Development communication (or Communication for Development, as it is also known in United Nations circles) is a growing field in the international development context. Every two years the various UN agencies hold a roundtable to share experiences and further promote the adoption of this discipline, or interdisciplinary field.
On a trip to Cambodia a few years ago, I drove underneath a banner spanning a large downtown thoroughfare. In English, it somewhat laboriously spelled out the importance of supporting long-term development. I can't imagine that any of the Cambodians zipping up the street underneath the sign got that much out of it, but I'm sure some donor somewhere felt satisfied that the message had somehow contributed to Cambodia's well being.
“The Missing Link” is out and I am somewhat relieved – it was such a long process.
I started working on this publication more than a year and a half ago. The field research took me to Timor-Leste and Liberia, while a colleague went to Burundi. My goal was to demonstrate the relevance of public sphere dynamics to governance and political stability, particularly in countries emerging out of violent conflict, and to offer practitioners a tool-kit that would help assess and address public sphere capacities and challenges. The unrest that broke out in Timor in spring 2006 had been the trigger to this thinking. I had lived in this country during the transitional period and sensed what had gone wrong: the international community, in its desire to quickly build governance institutions, had forgotten to ensure that these were connected with the people. To the Timorese leadership, used to the hierarchical “closed” communication environment of a military resistance movement, the lack of national dialogue and a culture of “closed” institutions seemed fine. The violence of 2006 proved that they were not; the government and people of Timor paid a high price for this oversight.
|Ten years after the Asian Financial Crisis, Indonesia has re-emerged as a growing and confident middle-income country with increasing regional and global standing.|
The presidential election campaign in the United States is suffocating. You can't escape it anywhere, even when on vacation outside the US. Everyone is absorbed in it, I find. They want to talk about it; they want to watch CNN coverage of it nonstop. Now, for the issues we discuss in this blog the campaign is a good thing, but it is also a bad thing.
The presidential campaign is a good thing because it showcases some of the dynamics that we seek to draw attention to here. First, it shows the importance of public opinion in governance. In a sense, the entire campaign can be seen as an attempt to shape public opinion in rival directions by two well-funded campaigns.
"Civil society is an important partner in the development process." Within the current development context, there's nothing particularly remarkable about this generic sentence. If anything, it merely reflects the now commonly espoused viewpoint that civil society should be considered an important constituency in development planning.
I've been with CommGAP for four months now, and since the fall semeser starts at University, it's time for me to take a little break and go back to school. Intermissions are handy occasions to reflect, and I'll make use of this occasion with some thoughts about the role of communication in governance, and my experience at CommGAP.
After more than 10 years of communication practice and training, it often startles me how people are not aware of the crucial meaning of communication in our everyday lives, politics, and yes, development. After four months of development work, I feel that this lack of awareness is shortsighted to the extreme. Here are my top 3 reasons:
As a first-time blogger on this site, I will focus on bringing experiences and reflections on how communication plays a key role in initiatives related to governance, a role even more fundamental than that played in other kinds of development programs. Before digging more into this, I would like to illustrate and hopefully clarify one term that, due to its broad and multifaceted connotation, is used too frequently in an ambiguous manner: communication.
In the early 1990s, I was on the Editorial Board of the leading newspaper of record in Lagos, Nigeria until I left for the UK. It was called The Guardian; and it is still there. I had been in the Nigerian media for a while and to be invited to join the Editorial Board of The Guardian in those days was regarded as an achievement. So I was pretty happy with myself.