African media call on each other to play a crucial role in climate change

Outreach, South Africa, 25 juin 2011

The media have had a strong voice at the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) Partnership Forum in Cape Town, reiterating the fundamental role media and communications has in sensitizing policy makers and African communities to the challenges of climate change.

However fundamental to their futures, governments and people across the continent remain poorly informed of what climate change really means for them. This is compounded by the current predominant state of the media, which is under resourced across many African nations, including those most vulnerable to climate change.

The African media is still not organized by area of specialty, with stories linked to climate change falling under environmental reports if such a portfolio exists within an individual publication or most likely climate change related news is covered in an ad hoc fashion by general reporters and editors.

Few journalists understand the nuances of climate change, its implications for the continent and the mammoth task ahead for the continent both in terms of adapting to various implications, as weil as galvanizing a young generation on a continent receiving the most prolific combination of population and economic growth.

Media participants at the CIF meetings agreed that the effects of climate change in Africa are real: desertification and severe water shortages, for example were highlighted. lt is this initial stage of understanding that needs to be capitalized on, with journalists facilitated, through targeted capacity building to portray such issues in the context of their readership and importantly engage policy players on these issues.

What will it take to raise awareness on environmental matters in Africa? At the local level, the media at the GIF partnership commented that focus should be put on education to increase the quantity and quality of information on the effects of climate change. This allows a connection with the readership at an emotive level to galvanize action relating to what an individual can do on a daily basis to help conserve the world’s resources and reduce their individual contribution to global climate change.

Africa’s media, despite its lack of resources, can raise awareness through good story telling, and by using low-cost tools, like social media which are rapidly increasing in popularity across the continent. In addition international organizations need to facilitate a targeted approach to increase capacity amongst journalists and to convene more training session’s, both focusing on content of publications and attaining a balance between scientific tact and emotive engagement. lt should also focus on how African journalists can link into existing networks and expertise housed on the continent.

In this manner effort will be placed on building up existing resources and connecting partners, the advantage of this is an imbedded knowledge of the readership they are targeting. As the media gathered at the CIF Partnership have reiterated « we need a cultural adjustment policy », emphasizing the magnitude of the task facing climate change advocates on the continent.

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