United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) has put together a 2-day intensive training for the media professionals across West Africa on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to Hilary Ogbonna, the UNMC, Acting Regional Coordinator for Africa, having identified the role of media in disseminating information, it has become imperative for us as major stakeholders in the development sector to begin to train and build partnership with media practitioners such as investigative journalists, reporters, editors, TV broadcasters, radio broadcasters as well as online journalists particularly within the West African countries on SDGs and its implementation, so as to avoid similar pitfalls experienced in the implementation of last MDGs.
According to him, lack of access to information by media practitioners has led to failure in the realisation of MDGs in most West African countries, which is also part of the reason for this training. “Ultimately we seek to enhance the knowledge of the media practitioners on how to access critical information most importantly as it relates to the implementation of SDGs. They need to understand the veritable tools that would be used in getting information and disseminating updates on the SDGs” he explained.
Ogbonna identified some hindrances and why there were numerous challenges in the implementation of the MDGs in Nigeria and in other African countries. “From the media perspective there is need to access how Nigeria has failed in the implementation of MDGs. In term of institutional measures Nigeria did well in creating an office for the MDGs, which was a radical approach aimed at the implementation of MDGs. However, this did not produce excellent results due to the problems of coordination within the government particularly at the federal level. Poverty eradication which was the first goal on MDGs and the most criticised goal failed from the outset, because most people do not believe poverty could be completely wiped out among us. Yet poverty ratio is still very high in the country because of our population, this is one reason we need to check population growth, as checking population growth is about economic development” he affirmed.
He described the SDGs as an unfinished business of the MDGs, with its core principle to be “leave no one behind” . Unlike the MDGs which focused on third world countries, SDGs is all inclusive. In other words, SDGs focuses on 3 dimensions which are social development, economic development and environmental development. Citing China as typical example of a country that hit the target of poverty reduction. “China has lifted more citizens out of poverty more than any other country of the world. Here in Nigeria we do not practise developmental state rather we practice democratic state which is one of the issues to contend with, if we are to hit SDGs within a short period of time” he alluded.
Joseph Amenaghawon, OSIWA Programme Coordinator (Economic Governance) while addressing the participants at the training said OSIWA currently works in ten countries in the West African region with a mandate to promote and support developmental programmes. He spoke extensively on a wide range of issues and why the realisation of MDGs failed in West African countries. He buttressed this with prevalent high rate of child/maternal mortality in a country like Nigeria where adequate institutional measures are not being put in place for mother and child to access quality healthcare service. “ Practical day to day challenges we face are captured and embedded in SDGs, therefore, media indeed has a major role to play in projecting SDGs through their various reportage even at community level. He supported the fact the media can explore innovative and new means of communicating the SDGs to more people. “Media can do a lot in changing the mindsets of people” he said. He further expressed his expectations to support media practitioners in carrying out these specific roles now and in the nearest future.
Oliver Orok, Commissioner for Sustainable Development, Cross River state also joined the media training to express the State’s support for the sustainable development. During his goodwill message, he dwelt on how Cross River State has been dedicated and focused in the implementation of last MDGs and how the State intend to prioritise SDGs in the State’s agenda.
Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi Gender Advocate and Founding Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, delivered a lecture on the role of media in promoting gender equality and empowerment for women and girls. She emphasised the important role media plays in disseminating information and sensitising their immediate society so as to overcome the pervading social construction and stereotype of women being treated as sub-human. She said 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced gender violence or physical abuse either in their marriages or at place of work, therefore SDGs seek to address challenges women face across the globe. “Although media provide frameworks for interpretation and mobilize citizens on various issues, they still need to understand that gender is cross cutting issue and they need to internalise gender issues first, to be able to develop efficient mechanism for reporting issues around women, if we are to move away from this stereotype. For instance, men often dominate as spokespersons while women are underrepresented on the radio, television and other media platforms” she alluded.
Lanre Arogundade, a media expert who was a facilitator at the training spoke on how media can access information in promoting the implementation of SDGs at all levels and how media could also facilitate access to these information by the people. His lecture brought to fore top questions that require answers. “for instance, SDGs often cover those budget areas where corruption tend to happen, because it entails huge donor funding that are not always capture in the overall national budget, therefore, monitoring and oversight structure must put in place for better results and accountability, he said.