Governments, Media, and Economists Team Up on Sanitation for East Asia

Sanitation was high on the agenda as the Water and Sanitation Program brought together government officials, mass media professionals and economists from five East Asian countries to promote sanitation in the region.  

The meeting took place at WSP-EAP's Communications Workshop on Sustainable Sanitation in East Asia in Bangkok on 5-6 February 2007. The event aimed to share experience and build capacity of governments and mass media in order to increase public attention on sanitation in the target countries. The activity was part of a sector objective to increase political will for implementing reforms and increasing investment in sanitation in the region.  

Thirty-five participants from government (including directors-general and directors) and media (including chief editors and executive producers) were engaged in a mix of discussion, presentation, group work and exercises with 20 representatives from international organizations such as Unicef, WHO, DfID, Eco-Asia, World Bank External Affairs and WSP.  

The workshop was designed to provide governments opportunity to raise the understanding of media practitioners about the relevance, key issues and challenges facing the sector, with the objective of enhancing mass media's capacity to put sanitation issues into the public domain. The workshop also gave media professionals a forum to assist governments and international organizations in identifying key messages, developing media strategies and packaging newsworthy sanitation information  

According to Pak Susmono, a Public Works director from Indonesia, the workshop was useful as it provided him with different perspectives from other stakeholders: "I've never taken part in an event in which governments sit together with mass media as equal partners before. We are planning a national sanitation campaign and the learning from this workshop will help my office improve the way we frame it. Also, this workshop is good for networking—I now have good contacts with Indonesian major newspapers, wire service and TV station. It's funny... it takes an event in Bangkok for me to meet with these Indonesian media contacts."  

Mulyanda Djohan from the Chinese Xinhua News Agency believes the workshop improved his knowledge of the sector: "As journalists we usually care only about the facts and figures. This event enhanced my understanding of what’s behind the facts and figures, such as the main challenges and the main issues."  

One of the outputs of the workshop was identification of region- and country-specific sanitation messages.Another useful result was development of a draft media strategy for an upcoming East Asia Sanitation and Hygiene Conference (EASAN) from work group discussion in each of the five focus countries—Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines and Vietnam.  

In a bid to enrich the results of the government-media-organization work with economic perspectives, the workshop invited a team of East Asian economists in Bangkok for an Economics of Sanitation Initiative meeting, to review the country outputs consisting of country-specific sanitation issues, framing of issues, catchwords, audience segmentation and draft messages. The review resulted in an "incentive-based" recommendation for sanitation promotion in East Asia—a promotion offering certain incentives to all stakeholders and underlining "what’s in it" for each target audience. Proceedings of the workshop will be available on this website in April.

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Yosa Yuliarsa
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