Sunday, March 12, 2006

The MacBride Commission and its Findings

A major reason that the United States withdrew from UNESCO in the 1980's was the anger generated by UNESCO's discussions of a New World Information and Communications Order.

A major contribution to that discussion was a UNESCO publication, "Many Voices, One World". This was the report of UNESCO's International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems. The Commission is ofter known as the MacBride Commission, after its chair, Sean MacBride.

As a result of the report, UNESCO is described by Sourcewatch as having launched the International Program for the Development of Communication. (The United States is now a donor to this program.) The Program web site states that it "exists to strengthen the means of mass communication in developing countries, by increasing technical and human resources for the media, by developing community media and by modernising news agencies and broadcasting organizations."

MacBride was an interesting character (see a brief bio). An Irish statesman, he was born in Paris, and his father was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. His mother was Maud Gonne MacBride, a beauty and one of the strongest advocates of Irish Nationalism. Together with William Butler Yeats, Maude Gonne helped establish the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. (Yeats fell in love with her and his feelings for her inspired a large number of poems. In 1902 Gonne played the leading role in his play, Kathleen Ni Houlihan.)

McBride was Irish Minister for External Affairs when the Council of Europe was drafting the European Convention on Human Rights and is credited with being a key force in securing the acceptance of this convention. He was President of the International Board of Amnesty International for 14 years, and Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists for seven. He was also elected Chair (1968-1974) and later President(1974-1985) of the International Peace Bureau. In 1973 he was elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations to the post of UN Commissioner for Namibia with the rank of Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his life's work in 1974. He died in 1988.

The MacBride principles, named after Sean McBride, were adopted as US law in 1998 creating a fair employment code for U.S. companies in Northern Ireland, and contributing to the peace in Ireland.

The MacBride Round Table on Communication is a communications rights advocacy group created in 1989 to stimulate discussion of issues embodied in the 1980 UNESCO MacBride Report.

The reassessment of the McBride Report continues. For example, Andrew Calabrese has written a paper, "The MacBride Report: Its Value to a New Generation". Similarly, Stewart M. Hoover, has written a paper citing the report, titled "All Power to the Conglomerate: If Information Is a Commodity, What Price Is International Understanding?".

1 comment:

Asim Choudhury said...


Thanks for the wonderful writeup. I think Mc Bride Commission's findings is also relevant today in the era of the Internet. It is releaved that Google is in partnership with US intelligence agencies and the ulterior motive is to track developing countries so that the CII and FBI can learn about regions of the world. Its appaling to see that Google's email service (gmail) actually uses technological tools to read personal mails and throw relevant sponsored ads on the right hand side of the email box. This is surely an infringement of privacy.