[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]
Representatives from Aquarion, Canceron, Libran, Sagitarron and the other twelve colonies of Battlestar Galactica (BSG) attended a Panel discussion organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) with the stars, creators and producers of the television series.
In his opening remarks, DPI USG Kiyo Akasaka noted that the Creative Community Outreach Initiative has been established in his Department to forge meaningful and productive relationships with the international film and television industries, as part of the UN efforts to find innovative ways to raise awareness about global issues.
With youth identified as a priority target audience for the UN, 100 New York City school students had been invited to participate in the event.
Dave Howe, President of the SCI FI Channel remarked on the importance of the Panel discussion, the timing of which coincides with the last episode of the show to be broadcast on Friday. He introduced the Panel moderator: Academy Award-winning actress and producer Whoopi Goldberg.
"The UN is more than a building with fantastic curtains," commented Ms. Goldberg as an introduction. She went on to remark that the universal themes that the UN promotes - human rights, children rights and national reconciliation - are also issues that BSG communicates, in what can be summarized as "what is right and what is wrong?"
Battlestar Galactica was represented by Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell, Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Edward James Olmos, BSG creator and executive producer Ronald D. Moore, and BSG creator David Eick.
Excerpts of the TV series were shown, illustrating the four themes to be discussed by the Panel: human rights, children and armed conflicts, terrorism, and reconciliation and dialogue among civilizations and faiths.
Speaking on behalf of the UN on human rights, Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director of the New York Office, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded the audience that the UN is an idealistic organization that fights to ensure that rules are applied "in all places and in all circumstances." He noted that the work of the UN addresses two of the Four Freedoms: freedom from fear and freedom from want, and that security is about human security. Commenting on the show, he asked the question: "If society were wiped out, what kind of society would we want to replace it with?"
Responding to a student’s question "can our tech addiction lead to a nightmare like a Cylon?" Edward James Olmos responded: "You are what you eat, you are what you think, you are what you do. If you are using [technology] in a constructive way, you will be constructive, if you are using it as a game, you will become a game."
Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, commented that BSG is "a deeply moral series…" which is "not the easy morality of black and white". The Special Representative gave examples of children she has met, victims of sexual violence, girls attacked because they go to school, or the young child soldier who asked her "all I know is how to fight, what shall I do?" Asked what the UN does concretely on the issue of child soldiers, she described the UN response on the one hand as punishing the perpetrator - to ensure deterrence and justice - and on the other hand, the programmes conducted on the ground by the UN system.
Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, addressed the issue of terrorism, which is "unacceptable in all its forms and manifestations", and which "has to feel unacceptable to everybody." The Panel discussion was an example of a new policy recognizing that "if we are to address this problem", the UN needs "to open up the conversation" to new actors. Mr. Orr also recalled a September 2008 event to which victims of terrorism had been invited, representing every religion and every culture.
Reconciliation and dialogue among civilization and faiths was discussed by Deputy Permanent Representative Famatta Rose Osode, Permanent Mission of Liberia, who noted that dialogue is sometimes a "euphemism for monologue" and that a real dialogue has to take place.
The actors provided their insights on each of these issues, and discussed such serious questions as torture, racism - which gave the opportunity to Edward James Olmos to repeat Commander Adama’s signature phrase "so say we all!" - capital punishment, the fragility of the rule of law in wartime, and the thin line between right and wrong when survival is at stake.
The show creators, David Eick and Ronald D. Moore commented at length on the creative process, explaining their choices as to why their President was not the first woman President, how gender barriers had disappeared, and how the show featured monotheist robots and polytheist humans, with the intention to incite viewers to reconsider their beliefs. They also explained the role played by blogs, and how viewers responses and comments had influenced creative choices.
The event is available on the webcast archive.