By Pragya Lamsal:
In a changing world, communication about development prospects and advocacy for social justice and empowerment have become increasingly difficult. The number of issues on the development agenda such as poverty reduction, empowerment, inequalities, literacy, nutrition, and climate change seems to be increasing. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had made a significant contribution to bringing about many development issues to the fore. After MDGs, the governments around the world have envisioned a better, secured and sustainable future for all with the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, the role of communication in achieving SDGs is very imperative as development communication, according to UN, “prioritises communication systems and processes that enable people to deliberate and speak out on issues important to their own well-being”.
As a signatory country to the Sustainable Development declaration, Nepal should put in efforts to turn the vision of the SDGs into reality. The government should come up with concrete plans to implement the SDGs effectively. Among other things, a new framework should be introduced highlighting the role of development communication as a vehicle for social change and empowerment to achieve SDGs.
Nepal’s media have developed tremendously over the past few decades especially after democracy in 1990. As a result, private television channels and radio stations mushroomed. Hundreds of companies/firms have acquired licences to operate FM radio stations and dozens of TV channels are regularly operating from Kathmandu. Of late, the use of social media has visibly increased and it has become an essential part of people’s daily life especially in urban areas. The growth of the internet medium has given an opportunity to widen possibilities for communication. The availability of multiple media and channels provide the government with an opportunity to look at the place and role of media and communication towards achieving development targets in the backdrop of the SDGs.
People who live in rural areas, urban slums and other depressed sectors should also be able to reap the benefits of the development. The modern paradigm of development underlines the fact that development should be relevant to the people who need it most. Thus, development communication initiatives must start there where the real needs, barriers and problems exists.
There is a lot of evidence that Nepal has utilised media as a vehicle for social change and empowerment in the past. Development communication practices carried out by some government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) especially in agriculture, health, nutrition, human rights, sanitation, family planning and untouchability issues have positively contributed in transforming people’s perception and behaviour. Communication through radio especially after the growth of community radio stations and operation of media production houses has impacted positively in producing media content targeting social change.
Of late, the steady growth in information and communication technologies (ICTs), social media and their application in development has become visible. The internet has significant potential to transform societies in a positive way if handled carefully and strategically. The internet has transformed the whole communication paradigm both in the developed and underdeveloped countries.
The concept development is changing and so is the concept of communication. The Nepal government should introduce and implement policies that provide a positive environment for communication for development. The government should keep some crucial questions such as how to fit communication initiatives into local and national development processes, how to take advantage of the explosion of media and how to increase participation of the poorest in the communication process among others in mind while developing communications policies.
The question is whether the government includes development communication as a component in its development policies or not.
Including a development communication approach in development projects requires sincere efforts and dedication. The concept cannot be implemented effectively until there is political will.
Further, formulation of a development communication policy requires partnerships between government bodies, NGOs, and the academia for effective policies and a better outcome. As many NGOs and other social organisations are involved in development communication practices, it would be imperative to foster meaningful partnerships to identify needs, develop effective and sustainable models of communication and overcome hurdles.
In the end, it is the responsibility of the government to position development communication in the overall agenda of development. Many government officials and policymakers still think that communication for development is exclusively a matter left to the development professional affiliated to NGOs, CSOs and development agencies. This perception needs to be changed. There is a need for national debates on who will benefit from development communication and how. Needless to say, information is an effective tool in promoting good governance, transparency, and accountability. It is because informed citizens can make informed decisions.
Featured image credit: Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto via Getty Images.