Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


Currently, there exists a gross imbalance in communication and information flow. Developed, westernized nation-states dominate the international communication system and as a result dominate the international power structure. Developing states hoping to have full, sustainable economic development believe this imbalance increases the risk of greater socio-economic dependence upon the West furthering political and cultural imperialism. Recognizing this bias and its implications in international relations, the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) focused on developing the emerging human right, the right to communicate, in the hope that empowering developing states in this way would assist them in alleviating the problems of development. The right to communicate and the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) are products of a process where Western intellectuals and developing states look for other solutions to effect positive political, economic, and cultural change in the alienated regions of the world. Developing states want recognition of the right to communicate within international law. They demand equal access and equal opportunity to have their point of view communicated in the international community. Their conceptualization of this right is an international agreement justifying the control and limiting the use and access to information and mass communication systems. This policy is diametrically opposed to most developed states' policies on communication: free and open communication is "an essential instrument for furthering understanding among the peoples of the world and encouraging the growth of free, equitable and enlightened government." UNESCO's role in this debate is unique. I intend to give a brief history of the development of the right to communicate, a consideration of the ideological constraints affecting the debate in international law, and will consider the present status of the right and the effective steps that could be taken to put this important issue back on the international political agenda. I will show that the right to communicate has two manifest forms: one individual and one collective. I will argue that as a right it must be implemented as a positive right; any manifestation that allows for the formal recognition of limitations and control as those referred to by developing states will have serious consequences on the future development of international human rights and adherence to international law. If the stated goal of developing states is to gain a greater share of international power, thereby aiding indigenous socio-economic development, an approach to the right to communicate as viewed through a policy like NWICO will result in further socio-economic stagnation and alienation in the international community.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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