The New World Information and Communications Order and Canadian official development assistance
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 13:03 by Anna Bolton
A review of the literature on the non-aligned movement for a New World Information and Communications Order (NWICO) reveals that many of the central concerns which fueled the historical movement remain unresolved. There persists, in particular, an extreme imbalance in the global flow of information, with multinational corporations from the Western nations dominating the production and dissemination of information. The majority of the world's population is still lacking the "basic tools of modem communication, information and knowledge", as a result of the increasingly hierarchical structure of ownership and influence over the emerging communications and information technologies (Mowlana 60). First tracing historically the NWICO movement itself, the paper will argue for the continuing relevance of the movement not only to our time, but will assert that the NWICO demands speak directly to central issues of Canadian communications. While Canadian officials were not prepared to side with the non-aligned proponents of the NWICO, Canada has clearly struggled with issues closely related to those facing less developed countries (LDCs) in the existing world information and communications order. This paper will consider Canada's position on the movement in the context of its own domestic policies, attempting to shed light on the logic driving the official Canadian response to the movement. Despite the coincidence of interests between Canadian leaders and leaders of the nations promoting the NWICO, our policy stance historically has been aligned with the Western world, blocking any real transformation of the New World Order. As a result of the opposition of capitalist liberal-democracies, it would appear that the highly politicized movement of the non-aligned countries has been abandoned. Yet the issues raised by the NWICO continually re-appear, fragmented and de-politicized, in various forums including debates over the inclusion of the cultural sector in free trade. Explored most intensively here will be the ways in which Canadian official development assistance (ODA) in the field of communications may be seen as a Canadian response to the demands for a NWICO. While Canada's policy stance in the debate within UNESCO may have been relatively straightforward, the ideologies underpinning development initiatives must be teased out. The paper will look both at the intent and the impact of Canadian ODA in order to assess the extent to which these initiatives have met any of the demands put forth by the NWICO, or whether ODA has simply exported Western capitalist models. It will be argued here that while historically, Canadian communications policy suggests a similarity between the concerns of the Canadian state and those expressed by the proponents of a NWICO, ODA efforts reveal an unwillingness to support any radical re-ordering of world communications promoted by the non-aligned nations. Canada's alignment with opponents of the NWICO, and its ODA in the sphere of information and communications, have both been driven by a concern with maintaining a competitive position in the world economy. In effect, our ODA efforts have defended the very globalizing commercial world system identified by the NWICO as perpetuating inequalities in information and communications.