22 February 2007

The Communication for Development Consensus

In October 2006, FAO hosted a World Congress on Communication for Development - but what actually was discussed?

According to the web site, the congress "has focused on demonstrating that Communication for Development is an essential tool for meeting today’s most pressing development challenges and therefore should be more fully integrated in development policy and practices." The main official outcome is a Rome Consensus document that "summarizes the key recommendations for mainstreaming communication in development policies and practices."It recommends that policy makers and funders:
  • include specific communication for development components in national development policies;
  • strengthen communication for development capacity within countries and organisations at all levels;
  • expand the level of financial investment to ensure adequate, coordinated, financing of the core elements of communication for development;
  • adopt and implement policies and legislation that provide an enabling environment for communication for development;
  • strengthen partnerships and networks at international, national and local levels;
  • move towards a rights based approach to communication for development
What else happened? According to Jonathan Marks, the congress was "a great first step" ... there were 24 thematic sessions, 13 special events and 680 participants, policy makers, academic, grass roots organizations. The log shows around 140 journalists were covering the event. If anyone found it boring, then they came for the wrong reasons." ... "the biggest benefit was the cross-disciplinary exchange between people really on the ground." He also 14 things that need to happen next.

The World Bank's Development Communication Team - who co-organized the event - reported that the Congress has started a 'worldwide conversation' that should lead to less propaganda, more outreach efforts.

For Murali Shanmugavelan however, the "outcome of the Rome C4D Congress is unclear and vague" and he is "not convinced the draft recommendations were in any way ground-breaking."

The community radio community were also disappointed at being sidelined: "Radio specialists are dismayed that the global meeting has overlooked the vital role of community radio in empowering people and strengthening democracy in many regions, including, conflict places."

APC bloggers wondered at the relevance of the congress: "Will the general public notice? Will affected peoples’ voices be heard? Will policy frameworks and participation models take a more open turn?" Scott Robinson missed the 'strategic dimension' - and more.

Some of the working sessions did get to grips with the issues. The Healthlink Worldwide team reports on two knowledge sharing sessions where multilingual conversations drew on a 'world cafe' approach; and in another where participants joined a 'phone in' where phones (and communication opportunities) were unevenly distributed (reflecting the real issues that need to be addressed).

For agricultural communicators, it is worth highlighting some of the materials prepared by FAO (and relatively invisible on the Congress site) One document provides a valuable introduction to FAO's communication for sustainable development activities; another brings together regional perspectives on communication for development reulting from a worldwidde series of regional studies, consultations and workshops.

The last word belongs to Nelson Mandela who said: "It is people that make the difference. Communication is about people. Communication for development is essential to make the difference happen."

You can browse more web materials on the Congress on Google search and blogsearch


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