The manual on how to design and implement a national communication development policy is a result of the work undertaken by participants of regional workshop held in Niamey, Niger in April 2002.
The manual is based on experiences from 1992 when FAO was asked by Government of Mali to assist in designing a communication development policy. The division in charge of communication for development at the time created a methodological approach which made it possible for national consultants to sum up the status of communication for development; to organize a national workshop to validate the results of the studies and design the mission, objectives and plans for implementing a national communication for development policy.
This first methodological approach appeared to be successful, but as is the case with all innovative work, the approach was considered incomplete; the grass-root communities had not been consulted and their needs had not been taken sufficiently into account. Research undertaken during the preparation of the rural development directorial plan on rural life in Mali gave us the opportunity to know the aspirations, wishes, doubts and the demands of the rural world. These were taken into account during the design process of the national communication for development policy.
The origins of the methodological phase ensured that regional-level communities were consulted upstream, regional meetings were then held, using a questionnaire and a basic discussion structure was organized. The objective of the meetings was to identify the information and communication needs of the actors at the grass-roots level and develop a structured and coherent approach to communication for development.
This phase was subsequently developed in Guinea-Bissau. NGOs, farmers organizations, members of civil society and decentralised government services were consulted in order to know how they communicated with one another, with their partners in the region and with the capital. The questions asked included: What obstacles exist in the free circulation and management of information? What can be said regarding the institutions and means of information and the communication structures and infrastructures? What solutions are being proposed by the regions and the grass-root actors based on a communication for development diagnosis?
In Guinea Bissau, Niger, Cape Verde and Burkina Faso, the methodological steps included the organization of a pedagogical workshop to update the consultants. By using a participative approach, the different complementary tasks contained in the terms of reference were equally shared among the participants.
In the Central African Republic the national workshop responsible for defining policy, objectives, short-, medium- and long-term action plans found that there was no need to create a committee or working group to analyse the needs and action plans. It was felt, and with good reason, that these points could not be dealt without the other working groups and that the needs and action plans needed to be discussed and developed within each working group.
The FAO methodology presented for use by the workshop involved a total of eight (8) stages. At the conclusion of the Niamey meeting, another three (3) were added for the definition phase and six (6) for the implementation phase, an overall total of seventeen methodological stages for the two phases were defined.
I would like to thank Professor Alfred Opubor who agreed to present the introductory statement at this regional workshop and facilitated the discussion regarding the methodological stages for the design and implementation of the national policies of communication for development. Professor Opubor was the ideal person for this task due to his extensive and distinguished career in the communication field at both the national and international level (UNFPA). During the mid 1980s Professor Opubor organized one of the first workshops dealing with communication policies in Africa under the aegis of the OAU in Abeokuta in Nigeria.
In placing structuring instruments for implementing global action in the communication sector at the disposal of persons responsible for creating national policies of communication for development, FAO would like to reiterate several important principles in the methodology of communication for development, and a number of basic methodological considerations inherent to communication policies:
In order to define the themes and sectors that are vital in each and every tool and medium it is essential to begin with the needs of the communities concerned, within the general context of the overall situation of the country in question, in relation to what can be provided as support for all the development sectors and areas. This is the most important principle.
Identifying, cataloguing and analysing the communication needs of the different social actors in the urban environment and above all in the rural world, reflecting upon and offering concrete proposals in the form of sectoral and regional action plans with regards to the mission and objectives of the national communication for development policy. The role and place of the media, in training in the area of communication for development and the role and place of the institutional and juridical framework responsible for the implementation and following-up of a communication policy.
In the process of designing a national policy of communication for development, the following factors are fundamental:
awareness of the interdependence between communication and other development sectors and areas;
the creation of a new approach of communication for development which includes the involvement of the entire population in the countrys affairs;
to envisage an approach that gives communication a human dimension by ensuring that it is not monopolised by the media but that it is carried out by teachers, agricultural workers, health officers, field veterinarians, community and religious leaders as well as members of NGOs and farmers organizations;
to understand that the implementation of a communication for development policy must be placed in an appropriate juridical and institutional framework;
to choose a multimedia approach that includes interpersonal and group communication, traditional means of communication, the media and new communication technologies;
to take into account specific situations as well as the realities and needs of the countries concerned and in particular of their own means and their human, material and financial capacities.
Technical Supervisor for designing
Communication Policies Projects in French- and Portuguese-Speaking Africa