Business Community Development

Media sets progressive socio-economic and democratic agenda: United Nations

Mr. Edward Kallon (R), UN Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe

The media has an important role in defining the common denominator in promoting national interest and setting progressive socio-economic and democratic agenda in the country as the fourth estate of Government, Mr. Edward Kallon, the United Nations Zimbabwe Resident Coordinator has said.

He made the remarks during the UN interaction with Members of the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF) at the grand Meikles Hotel in Harare yesterday.

“The role of media, including the newsprint, electronic and online/digital entities, cannot be overemphasized in national development, which involves advancement in the political, economic, and social wellbeing of people.

“Simply put, the media can play a big role by shaping public opinion, promoting development, democracy, and good governance, facilitating nation-building, and advancing policies that promote a high quality of life for all. And of course, providing constructive criticism when policies veer off course from design and plan to implementation,” Mr. Kallon said.

On Monday, the Government and partners including the media celebrated the 77th anniversary of the UN since its founding of the United Nations. Born out of war and conflict, mistrust, and pain – the United Nations has and continues to strive towards a world without war and deprivation. 77 odd years on, the UN marches on.

The United Nations is a beacon of hope around which its shared vision for a better world is crystallized. It remains a shared ‘space’ for sharing ideas, a place to voice its beliefs and to stand firm and together behind a set of time-tested core values. Hence, the United Nations Charter begins with these words that belong to each one of us. It says, “We the Peoples of the United Nations…reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small.”

It takes all stakeholders to make a difference. Since September at the General Assembly this year, the UN and all its stakeholder including the media have continued to reflect on the Charter of the United Nations, and the leaders who have had the courage and the foresight to look past old enmities, grievances, and differences.

Mr. Kallon urged all stakeholders to pull together to advance the inherent goodness of the human values and aspirations that the UN charter embodies as the Government and the people of Zimbabwe strive to turn around the socio-economic challenges and expand the democratic space as the country gears up to the 2023 Harmonized election.

Media role as a stakeholder in sustainable development according to Mr. Kallon

  • Zimbabwe, since 2016, has rolled out the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals with 169 targets that aim to end poverty, hunger, and inequality, and promote justice, peace, gender equality, good health, quality education, jobs, innovation, environmental protection, and strong partnership.
  • The UN Resident Coordinator addressed the media at different forums including during the UN-organised media workshop and field visits, particularly held in Mutare and during field visits across the country on the need for the media to champion the SDGs.
  • Government is the lead in the implementation and achievement of these goals, but Government can’t do so alone. Fostering multi-stakeholder engagement and partnership is critical to achieving these goals. The Media has a critical role in advancing all the SDGs in general and the goals that specifically speak to the media such as SDG 16.

The SDGs agenda is framed along five transformative principles:

  • Leave no one behind: move from reducing to ending extreme poverty, ending hunger, ending inequality in all its forms,
  • Put sustainable development at the core of development: act now to halt the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation,
  • Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth: quantum leap forward in economic opportunities and a profound economic transformation
  • Build peace, justice, and effective, open, accountable, and inclusive institutions for all
  • Forge New Partnerships
  • My colleagues will highlight on what the UN has been doing along these pillars in support of the Government of Zimbabwe within the 2022-2026 Zimbabwe UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework.

 

Success on SDGs depends on growing the Economy and the media facilitating a constructive narrative of engagement

  • The role of development assistance is critical and necessary but not sufficient for the achievement of the SDGs. There is a strong need and a case for the private sector and businesses to play a significant role. And the media has a big role in sending positive and hopeful messages …outlining a positive narrative of Zimbabwe as an investment destination.
  • On the social and environmental issues – The threats of climate change have emerged, and we see dry weather and drought spells more frequently and at times even flash floods and cyclones. Environmental damage is becoming a serious concern in Zimbabwe. The media has a great role to play in the search for solutions by facilitating public discourse on these bread-and-butter issues instead of getting entangled in covering endless political speculation and pursuing political personalities.

Key opportunities for the media to play its role:

  • Media has a multiplicity of roles to play in this process. They are the link between the government or policymakers and the people. They are the ears and eyes of the people – must observe and listen to the concerns of the people.
  • Despite all odds, the struggle of ordinary Zimbabweans is that of resilience; perseverance; doing more with less, and outstanding achievements against all odds. Not of misery, despair, and hopelessness.
  • The RC has seen young girls and boys in ICT innovation hubs developing computer programmes and applications in Bulawayo supported by WFP and its implementing partners. He has seen female-headed households improving their livelihoods with nominal assistance engaging in fishing and artifact business. He witnessed through hard work and with minimal assistance, farming households earning a decent income from farming under the UNDP-led Resilience Building Fund. He feels the media reporting is still biased towards personality-based, sensational political stories.
  • Social media has gained traction across the globe, and it is no surprise that an increasing number of Zimbabweans have access to it primarily through WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. This access can be seen as an opportunity because it provides people with multiple sources of information, gives people a space to voice their opinions and concerns across boundaries of place and time, and allows them to engage one another in discussions on key issues beyond the confines of their communities. On the other hand, social media can be seen as a risk particularly when it is used to provide misinformation and speculate rumors that can be harmful to society. As trendsetters, mainstream media should embrace the ascent of social media, and find ways to harness the potential it must bring about socio-economic progress.
  • The growing digital media has made it easier for local news to have a global reach. As such, what the media broadcasts and writes at the local level have a ramification in defining a certain national narrative and/or image at a global scale.
  • It is against this background that, the RC calls upon the media fraternity, particularly as Editors, to enhance participation and engagement in Zimbabwe’s development processes and mobilize the people to participate in development discourse. He appeals to the media to ensure coverage of the outstanding work of communities and women and their challenges in Matabeleland North, the family farmers in Manicaland Province, the resilience programmes in Chiredzi, and the potential start-ups that young students are experimenting with in the tech labs.
  • He encourages the media to take advantage of the prevailing press space to empower and transform the citizens of this country to take ownership of the development process to determine their own national destiny. The United Nations will support the Ministry of Information and the Editors in building media capacity further to ensure that the enabling environment exists for more analytical, objective, and accurate development news reportage.
  • He urged the media to continue work on hopeful messages to brand Zimbabwe and make it the best destination – not only for tourists but also for investors – and a regional hub and gateway for Africa.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende