Civil Society Intervention on Financing Community Radio Fund for Africa

2005-02-23 00:00:00

Madam Chairperson. My name is Lettie Longwe and I speak on behalf
of the Community Media Working Group. I thank you for the opportunity to
address the question of financing mechanisms for ICT for
development. And let me say, first, that it would be better if we were to speak about
Communication for Development. For the question is not just one
of technologies but also, and more importantly, of people. It is
not only a question of access, infrastructure and connectivity,
but also one of language, literacy, education and human capacity.

When we speak about Communication for Development in the least
developed countries, Madam Chairperson, we are not only, or even
primarily, speaking about access to the Internet, but also about
radio and telephony oral media, that are more accessible, more
widespread and less expensive.

One of the findings which should have been given much higher
profile in the report of the Task Force on Funding Mechanisms, is
the specific and crucial role of community media in reaching out
to the poorest and most marginalized communities. This is a
finding which was endorsed last year at the United Nations Round
Table on Communications for Development held in

Rome, in September, and reinforced at the WSIS thematic conference
on Media in Africa and the Arab World, held in Marrakech, in
November 2005.

Investment in community media has grown significantly in recent
years. We welcome, for example, the commitments made to community
media by the Swiss government at the Geneva Summit, in
partnership with UNESCO and the governments of Mozambique, Mali
and Senegal. We welcome the continuing support for community
media that other donor governments have made, such as Sweden,
France and the United Kingdom, and by other multilateral
development agencies including the UNDP and the World Bank.

However, Madam Chairperson, we also believe that there is not only
room for improvement in existing funding mechanisms but that a
new international fund for Community Media would have immediate
and strategic impact in the contribution of communications to the
achievement of the Millennium Development goals. In our
experience, approaches to investment in community media are not
always flexible to respond to need and to demand when it is
expressed. There has been success in small project-based
investment but new approaches are needed to address the challenge
of scaling-up. We see a degree of competition among donors which
is not always helpful. Better coordination is needed. We see a
lack of experience among some donors and some international NGOs
in supporting capacity building at the local level. More needs to
be done to consult with and involve civil society and community-
based organisations in planning and implementation.

Lastly, but not least, Madam Chairperson, we specifically propose,
as a first step, the establishment of a Community Radio Fund for
Africa. This

would be to complement the Digital Solidarity Fund. What we are
proposing is a donor-civil society partnership in which funding
commitments are matched with technical expertise and know-how. We
are proposing a fund which can act quickly and flexibly with the
minimum of bureaucracy. We are proposing a fund that would give
priority to the needs expressed by local community organisations
and would support community-led initiatives.

Such a fund would require investment at a modest level over a
period of ten years from 2005 to 2015. We believe the results
would have a measurable and positive impact on the Millennium
Development Goals. We call upon governments and other
stakeholders to work with us to establish such an initiative and
to do so within the framework of the World Summit on the
Information Society.

I thank you.