Media missing from UN drive to engage millions on post-2015 development agenda

Rosebell Kagumire says consultations on the future of global development framework should involve journalists or they will fail to reach the masses.

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Guest blog by
4 February 2014

Rosebell Kagumire was among the delegates at the conference discussing the post-2015 development framework: priorities for the least developed countries, in late January (Photo: Matt Wright/IIED)

In little more than a year, world leaders will meet at the UN to agree a global framework on sustainable development for all nations to pursue from 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals expire.

My country, Uganda, is among the 50 countries chosen by the UN to take part in consultations on what this post-2015 development framework should entail.

The process began last year with UN agencies in Uganda working with the government, civil society and private sector to help define what has come to be dubbed 'the future we want'. But the conversation has left behind one of the major drivers of development – the media.

This became clear last month at an event I organised in Kampala with the Health Journalists Network in Uganda and IIED on the role of journalists in reporting the current developments on the post-2015 agenda.

Media in the dark

It was evident that in spite of the UN's efforts to include more voices in the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda, no journalists had been invited to participate.

Worse still, none of the 35 journalists at our workshop, who came from all corners of Uganda, had even heard of the post-2015 process.

This is a huge gap. The media is a major development actor because of its ability to inform and educate. If journalists are left behind, it will take longer for messages on development to reach the ground.

This will not be the first time. Many in the media took a long time to warm up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda, which began in 2000. It wasn't until about five years later that many journalists begun covering human development issues within the context of that framework.

Many voices

The meeting in Kampala aimed to helped bridge this gap, by bringing together journalists and local experts on the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda.

The journalists said that it was important to keep media informed about the next phase of the development agenda discussions.

"Through this dialogue I got more information on how Uganda is performing in the MDGS and if we shall be able to fulfill them all by 2015," said freelance reporter Agnes Namubiru. "It was also my first time to learn of the post-2015 process. I need this knowledge in order to inform the public on these issues."

During the workshop, Dr Johnson Nkuuhe — a consultant and former Uganda Millennium Development Goals Support Advisor — said it was important that a new set of global development goals brings in as many voices as possible.

He said the only way to achieve sustainable development is to empower communities, and without the media, information about these goals will struggle reach the common person on the ground.

The time is now

If the post-2015 discussions are to take account of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) they must involve more people from the LDCs— not just a few experts.

Access to information is one of the major areas of discussion in the new framework, according to the report from UN Secretary General's High Level Panel. Therefore it is important that media takes part in these discussions.

From the half-day dialogue, the journalists were able to understand what the UN discussions are about. It is this kind of engagement with media in LDCs that will make a difference to people's participation in the international process that will formulate the new global development framework.

Dr Nkuuhe is right. Policymakers shouldn't wait for the post-2015 framework to be in place before they start engaging the media. Doing so now will also significantly ease the media's work once the UN member states have agreed the post-2015 agenda.

A global conversation is meant to be under way, one which will allow everyone to have their say. The goal of having millions of voices taking part in this discussion must include media to enable people to understand what future world is being planned for them.

Rosebell Kagumire is a Kampala-based writer and member of the Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group. (rosebell.kagumire@gmail.com).

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