United Nations, Brussels (January 21, 2011) – The United Nations has enlisted the media in Asia and the Pacific as an ally in the fight to push the case for disarmament with a workshop in Beijing, bringing together nearly 50 participants from 11 Member States as well as experts on disarmament issues.
“The media has done much to assist civil society efforts for disarmament, to expose illicit traffickers of weaponry, and to prevent terrorists from acquiring the world’s deadliest weapons,” UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Sergio Duarte told the opening session of the two-day workshop yesterday.
“Yet more needs to be done, as uses of either weapons of mass destruction or illicitly traded conventional arms have characteristically had catastrophic effects on civilian populations, which continue to face pressing social and economic needs.”
The workshop, organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), through its Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD), and in cooperation with the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, stressed the key role played by the media in raising public awareness of disarmament issues and shaping governments’ policies and actions.
It also sought to enhance the partnership between the UN, governments, civil society and the media in raising public support for various disarmament and arms control initiatives, and to broaden the media’s knowledge in disarmament and non-proliferation matters. It was the first of three such events to be held in the region.
“Why focus on the media, when it is widely recognized that key disarmament decisions are made by sovereign States?” Mr. Duarte asked. “The answer lies in the unique roles played by the media in shaping the wider relationship between government and society, roles that will certainly have implications for the future of disarmament efforts.”
The media offer governments a source of information about the conditions and expectations of the people, as conveyed in news reporting and commentaries while also supplying information that educates people about the world around them and helps the public to shape its expectations about government policies, priorities, and agendas, he said.
He stressed that massive global military expenditures each year divert more and more scarce resources badly needed for social, economic and human development, quoting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Every dollar spent on weapons is one less spent on schools, life-saving medicine, or research into life-affirming technologies.”
“The UN stands ready to work closely with partners from the media to achieve a safer and better world,” he concluded.