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ROME, Italy, October 27, 2006 - The key message from participants to policymakers at the first World Congress on Communication for Development (WCCD), which concluded today, was clear and simple: Go home and listen to your people.
“Communication is development”, they declared, hence their call for a massive increase in communications efforts based on the premise that development initiatives devoid of communication measures are essentially ineffective.
“We want to achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), we want to eradicate poverty, not only economic, financial poverty, but we want the social rights of poor countries to be recognized and not forgotten. Communication is at the very heart of this social dimension of rights, and this is the reason why communication goes hand in hand with development”, said Patrizia Sentinelli, Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, who delivered a speech at the WCCD Opening ceremony.
The evidence to support the positive impact of communication in development projects is overwhelming. Over 700 selected participants from around the world congregated in Rome over the last three days and presented case studies and research papers.
Professionals from over 200 organizations engaged in creative workshops and seminars in order to share experiences, exchange ideas and debate the most efficient communications strategies.
“This Congress demonstrated that Communication for Development is an essential development tool and needs to be raised on the global agenda,” said Paul Mitchell, Manager of the Development Communication Division at the World Bank .
NGOs, multilateral development institutions, bilateral donors, development practitioners and academics extracted the most useful conclusions from the vast array of debates, discussions and exchanges which took place at the Congress and transformed them into a set of simple recommendations for policymakers on, for example, ways to improve how communication is used by governments and communities to produce more tangible results. A concrete set of recommendations was eventually agreed upon and will serve as an advocacy tool to reach policymakers.
"Giving people a voice, helping them to make that voice heard, only then does development become sustainable," said Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO. "It also helps to be a good listener because there is much to be learned from the other side."
Less propaganda, more outreach efforts. Fewer monologs, more two-way, participatory dialogues. In the end, this means increased transparency and improved governance, better access to health services and education, fairer treatment of minorities and gender equity, to name just a few improvements.
“It is time that leaders give higher priority to communication”, said Garth Japhet, Chair of the Communication Initiative Partnership.
The Congress closed with the call to policymakers to listen to their people. However, it’s a call addressed to everybody involved in development.
It’s development and it benefits the poor. It is now time to listen.
For more information, please visit the congress website: www.devcomm.org
For more information on the key recommendations, please visit the “Rome Consensus”