Strengthening Public Awareness through a Stronger Media

WSP Facilitates Global, Local Engagement
 
Thousands of development specialists and civil society organizations gathered in Istanbul, Turkey for the 5th World Water Forum to find solutions to the global water and sanitation crisis. This year, more than 500 journalists came to the Forum to bring attention to the global, national, and local challenges in delivering water supply and sanitation services to the millions who still need it. Journalists not only reported on the event, but were also invited to participate in workshops and field visits to help them better understand what lies ahead in their own countries. Reporters churned out more than 500 stories to bring the discussion beyond the hallways and classrooms of the global Forum.
 
The Water and Sanitation Program has a long history of working with both journalists and government officials as “information brokers” to improve both the quality and quantity of reporting on water and sanitation issues through workshops, field visits, competitions, and networking. Outreach and technical training help journalists build up expertise around water and sanitation – development issues which many times which get moved to the back pages of the newspaper, unless there is a crisis.
 
This year, WSP supported nine journalists from seven countries to attend the Istanbul Water Forum through a workshop hosted by the Swiss journalism network Media 21, an organization that aims to improve journalists' knowledge of global issues, raise public awareness through publication of high-quality articles and reports, and to develop a global network of international journalists. In addition to WSP, several organizations sponsored journalist attendance at the Media 21 workshop, including PATH, the UN Water Decade, Water Advocates, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, and the World Water Council.

 

“The news media plays a pivotal role not only to raise awareness and support for the water and sanitation sector, but also in giving a stronger voice to every day citizens and in monitoring commitments made by political leaders,” said Manager of the Water and Sanitation Program Jae So. “When journalists understand the real challenges behind delivering water and sanitation services to the poor, they help facilitate public dialogue and citizen engagement that focuses on relevant solutions,” she added.
 
Since 2004, WSP’s Global Communications Team has held nearly 24 events to help increase the awareness and engagement of the media around water and sanitation sector reform. These lasting relationships are invaluable in terms of creating a new generation of journalists who understand the full spectrum of financial, social, and technical challenges for improving the water and sanitation services for the poor.
 
“Journalists play a key part in shaping public debate and keeping everyone accountable, including governments,” said Yosa Yuliarsa, communications specialist for WSP’s East Asia and Pacific Region. “The training and support we provide helps the media articulate the complexities involved in delivering water and sanitation services for poor people.”
 
In East Asia, WSP has hosted more than 12 regional and country level forums in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Vietnam. “WSP's continuous media activities have made us more knowledgeable of water and sanitation. They have helped us meet with the right resource persons in the sector; and provided us with a forum to keep water and sanitation issues on the radar,” said Nurul Aulia Badar, Indonesia's Antara News Agency editor and national coordinator of the country's sanitation media network.
 
In Jakarta, journalists participated in a field visit to low-income and rich areas to meet with citizens and see for themselves how poor communities paid much more for trucked water than the rich paid for piped water. The follow-up coverage helped generate a national debate about the cost of water and eventually led to more constructive policy dialogue.
 
In Latin America, WSP helped organize field trips and media briefings in Peru as part of World Water Day and the Culture of Water campaign. After the field visit, one of the journalists submitted a proposal to the regional LatinoSan Conference and won a coveted fellowship to attend LatinoSan, the Latin American Ministerial Conference on Sanitation.
 
In South Asia, WSP has a rich experience working with media. In 2002 they helped initiate the South Asia Water Media Network. This informal network has since brought together over 200 journalists to learn from, and share experiences with one another, and enable contributions to public debate through experience acquired during study trips, and workshops in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
 

 

To help draw public attention to the magnitude of the sanitation problem leading up to the International Year of Sanitation in 2008, WSP made sure that journalist engagement was a big part of WSP’s advocacy program. They helped bring together practitioners and journalists to exchanges experiences and perspectives and hosted field trips to villages to bring the journalists to communities so they could see both the success and challenges. A competition also helped draw out stories on sanitation issues while the finalists were awarded a trip to attend SACOSAN III in Delhi, India.

 
In 2007, UNDP and WSP hosted a media workshop on the human impact of climate change. The workshop brought together more than 40 journalists and provided a forum to assess how climate change will affect the poor and how countries will adapt to the environmental changes.
 
In Senegal, WSP has helped facilitate an informal network of journalists, who in a non-competitive fashion, support each other’s efforts for collecting research and identifying trends in the sector. Although small in number, these journalists have built up a real proficiency in the sector which results in more thorough investigative reporting. “We planted the seed, but the journalists have really taken their own initiative to continue the network,” said Serigne Seye, Communication Officer for WSP in Senegal.
 
Elsewhere in Africa, WSP supports several programs to help strengthen the media’s role. In Ethiopia, WSP is working with the reporters to help bring attention to the Ethiopia Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All (WASH) campaign. WSP has also been working with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council to promote the WASH media awards in Africa.