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Role of Media in the Attainment of Goal 16 & the SDGs Overall

By Erin Quinn, Research and Advocacy Intern, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders

As part of the 60th U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, GNWP, along with Peace is Loud and the Permanent Mission of Austria to the U.N., organized an event entitled, “The Role of Media in the Attainment of Goal 16 & the SDGs Overall”. The panel discussed the use of media in the successful implementation of policy and the role that media can play in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through governments, civil society, and the United Nations. It focused specifically on SDG 16, which aims to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies. H.E. Ambassador Jan Kickert of Austria gave opening remarks concerning the powerful actor that the media can be in influencing paradigm shifts in gender equality and peace. However, there must be an awareness of the potential harm media can posit for both women and society at large.

The panel began with Christina Stummer, the Senior Gender Advisor of the Austrian Development Agency. Since 2015, Stummer explained, gender goals have been at the forefront, and will continue to be unto 2030. Like GNWP, the Austrian Development Agency uses media actively to demonstrate support in other counties and to promote Women, Peace, & Security in those countries. The Agency reaches 5 million audiences in 30 countries, including in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and South East Asia.

Mildred Ngesa of Peace Pen Communication in Kenya continued the discussion by explaining that media is often thought of last in processes such as peacebuilding, which limits sustainable partnerships between media and civil society or NGOs. Specifically, in Kenya, media was blamed for inciting violence, which left 1500 people dead, after the elections in 2007 and 2008. Because the media often operates on party or tribal lines, which it can have limited knowledge on, journalists can cause a polarization between audiences leading to the disengagement with the public. Coverage of UNSCR 1325 and other aspects of Women, Peace, and Security is not always desirable for the media, but there has been progress to make it a more intensely covered topic. If civil society organizations and NGOs partner with media from the start of a peacebuilding process, Ngesa argues, the increased visibility that results increases the importance of the issues. Without media and the consequent lack of visibility, the importance of peacebuilding will diminish.

Adding to the previous presentations, Jamie Dobie discussed Peace is Loud’s work that uses media and live events to highlight the stories of women, peacebuilding, and resisting violence in communities. Her own work has included overseeing the PBS documentary series POV in which over 40 documentaries were made, and the documentary Women, War & Peace shot in Liberia, Afghanistan, Syria, and Egypt. The aim of these documentaries is to tell stories not being documented in mainstream media, which has real impact on communities and changes the ideas concerning women, peace, and security.

From WebPublicaPress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Erol Avdovic explained that the role of the media is to criticize, which will aid in filling the gap between implementation of policy and practise. Specifically for the U.N., Avdovic recommends that Member States need to be more sensible by going and participating in interviews from smaller blogs and press places on the internet that enables them to have more agency in their own countries.

Malika Dutt of Breakthrough India gave two examples of videos used globally to engage in campaigns of masculinity. Be That Guy and Ring Ring. Be That Guy shifts the norms of masculinity in spaces where men engage in their norms. Changing the rhetoric and dialogue from negative stereotypes to positive affirmations can shift the paradigm of masculinity. Ring Ring uses the concept of bringing a public intervention to private spaces, which asks men to challenge each other when a cycle of violence is being perpetuated. She explained that media is available to use as tool like never before, especially in areas of violence against women where media can be used for power and agency.

GNWP’s International Coordinator, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza concluded the panel by providing recommendations to challenge the dominant paradigms in media that currently focus solely on war and conflict. Instead, she says, media can be used to emphasize women’s work in peace and conflict resolution. Ensuring women’s participation in decision-making processes, she continued, will ensure the narration of stories we want to see and hear.

This blog does not necessarily represent the views of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.

Please contact the writer for questions and comments: erin.gnwp@gmail.com.