A strong press and robust broadcasting institutions are critical for achieving a sustainable peace and credible governance in post-conflict countries, senior United Nations officials told delegates attending a conference on peacebuilding today.
The need to recognize the role of media and communications as an essential part of peacebuilding efforts was the focus of a one-day conference organized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), in collaboration with the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), at UN Headquarters in New York.
Delegates heard that media and communications operations are critical in supporting the UN Peacebuilding Commission in its efforts to provide post-conflict countries with the international support they need to get back on their feet.
The Commission, which was set up at the end of 2005, is tasked with helping struggling States avoid the slide back into war or chaos and currently has four countries on its agenda – Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Central African Republic (CAR).
The conference brought together ministers from two of the States assisted by the Commission, Burundi and Sierra Leone, with media from the countries undergoing peacebuilding efforts, representatives of the UN system, and other international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Ambassador Yukio Takasu, Chairperson of the Peacebuilding Commission, told the meeting that the Commission needed the media as a partner at the local, national and international level to generate attention and mobilize support towards countries emerging from conflict.
Mr. Takasu added that the media was vital for promoting credible and transparent governance, saying that “a media environment conducive to independent and accessible media can build public will and hold governments accountable to their citizens.”
Delegates focused discussions on how the media has promoted and strengthened governance and democracy in countries coming out of conflict, reviewing past efforts as well as examining current initiatives and exploring possibilities for future action.
Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, underscored the success UN radio broadcasters have had in reaching audiences in post-conflict nations.
“UNTAC radio, for example, in Cambodia in 1992, helped to change that country’s political mood and mobilized an enormous voter turnout with its constant refrain ‘your vote is secret,’” said Mr. Akasaka.
Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Jane Holl Lute echoed the sentiment by stressing the media’s outreach role in informing, motivating and mobilizing populations emerging from conflict.