Unesco Resolution 4.121: Right to Communicate, 1974

Unesco Resolution 4.121: Right to Communicate, 1974

This resolution launched formal work at Unesco on the right to communicate. The operative paragraph reads: "Authorizes the Director-General to study and define the Right to Communicate in consultation with competent organs of the United Nations and with professional organizations and other interested institutions, and to report to the nineteenth General Conference on further steps which should be taken." That 1976 document entitled 'Report on the Means of Enabling Active Participation in the Communication Process and Analysis of the Right to Communicate' anticiptes that '... a relatively small number of specific communication rights may come to constitute a core for the right to communicate.'

Recalling that the recognition of fundamental human rights is at the origin of the Charter of the United Nations and is proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Believing that communication is the foundation of all social organization,

Bearing in mind the relationship between communication and culture,

Taking account of the diverse develpments in the technology of communication and the potential availability of an abundance of communication resources, although at the same time noting that there are unresolved problems in the control of and access to these resources,

Bearing in mind the plurality and equality of cultures and the potential now existing for all groups and individuals in society to give full expression to their cultural values,

Noting the growing human need for a wider variety of communication services in an interdependent world,

Recognizing the emergence of a science of communication and the increased need for planning communication resources for the future,

Convinced that all individuals should have equal opportunities to participate actively in the means of communication and to benefit from such means while preserving the right to protection against their abuses,

Authorizes the Director-General to study and define the Right to Communicate in consultation with competent organs of the United nations and with professional organizations and other interested institutions, and to report to the nineteenth General Conference on further steps which should be taken.

REPORT ON MEANS OF ENABLING ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS AND ANALYSIS OF THE RIGHT TO COMMUNICATE, 1976

This report responds to resolutions 4.121 (c) (iv) adopted by the General Conference at its eighteeenth session. It incorporates the results of consultations with Member States and professional organizations. The concept of the right to communicate is analyzed as well as its relationship to other human rights. Possiblities of access and participation in the communication process are also discussed. Suggestions are made for future research and steps which might be part of a long-term programme. ...

Excerpts from the Report

Par 7. Like other human rights, a right to communicate evolves and expands. While the specific phrase itself is of recent origin, many of the concerns this right embodies have their roots far back in history.

Par 9. Some have identified three stages in the evolution of aspiration of men to reach understanding among theselves: a. the right to communicate seen as a right to freedom of opinion and expression .... b. the right to communicate enlarged to encompass the freedom to inform others and be informed oneself ... c. the right to communicate seen as a capacity for interaction and dialogue ...

Par 11. The new awareness of the role of communication as an indispensible element of all social organization has resulted in interest in aspects of communication processes which have previously not been taken into account. Attention is now being given to such questions as information flows between man and his total environment, physical as well as social, to the need for articulated, coherent communication policies and to the biological and social bases of human communication. ...

Par 18. There appears to be much common ground and a general recognition of the responsibility and accountability of communication media to society, the importance of access to information, of the active right to inform as well as to be informed, of the integrity of cultures, and of the opportunity for all countries, large and small, industrialized and developing, to voice their opinions and to heard in world forums.

Par 23. ... a relatively small number of specific communication rights may come to constitute a core for the right to communicate. Each of these core rights can be examined closely in terms of the responsibilities and entitlements, or the privileges and duties associated with it. ...

Par 30. This shift in perception implies the predominance of dialogue over monologue. The aim is to achieve a system of horizontal communication based upon an equitable distribution of resources and facilities enabling all persons to send and receive messages.

Par 38. The changing world situation is bringing about profound changes in human communication. These changes are leading to new and enlarged perspectives. A strong relationship between human communication needs, the development of communication resources and human rights becomes evident. This relationship may be stated in the following way: mankind has the right to communication resources required to satisfy human communication needs.

Par 44. There is an advantage in examining the contemporary problems of the role and process of communication in society and of international communication structures and flows within the general framework of studies on the right to communicate. Such an approach would highlight the relationship between communication needs, resources, rights and responsibilities and the relevance of the right to communicate to policy formulation and the development of communication systems and structures generally. Many streams of communication research, therefore, may contribute to a better understanding and promotion of a right to communicate.

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