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Agenda for action

We believe that sustainable development demands that people participate in the debates and decisions that affect their lives. We therefore challenge all those involved in policymaking and planning to listen to the views of ordinary people, to involve civil society in decision-making and to recognise the important part the media can play.

Open governments

Building more open, transparent information and communication systems and political cultures.

Governments should promote more open, participatory information and communication environments and the development of a public sphere with a right to communicate, by establishing freedom of expression and freedom of information legislation and supporting its use.

Governments need to win the support and engagement of their citizens if they are to govern peacefully and effectively. To do this, they need to use multiple channels of information and communication, and support people’s expectations of transparency and desire to share information freely. Governments should also ensure their own internal culture and administrative systems are based on transparency, dialogue and listening.

To benefit from new openness on the part of governments, citizens need to have sufficient capacities and skills. This requires investing in education, skills and basic infrastructure, as well as matching communication processes to the cultures and social conditions of the intended users.

Donors can support civil society organisations and other actors (such as the private sector) to use freedom of information laws; to monitor government performance and hold governments accountable; to lobby and participate in more open policy-making; and to be increasingly transparent themselves. All these processes need expertise to design and lead them, and training and organisational change to implement them.

Donors can persuade, help and support governments to see the long-term benefits of, and develop the political will for, open and participatory communication systems and processes, and support their development.

Public goods

Treating information, communication and the media as ‘public goods’ and investing accordingly.

Governments, donors and the private sector should approach communication and information processes – including the media – as ‘public goods’, with investment and responsibilities divided accordingly.

Governments should ensure that reliable and affordable ICTs are available for everyone. They should facilitate the operation of the market by opening national ICT sectors to competition in infrastructure and services: competing private providers are more effective than state providers in bringing innovation, quality and low costs.

Governments should also fill the gaps in market provision of communications and media through regulation or support, in areas where the market does not meet the needs of poor and marginalised people. This might mean, for instance, subsidies for the provision of telephone services to the poor or people in remote areas.

Media in a free competitive market often suffer financial pressures that stifle high-quality public interest journalism. Governments and development organisations should seek innovative ways to provide financial support for public interest media content without editorial interference and without unduly undermining the operation of the market.

Governments should address issues that are beyond the competence of individual private sector actors, such as: provision of electricity to rural areas; development of software for local languages; or solving problems of international ICT infrastructure.

Aid donors should support governments in the processes of designing and introducing new information and communication systems; and in building the environment of skills, training, and basic infrastructure (such as electricity) without which new ICTs cannot be effectively used. And they should support the difficult processes of negotiating international ICT agreements.

A holistic approach

Taking a holistic view of communication processes and integrating communications into development planning and implementation.

Governments should take a holistic view of information and communication processes. They should establish an overarching policy framework that enables communication to help meet their development goals (incorporating the media; ICTs; knowledge, skills and capacities; and institutional reforms).

A holistic approach means starting from the perspective of poor and marginalised people and understanding the flows of information and communication that affect their lives. This communication analysis will investigate the social aspects of inclusion/exclusion from communication.

Who is excluded, why are they excluded and what can be done about it? Support for communication should be a key element in any development support and planning.

The role of communication should be more clearly identified in development analysis and planning by governments, international organisations and development agencies, from high-level international agreements down to local-level resource management projects.

Governments and development organisations should build their own knowledge of and expertise in all aspects of communication. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Invest in media

Investing in the development of a diverse, dynamic and free media.

The establishment and maintenance of a diverse, dynamic and free media is vital to development. The importance of getting the media ‘right’ is especially great in young democracies, as media plays an important role in forming the nature of society.

The importance of media for development has been recognised in several recent initiatives by governments and multilateral development agencies, and by media organisations themselves.

There has also been much discussion among media support organisations, in consultation with developing country media, on how media can most effectively be supported – most recently in two initiatives aimed at strengthening Africa’s media.

These analyses were consistent in highlighting the following areas if media development is to take place:

  • Establish media freedom and an enabling and supportive regulatory environment
  • Support the development of media infrastructure and long-term sustainability
  • Build media capacity and professionalism
  • Support improvement in the quality and diversity of media content