and Central Africa on the creation of a regional organisation.