Good News Agency





 26 January 2001


After leaving  political responsibilities, Mikhail  Gorbachev set up the Gorbachev Foundation, which carries out scientific research on the fundamental tendencies of world development. As President of the Foundation, he appreciates the role of Good News Agency in the creation of  a more aware public opinion and agreed to give an interview to  its Publisher and Editor, Sergio Tripi, on these themes and on Good News Agency’s initiative to promote a deontological code of the media.


Sergio Tripi: Why does the western world still today, after the fall of the Berlin wall, spend 30-40 times more on arms than on official assistance to development?


Mikhail Gorbachev: The answer is on the whole simple, because  social and national egoism unfortunately prevail over ideas of humanism, solidarity and love for one’s neighbour. Arms are a very profitable business and aid to countries in need does not bring immediate profits. Although, if one looks at the problem in rational terms, it is clear that, if the problems of development and eliminating poverty are not resolved, the whole world,  including the west, will find that it has to face extremely difficult trials in the very near future.


S.T. Which threat is more serious for humanity, that originating from the environmental impact of human activities which are out of control, or the devastating consequences of the absurd economic imbalance between the North and South of the world? And which threats are, in their respective spheres, the most dramatic and pressing?


Mikhail Gorbachev: Each is as bad as the other. In the twenty-first century environmental questions will cause ever greater problems and difficulties for everyone. Think, for example, of the warming up of the climate which has already caused real disasters. And this is only the beginning. The South of the world, especially Africa, has become an ever vaster area of humanitarian catastrophe.

An aggravation of this catastrophe would have fatal consequences for millions of people in the South of the world. And at the same time it would start conflicts of various kinds, new waves of uncontrolled migration and phenomena, not excluding wars, of a vast scope.

I would like to underline particularly the fact that both the threats are essentially connected. The very wretched situation of the South constitutes one of the causes of the environmental crisis. The insufficiency of aid to development on the part of the advanced countries is accompanied frequently by the transfer from North to South of ecologically harmful products and all this makes  both the difficulties of the South and the environmental crisis worse.


S.T. How much time does humanity have to face these threats? What are the main obstacles which block the individual and social changes necessary to accelerate an inversion of  the trend?


Mikhail Gorbachev: When the scientists, in the first place those of the Club of Rome, began to raise the alarm regarding the environmental threat, the possibility of a crisis of energy, etc. - this happened not so long ago, in the sixties of the century which has just ended - they were criticized by everyone. Especially by those who, for profit, were interested in continuing the predatory exploitation of nature and the dissipation of the resources of the Planet. That was a very short time ago, and today any reasonable person recognizes that those scientists were right.

It is difficult to foresee the precise timing of catastrophic, irreversible changes in nature and the exhaustion of different types of resources; in fact, on the one hand science goes ahead and new possibilities and new resources are opened up and, on the other, the consequences of the “supremacy” of man over nature turn out, ever more frequently, to be more destructive than they seemed to be a short time ago. In any case, even the most optimistic forecasts are a cause for concern.

The irreversible changes in nature, the alteration of the balance between biosphere and technosphere are there for all to see. To turn back is now in many cases impossible. Today the situation is such that we have to understand how to avoid new catastrophes. In any case, the twenty-first will be the century which will severely test the solidity and the survival of our civilization. We must not forget this.


S.T. In this context, what contribution do the activities of the Foundation which carries your name make?


Mikhail Gorbachev:  Ours is essentially a Foundation for scientific research. We deal with the study of the fundamental tendencies of world development, including, naturally, the above-mentioned aspects. Our conclusion is that humanity must change structurally and go towards a new civilization which is peaceful and human and which guarantees development to all, in the first place to those who need it, a civilization which is, in the full sense of the word, ecological. You are right, profound changes are needed on the individual and social level. From this comes the slogan of the Foundation: towards a new civilization. Our activity, I hope, stimulates a process of acquiring knowledge and of taking concrete steps for their application. This means that our work is useful.


S.T. What is the most promising evidence of the undeniable change which is taking place, of which the most significant sign is represented by an army of many tens of millions of people who make voluntary service their reason for living?


Mikhail Gorbachev: In effect, the non-governmental forces, those volunteers who, without sparing their energies, participate in actions of assistance to developing countries and to their peoples and who participate in environmental movements today carry out a more effective role than that played in many interventions carried out by governments. In general the activity of the non-governmental organizations, including the millions of volunteers of different countries, social groups and religions, is becoming increasingly a visible and serious force. Their attempt to assist the state structures, as well as the entrepreneurial spheres, and to recognize the character and the danger of today’s situation, and to act in consequence, deserves every possible support.


S.T.  Why are the media still not sufficiently aware of this formidable social expression of voluntary service? What evidence will make them more attentive to this profound social transformation, still not predominant but nevertheless always growing?


Mikhail Gorbachev: The means of mass information are not all alike. There are many which reserve ever greater attention for this new and growing phenomenon  In essence, however, the principal mass media - you are right - for the moment “do not notice” what is happening in the consciousness and social action of the voluntary service. Evidently the answer is to be sought in the ownership of these mass media and in the interests which they express.


S.T. Do you think that a deontological code of the media, of which our Good News Agency is a promoter, a code which underlines the responsibility of the media in the information and balanced formation of public opinion, can be received by the media to the point of accelerating their readiness to consider positive news as worthy of as much attention as negative news?


Mikhail Gorbachev: I think that a code of this type is without doubt useful. At the second Forum of the Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome, among the points in the order of the day was in fact examined the question of the responsibility of the mass media for the situation of the “third world”. The closing communiqué of the Forum says in particular: “The modern system of the mass media is living an unprecedented crisis which prevents it from giving to the people of the planet a correct and true picture of the situation”. Later on it is underlined in the communiqué that the roots of this crisis are in the subordination of the policy and action of the information and communication community to powerful economic interests.

I think that the code, of which your agency is the promoter and supporter, can favour the improvement of the present situation. But obviously it is difficult to foresee to what extent and in what period of time the mass media will receive the advice contained in it. Let’s be hopeful!


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