“From the first lullaby sung to us as newborn babies, music provides the ‘soundtrack’ of our lives,” Mr. Annan said in introducing Prof. Leon Botstein, principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, as the featured speaker on “Why Music Matters.” “So much so that I think many of us take it for granted – just as we do the soundtrack of a film, which we often hear without listening to it. That is, we enjoy the film without realizing how much the music conditions our reaction,” he added. Believing that music both shapes and reflects society, the UN chief described the art of music as a gift from God, saying: “Dancers follow its beat; protesters use it to find their voice. It can promote ideals – like peace and solidarity – but it can also prepare armies for battle. It is part of almost every important personal and collective moment.” The Secretary-General said in a world of diversity where often values clash, music “leaps across language barriers and unites people of quite different cultural backgrounds.” Previous lectures hosted by Mr. Annan dealt with such topics as human rights, cloning, Islam, globalization and climate change.
“Access to information, freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be at the heart of any further discussion on the information society,” said Ambeyi Ligabo the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in a critique of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which took place from 16 to 19 November. “Too many governments are still putting obstacles to people’s exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, and particularly media freedom,” he said. “The intensity of this fight may vary from harassment to indiscriminate killings of journalists, trade unionists, students, human rights defenders and opinion leaders, crimes that are often not adequately punished.” He said he realized that equitable access to information technology for poor communities is necessary to fight poverty and to extend economic and social development to future generations. He maintained, however, that there could be no fair development without promotion of human rights.“Without these fundamental elements, the building of a global information society and its governance will become an obstacle for the development of human progress and will hamper dissemination of knowledge and education,” he said. He said the “Tunis Commitment,” one of the Summit’s main outcomes, did not fully reflect the fervent debate over human rights issues that took place around the Summit, promoted particularly by civil society organizations, nor provide guidance for internet governance anchored in rights norms and standards. In addition, he said that the final phase of the Summit did not provide an opportunity to address the situation of human rights in Tunisia itself, especially freedom of media and of association. Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who receive their mandate from the UN Human Rights Commission.