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We are here to celebrate a rather unusual contest. The environment is  indeed
one of  festivity and celebration,  yet the sounds  and images which are  the
centerpiece of this evening are very much at odds with a festive atmosphere.

This is no  "Oscar night"; even though  we will pay tribute  to true talents,
both professional and artistic.

"Echo -  Awards" was designed  to foster collaboration  - somehow to seal  an
alliance - between humanitarian action and the role of the media. 

Both  our  actions in  the  crisis  areas  are  today the  object  of  severe
scrutiny, and  are the  core of  a critical  debate which,  while healthy  in
itself,  appears  to  have  a  cynical  undertone,  if  not  outright  sordid
motivations  at times. 
Claiming that humanitarian  aid contributes to  feeding the  crises, or  that
the  media run  after  atrocities because  these  are more  "marketable" than
peaceful  scenarios,   can  only   add  to   the  confusion   of  roles   and
responsibilities which  is  growing  in  today's  world  and  in  the  public
opinion's perception.

Political  inaction  and  indifference  feed  humanitarian  crises:  we,  the
humanitarian community, are feeding  the victims, often buying precious  time
for the search of political solutions. And you, the media community, manage -
 with courage not  often acknowledged - to  report back through the  eyes and
ears  of  cameras and  microphones, what  happens in  many tragic  and remote
spots around the globe.

Overcoming the  world's indifference: this is  the trust of  our alliance. We
need your talent to raise public  awareness about otherwise untold stories of
human suffering.  You need  our stubborn  commitment to make  sure that  your
research, your  documentation, your appeals do  not remain  solely a mediatic
exercise.

Having promoted this initiative, i hope you will forgive me if I  spoil a bit
further the celebration  by evoking the outrage  and the frustration   of the
humanitarian  community for the violations  of human rights and international
conventions which are taking place in Eastern Zaire.

As  we speak here  today, a savage  war is being fought  in that  part of the
world by troops and militias without  uniforms and without flags. Hundreds of
thousand of innocent people are caught in between,  whose suffering may never
be told. This secretive  war has been going on since  October, and one of the
most  dramatic humanitarian dramas of our time is likely unfolding behind the
curtain  of violence and silence  that the warlords  have erected against the
intrusion of relief agencies and the media. 

How much  longer can  the civilised world  wait before  access is granted  to
those innocent people, especially the women and  children in need? Is it  not
symbolic that access is  denied first and foremost to  humanitarian and media
operators, who are the main witnesses of the great tragedies of our times?
Our gathering here tonight  for the "Echo - Awards" is also a  reply to those
questions. 
It is my firm hope  that your talent and our determination will  make critics
think twice before  denouncing the "excessive mediatisation"  of humanitarian
crises. Or  before blaming,  in reverse,  the "Doctors  Without Borders"  for
having "brought the Hippocrate's oath in tune with the Global Village".

Where is the sin?

I  wish  we had  more of  it.   If  the global  village  could dwell  more at
lenght,say,  on Eastern  Zaire, or  on Afghanistan,  or on  liberia, it would
prove much too difficult  for Realpolitik strategists in all  capitals to let
entire populations die of indifference.

My  hope -  should I  say my dream  - is  that of  a Global  Village that can
deploy its power  of communication also in  advance of crises erupting;  of a
CNN-effect which  helps building that  mysterious discipline which  everybody
calls "conflict prevention" and no one has yet seen in action.

Today's world  - I  am sorry to  say - is  much more accident-prone  and much
less reassuring than we wish to acknowledge. 
We  will  continue to  need  humanitarian  relief  and protection,  alongside
public awareness induced by media.

And  we   will  need  badly  preventive   diplomacy  and   the  deterrent  of
International  Justice,   which  can   only   be  brought   about  with   the
establishment of a  Permanent International Tribunal, which is finally making
its way at the United Nations.

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