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ROME, May 5 2010 (IPS) - There is a striking asymmetry between the new political and economic world order that has been emerging from the South over the last five years and the relative immobility of the international system of information, which only partially reflects the major transformations of our age.

There is a clear explanation for this disparity. During the three decades of constant economic and demographic growth of the emerging nations -China and India are the most well visible- the developing countries have been mired in relative exhaustion and were the epicentre of the information technology bubble that burst in 2000 and the even more calamitous world depression, which began in 2008 and is not over yet.

It was therefore no coincidence but rather a matter of necessity and realpolitik that US president George W. Bush convened in November 2008 the first G20 summit of the world’s major economies. The old G7, all from the North, were not enough -we won’t yet say for global governance, which has never existed- but even for a modest coordination of the various international institutions, particularly those of an economic and financial nature.

The ascension of the South which is reflected in the G20 and in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and in IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) has earned it the important role of co-pilot in world affairs, yet its presence remains negligible in world public opinion, in the international media, and more generally in cultural production (from cinema to television and publishing).

The reason for this is that the major centres of cultural and information production are still in the North, but also that emerging countries give priority to the plans of multilateral, financial, and environmental institutions.

The big question is whether now that they have attained their objective of sharing in global political and economic governance, these heretofore incommunicado countries will establish channels for information and cultural exchange that are essential to win public support for and reinforce this process.

Thus far both BRIC and IBSA lack integrative communications systems. For example, IBSA has formed 16 internal work groups yet none are for communications.

In mid-April BRIC and IBSA held their summit meetings in Brasilia. The event, coordinated by IPS, was attended by editors of major media of the IBSA countries. There was unanimous consensus that the exchange information among the countries had not kept pace with the integration process despite the close political ties and had to be augmented.

The exchange of opinions and experiences led the publishers to the conclusion that they themselves -not just the governments- must generate a flow of information among their own countries and with the rest of the world.

For this to occur, a network of IBSA publishers will establish a constant flow of information among their media on the integration process and the three countries.

At the same time, there was recognition of the need to create a new workgroup with both public and private media from the IBSA countries to promote the exchange of information in a democratic, horizontal manner using traditional and more advanced technologies, including web sites, blogs, cell phones, and digital journalism. This could be considered a strategic decision intended to close a part of the current information gap both among IBSA countries and within the South.

There was also agreement on the need to increase coverage of countries of the South by the media of the South and to give them preference over the agencies of the North, which select and tailor material to their own perspective.

The emerging new world order, the new role played by the countries of the South, and the need to create new instruments and links to strengthen horizontal communications should be part of university programmes and the professional training of the new generation of journalists.

There are, of course, certain positive indications of the potential of the South in communications and culture. Brazilian soap operas, for example, are a global export. A complete series was recently produced on India and its relation to the Brazil and the world at large which gave Brazilians a greater understanding of the country.

Nor should we forget sports. The next two Word Cup football championships, in South Africa this summer and Brazil in 2014, demonstrate the ability of these emerging countries to rise to these challenges.

Initiatives like this, which are sure to multiply in the near future, can set in motion a virtuous cycle of interaction with a well-informed public able to drive a process that is changing power relations on a global scale. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

(*) Mario Lubetkin is director-general of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency.

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