We've discussed here and in related papers (such as Towards a New Model and The Missing Link) the role that media and communication (including all forms of information and communication technologies, or ICT) can play in pre-, mid- and post-conflict situations. Too often, donors think of media and communication as an adjunct to their main reconstruction and peacebuilding work, something with which to publicize their activities. I've advocated strongly in the past for assigning a more significant role to the field of media and communication in conflict, urging donors to consider it as a substantive, technical area that needs to be systematically incorporated into donor plannning rather than treated as an offshoot of public relations.
This example helps to show why. As this article explains, digitized Serbian Defense Ministry archives may have led directly to the indictment on war crimes charges of 14 paramilitary leaders responsible for the slaughter of civilians, according to one of the Jefferson Institute project's funders, the Knight Foundation. The digital record has also helped uncover mass graves from the post-World War 2 period, while at the same time enabling Serbian citizens to explore their family histories and better understand the past. Archive digitization may not sound like something that may lead to justice and reconciliation, but in this particular case that is precisely what seems to have happened. While individual circumstances may vary, this project is certainly an argument for donors: a) taking the time to get to know the universe of technical and programmatic options in the media and communication field; and b) being willing to fund programs that may be considered unorthodox under the usual parameters of stabilization and reconstruction.
In this case, an early bet by the Knight Foundation on a project responding to local demands helped pay unforeseen dividends years into the future. It's something all of us should keep in mind, even as we focus on immediate results.
Note: on a related and welcome note, I want to highlight here a new project spearheaded by colleagues at InfoDev at the Bank. InfoDev is seeking to explore the ways that ICT can play a transformative role in the post-conflict nation-building process. For more information (including on consulting opportunities), visit this link.
Photo Credit: Internews Network (on Flickr)