By Byron Mutingwende
The media plays an important role in defining common denominator in promoting national interest and setting progressive socio-economic and democratic agenda in the country, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe has said.
“The role of media, including the newsprint, electronic and online/digital entities, cannot be over-emphasised in national development, which involves advancement in political, economic and social wellbeing of the 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, plan to implementation,” Parajuli said.
He said the United Nations and its Charter remains the shared ‘space’ for sharing ideas and beliefs no matter who we are, and to stand firm and together behind a set of time-tested core values.
“That is why 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 of us to make a difference.”
The UN official said there is need to pull together to advance the inherent goodness of the human values and aspirations to turn around the socio-economic challenges, effects of climate change – drought and Cyclone Idai and expand the democratic space in the country.
The United Nations supports Zimbabwe’s national development and partnerships to advance democratic, social and economic governance for quality service delivery towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs. The United Nations, under national leadership and ownership, and with generous support from development partners, contributes to strengthen economic growth, social progress, gender equality and environmental sustainability.
In his presentation to journalists, Sirak Gebrehiwot, the UN Communications Specialist said through the 2016-2020 Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF), the UN has delivered USD 400 million annually in various development programmes and projects during past three years, delivering 75% of the USD 1.6 billion to be mobilised by the end of 2020.
Gebrehiwot said the United Nations contribution is on track to meet the targeted commitment, which has been on average.
Mr Parajuli added that the ZUNDAF, fully aligned to national development priorities and the SDGs, contributes to six result areas: social services and protection, food and nutrition security, HIV and AIDS, Gender Equality; Poverty Reduction and Value Addition; and public administration and governance.
Zimbabwe has adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals with 169 targets that aim to end poverty, hunger, inequality, and promote justice, peace, gender equality, good health, quality education, jobs, innovation, environmental protection and strong partnership.
“I have addressed the media at different forums including during various UN-organised media workshops and field visits 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 achieve these goals. The Media has critical role in advancing all the SDGs in general and the goals that specifically speak to the media such as the SDG 16,” Mr. Parajuli added.
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
Mr. Parajuli said the role of development assistance is critical, necessary but not sufficient for the achievement of the SDGs. He emphasized that there is a strong need and a case for the private sector and business 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 and tourism 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 you’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact of Cyclone idai.
“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,” Mr. Parajuli added.
In all this, the media has a multiplicity of roles to play in this process. They are the link between government or policy makers and the people.
“You 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.
“I have seen young girls and boys in ICT innovation hubs developing computer programmes and applications. I have seen female-headed households improving their livelihoods with nominal assistance engaging in fishing and artifact business. I have witnessed through hard work and with minimal assistance farming households earning a decent income from farming. I have met a woman who lost her two kids, husband and her property to cyclone Idia, but managed to restore her livelihood in part by starting up a poultry in a temporary camp while waiting for settlement. “
Mr Parajuli noted that in addition to the traditional media, 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.
He said 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, he said social media could 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 he said, should embrace the ascent of social or digital media and find ways to harness the potential it must bring people together for an inclusive socio-economic progress.
“The growing digital media has made it easier for local news to have global reach. As such, what the media broadcasts and writes at local level has a ramification in defining a certain national narrative and/or image at global scale. It is against this background that I call upon you the media fraternity to enhance your participation and engagement in Zimbabwe’s development processes and mobilize the people to participate in development discourse. I appeal to you to ensure coverage on the outstanding work of communities and women and their challenges in Binga, the family farmers in Nyanga, the resilience programmes in Chiredzi, Mwenezi and the potential start-ups that our young students are experimenting with in the tech labs.”
Mr. Parajuli encouraged 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 media fraternity in building media capacity further to ensure that the enabling environment exists for more analytical, objective and accurate development news reportage. In conclusion, I would urge each one of us to continue work on hopeful messages to rebrand Zimbabwe and make it the best destination – not only for tourists but also for investors – and a regional hub and gateway for Africa.”