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E-forum on Media and Development


The Social Development Division at ESCWA has conducted in the period of four months in 2010 three online discussion forums on the following thematic areas: (a) Government -civil-society participation in public policy processes including social policies (1 July to 30 August 2010); (b) Media and Development (1 August to 30 September 2010); and (c) Social Integration towards achieving participation (1 September to 30 October 2010). The three e-forums provided a platform to share knowledge, experiences, ideas and best practices on operational strategies to be adopted in the Arab region to promote public-civic participation in public policy processes, enhance media role in the social domain, and further social integration through a participatory process. Generating 376 responses from experts, practitioners, stakeholder groups and policy-makers from 11 countries in the world, the e-fora presented a rich array of perspectives and some actionable recommendations for consideration by ESCWA and the larger international community. With a view to sensitize the contribution of participants in the e-discussions, SDD launched an Award-winning contest by including all members’ inputs and insights into a multi-country competition to win the ‘best ESCWA e-forum contributor award’. Platinum, Golden and Silver honorary shields were awarded respectively to 3 contestants in each e-forum. 

Upon completion of the three electronic discussion fora, a consolidated e-fora report was produced (link attached below). The report provides a synthesis and an assessment of the overall discussions tackled under the three key e-fora thematic areas. The report also captures a number of conclusions, recommendations and lessons drawn out from the e-discussions, and touches base on the use of this portal and dissects the way forward.

E-forum 2: Media and Development

There is no denying that the media play a central role in the creation and success of a strong civil society sector, in terms of creating an enabling environment for civil society organizations to raise public awareness of social challenges. However, for development media to become a partner in the development process, as opposed to mere middlemen, they have to play a three-fold function: serve as a communication channel between civil society and governmental institutions, act as advocate for social development and public participation in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring, and become an active partner in the development debate.

In Western Asia, media are the primary channel for government institutions to communicate to their constituencies their projects, achievements and intended plans. Less so is the citizens’ use of the media to convey to governments their needs and views pertaining to the performance of public services. This dynamic falls short of being labeled an actual dialogue, since popular feedback is sporadic, and rarely taken into account by policy-makers. To enhance civil society's involvement in the development debate in the media, investment in development and participatory journalism are essential.

To stimulate discussion on this critical issue, we will have questions that frame the topic. Before we post the questions to start off our conversation, we would like to remind you of the structure of the discussion.

As you are aware, the online discussion will run for two consecutive months, i.e. from 1 August to 30 September 2010, side-by-side with the other two e-fora, while the last week of the present forum timeframe will also provide the opportunity to wrap up and raise additional issues if necessary. While we strongly call for ESCWA countries' contribution, our geographic focus will be international and we welcome good practices and resources from different countries throughout the discussion.

We will first invite you to give an overview of the current situation of (the media in your country) and then address some of the following questions that will guide the discussion and frame the issue

E-forum 2 Questions
  1. How active and dynamic are the Media in social issues in your country?
  2. How can the Media promote and advocate development-related issues in a way that better captures and triggers public interest?
  3. A considerable number of Media outlets tend to prefer reporting political and entertainment events rather than social development issues. What would be the proper mechanisms that can trigger the media to take part in the social domain and to better cover development issues?
  4. What are the factors -- individual and institutional -- that can enable or hinder the Media in influencing decision-makers’ decisions and enacted policies?
  5. How can the Media contribute to conflict resolution, if not conflict prevention?
  6. How can we redress Media’s role in decision-making positions? Do you have any examples of strategies, good practices and mechanisms that you would like to share?