Zim Media a Force for SDGs, Social Transformation

*By Bishow Parajuli

I had a previlage to preside over the 2017 National Journalists and Media Awards ceremony thanks to the strong partnership and recognition given to the UN Development System in Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and the media fraternity in Zimbabwe The United Nations values the strong partnership with the media and we have been working closely in many areas.IMG_6350.jpg

 I had the honour to preside over this year’s national media awards last week, organized by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists under the theme, “Media for Sustainable Development”. The befitting theme of is a testimony to the common agenda of promoting sustainable development anchored on the principle of “leave no one behind”, a development that puts social, economic and environmental issues at the center of development.

To facilitate the work of the media in Zimbabwe for social mobilization, to inform and inspire the public for action, the United Nations has regularly and consistently provided training opportunities in-country and overseas on humanitarian and development reporting. We intend to continue and increase this collaboration.

The United Nations Development System supports the existence of a strong media that is independent, investigative, and analytical and that provides accurate, timely and objective reporting on development, humanitarian, and social issues – be it progress or challenge.

The United Nations supports Zimbabwe’s national development priorities and the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs aim to encourage countries to end poverty, hunger and boost shared prosperity in a sustainable manner. To achieve these goals and their 169 targets, a multi-stakeholder partnership is a must.

As we celebrate the achievement of the media and journalists in Zimbabwe, I would like to share a few perspectives on why and how the media should engage and report on the SDGs.

First: As media outlets and journalists, you can contribute greatly to the attainment of SDGs by building public awareness, setting the agenda and engaging Government, Parliament, the Judiciary and sub-national stakeholders such as academia, researchers, statistics agencies, non-governmental organization, private sectors as well as communities and individuals at grassroots level.  We need all hands-on deck to achieve these SDGs. Media as an important source of accurate information and analysis that helps shape citizens’ views, commitment and role on the SDGs has a great role in influencing policy and mobilizing the public.

Second: The SDGs will remain only aspirational if there is no accountability for their implementation. Media through reporting objectively and accurately on policy implementation and exposing social and economic issues that derail progress such as corruption, illicit capital flight, gender inequality, violence and abuse can play its role. In addition, media has the means to set the agenda in the public space on adherence to rule of law, and promotion of justice and peace at all levels in the country which is key enablers for the other SDGs to be achieved.

In this regard, of concern to the media, for example, can be goal 16 which aims to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’.IMG_6369.jpg

Third: the media has the capacity and responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless, vulnerable members of the society – children particularly girls, people with disability, women, senior citizens, the poor and marginalized. Their stories can make an impact across the spectrum from modifying an individual’s own behavior to generating popular support to prompt policy and decision makers for action

The media should maintain and strengthen a public dialogue to empower people with information particularly in the rural areas, and to increase transparency and accountability. The media plays a big role by increasing awareness and engagement, by helping to ask the right questions and to look for answers; it opens those democratic spaces for a more people centered sustainable development.

Fourth: the overall implementation and achievement of the SDGs squarely falls on the leadership of the Government. However, the sheer scale of the SDGs would require a concerted effort at all levels, from the media, civil society, private sector, the international community, to active citizens participation.

The media, through generating hopeful and positive information, can advance international engagement and portray Zimbabwe as a destination for tourism and investment to unlock economic growth, increase national income and trigger public investment for sustainable development. With the digital and social media platforms, what is published locally has global reach. As such, the media can profile ongoing national reform processes such as the ease of doing business to lure investment.

In line with the forgoing, the media fraternity can champion the SDGs either by selecting one or two goals, be it at media house level or as an individual journalist, and track and report on progress regularly and interrogate as to what can be done for Zimbabwe to achieve those goals.

The UN stands with the media and cherishes the strong partnership with the media in advancing the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals and to assist the people of Zimbabwe achieve these goals as well as their aspirations for a strong and resilient Zimbabwe.

*Bishow Parajuli is UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Zimbabwe