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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2905

IPS Wins South-South Leadership Award

By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service

United Nations, 21 December, (IPS): - At a formal ceremony attended by diplomats, senior U.N. officials and journalists, the United Nations Friday presented its 2008 'South-South Leadership Award' to Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency for its role in promoting stronger ties among developing nations and media outlets.

"We consider ourselves privileged to accept this award -- and we also view this as a recognition of the work we have been doing to highlight South-South cooperation in the field of communications during the last 45 years," said IPS Director-General Mario Lubetkin.

"As a news agency of the global South, IPS follows the U.N. development agenda very closely," he added.

Lubetkin also pointed out that IPS currently has content or distribution partnerships with several media outlets, including Al-Jazeera TV, OneWorld, Infosud, Envolverde, and the Killid Group and Pajhwok Afghan News.

The award was presented by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation within the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), which has honoured individuals and institutions over the last four years.

Lubetkin said the main thrust of IPS news reporting has been -- and continues to be -- on issues long neglected by the mainstream media. These include hunger, poverty alleviation, population, children, HIV/AIDS, gender empowerment and the environment, just to name a few.

"In short, these are all issues that are of major concern mostly to developing nations, comprising over two-thirds of the membership of the United Nations," he said during a panel discussion on 'The Role of Media in Development' which he chaired, prior to the award ceremony.

Many countries in the developing world have become centres of excellence in the fields of health, education, agriculture, the arts and modern technologies.

"And as part of our communications agenda, we are keeping track of these developments and reporting them to the outside world and we will continue to do so," Lubetkin said.

The panel discussion was aimed at inspiring the media around the world to re-think their definition of how development issues should be covered without losing objectivity and how to expand perspectives by including more voices and expertise from the South. The other winners at Friday's ceremony included RPN-TV Channel 9 in the Philippines (for 'South-South Cooperation Partnership Award') and the U.S.-based Africa Channel (for 'South-South Cooperation for Innovation Award'). Accepting the awards were Orlando Mercado for RPN TV and Mark Walton for the Africa Channel.

Additionally, A 'South-South Cooperation Special Award' was presented to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Market Women's Fund, named after the first woman African head of state in Liberia, while the 'South-South Cooperation Award' was presented to Ambassador John W. Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, who chairs the 130-member Group of 77 developing nations.

The four-day celebrations included the launch of the Global South-South Development Expo and an exhibition of 'Southern Development Solutions' highlighting shared experiences in the developing world, including success stories in South-South cooperation.

This is the fifth consecutive year the United Nations is commemorating the 'U.N. Day for South-South Cooperation.'

The list of past award winners includes the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund, which finances South-South regional projects.

Referring to the longstanding proposal for the creation of a news agency of the global South, Lubetkin said IPS has offered its expertise and its longstanding experience to help establish such an agency.

Told about the South-South award presented to IPS, Shashi Tharoor, a former U.N. under-secretary-general for public information, said: "I have followed IPS's reporting for three decades, and worked with them at close quarters during my media-related assignments at the U.N."

"I have found IPS an excellent source of news and insight about the developing world, covering stories that the world's dominant media outlets too often ignore," said Tharoor, author of several bestselling novels, including 'The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell Phone.'

He said IPS reporters marry the highest professional standards of journalism to an institutional commitment to covering stories of particular concern to the global South.

"They are indispensable to any reader who wishes to stay abreast of what's happening in developing countries around the world," Tharoor told IPS.

Ernest Corea, a former Sri Lankan ambassador to the United States, and ex-chair of the Commonwealth Select Committee on Communication and Development, said UNDP has once more demonstrated its effectiveness as a catalyst of South-South Cooperation by establishing the award for leadership in this vital area.

"IPS is a richly deserving recipient of the award: its mission, style, and mode of operation define South-South Cooperation," he added.

Corea said communications are an essential component of development. Numerous means of building up communications that sustain development ranging from specific newspaper, radio and television programmes to national, regional, or global news and features services have been set up over the years.

Most have failed, though some survive. The outstanding success among them has been IPS, he said.

In looking to the future of communications in the South-South field, it is important to understand why IPS thrives.

"Among the many reasons for its enduring achievements, and the high regard in which it is held, I would emphasise three," Corea said.

First, a highly professional and dedicated staff at all levels of operation. Second, effective management that nurtures a strong funding base. And third, the absence of governmental intrusion that constrains reporting and analysis.

"The next step for institutions such as UNDP and the Group of 77 should be to support IPS as the hub of a network of South-oriented media organisations that would accelerate the pace of South-South Cooperation," Corea told IPS.

He pointed out that IPS already has many "sharing" agreements with like-minded groups. These arrangements should be made systemic and expanded.

South-South Cooperation need not be restricted to economic development. At its most effective, it should be holistic, engaged in a range of activities that affect the quality of life of the human family. A network of communications can move ideas throughout the South, where they can be adapted as necessary and adopted.

"I look forward to the day when IPS functions as the central unit of such a network," added Corea.

- Asian Tribune -

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