Integration: Communication is the Key

2006-12-05 00:00:00

While integration has become a recurrent issue for some time now, little or nothing has modified the fact that, although we live so close to each other, and share a common geography and history, we remain distant and separated because we continue seeing one another through foreign eyes, which prevents us from recognizing and getting to know each other.

Beyond the lack of political will that has characterized the fragmented processes of integration, one of the roots of this state of affairs is the fact that the importance of communication has practically not been taken into consideration as a key factor of unification for the reunion and solidarity of the nationalities involved. This involves the recognition of a common destiny over real or forged rivalries. At the official levels, communication is usually reduced to public relations or marketing or, at best, information transmission.

The history of Latin America and the Caribbean has been marked by the slogan: "divide and conquer." It was implemented by the colonialists of the past and present to impose their power, using weapons as well as rhetoric. For that reason, the language of the colonizer (mediated by the Creole elites) has caused suspicion, disgrace and rivalry to be common among the “collective imaginary” of our countries, as well as adverse relationships with neighbors, and indifference and ignorance regarding the most distant.

Lately, these elites, with their gaze fixed to the North, have systematically announced that it does not make sense to look to our neighbours, because it would only unite us in poverty and send us backwards, when what we really want is to not miss the train going in the direction of the first world. They tow the line dictated by the North – in the vicious circle that maintains economic, political, social, and cultural dependency.

In this dynamic, the information and communication system of the establishment is increasingly influential (given the increasing importance of this sector), conforming precisely under the parameters of subordination and dependency. Thus, the information that we receive, for example, about the rest of the countries in the region (and the world in general) comes from news agencies and transnational mass media. Not to mention the programming offered by the "entertainment industry ", predominantly made in the USA.


Twenty-six years ago, this reality was revealed and closely documented in the MacBride Report (Many Voices One World), the most significant inheritance of the project of the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) that had UNESCO as its epicenter. It is worth remembering that this project basically laid out six crucial aspects and the corresponding alternatives: the existing imbalances and inequalities in the world of information and communication; the negative effects of monopolies and excessive concentration; the internal and external obstacles to free circulation and to a more ample and better balanced dissemination; the recognition of cultural identity and the right of each nation to world-wide public opinion about its social and cultural interests, aspirations and values; the right of all peoples to participate in international exchanges of information, based on fairness, justice and mutual interest; and the right of the public, of ethnic and social groups, and of individuals, to access sources of information and to participate actively in the communication process.

This brief reminder is to emphasize the urgency of reactivating and updating the debate begun by NWICO (due to its national and regional implications), since the imbalances pointed out then not only continue, but have intensified through the implementation of free market and deregulation policies. These deepening imbalances occur mainly in the telecommunications area, and are oriented to eliminate any governmental regulation or space that could stand in the way of transnational expansion and its move towards concentration.

In this scenario, the large domestic mass media (consciously or subconsciously) have lost their way in the area of integration. In a study on the subject, Maria Nazareth Ferreira states: "the role of the media continues to be one of the great obstacles for the integration of Latin America: the system implanted in the framework of modernization in the region had, as a main objective, to integrate the peoples through projects of formal and non-formal education, through communication policies of the different governments (whose main function has been to misinform and alienate through the manipulation and distortion of information for and about Latin America). The region’s efforts for unity and integration would present quite a different story if only Latin America could count on progressive, independent TV, radio and newspapers, on news and information agencies, in short, the whole complex that composes modern media, at the service of informing and raising awareness about its internal problems. If it were possible to change the participation of the media, the task of integration would be easier."(1).

Osvaldo León is director of the magazine América Latina en Movimiento - ALAI

- Note: This is the first part of an article published in the magazine América Latina en Movimiento (Nº 414 – 415) in circulation shortly, on the issue of Latin American integration. Translated by ALAI)

(1) Ferreira, María Nazareth (1995). A comunicação (Des) Integradora na América Latina: Os Contrastes do Neoliberalismo, Edicon-Cebela, São Paulo (pp. 44-45)