New book explains why communication rights & sustainable development are inextricably linked
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New book explains why communication rights & sustainable development are inextricably linked

WACC ’s Centre for Communication Rights has co-published Expanding Shrinking Communication Spaces, a new e-book on communication rights and sustainable development for a digital age.

The 130-page page book – which is intended for development practitioners, policy makers, and communication rights activists – takes a historic look at communication and communication rights and their continuing relevance in today’s world.
“No matter the issue – poverty, conflict resolution, self-determination, migration, health, land, housing, the climate crisis – little can be done without effective communication,” the book stresses.

The book asserts that genuine sustainable development and equitable access to information and knowledge requires an additional Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that is distinctly missing from the United Nation’s list – SDG 18: Communication for All.

Communication for All seeks to “expand and strengthen public civic spaces through equitable and affordable access to communication technologies and platforms, media pluralism, and media diversity,” states the book. In other words, Communication for All ensures that the voices of everyone – particularly the poor, marginalized, and the excluded – are heard, and that their genuine participation is guaranteed.

Various chapters in the book explore how the concept of Communication for All  works. One chapter “leaps across the centuries to argue that communication has always been about power and exclusion and that its transformative potential has constantly faced obstacles,” according to authors Philip Lee, WACC General Secretary, and Lorenzo Vargas, WACC Communication for Social Change manager. The same chapter identifies 10 principles or entitlements that are essential to good governance, good citizenship, and democratic accountability.

The book devotes a chapter to “Communication and Information Poverty” in the context of the SDGs. While the digital age (or information) age has resulted in rapid communication advances due to computer technology, the book notes that millions of people continue to be left behind by these developments and suffer from “information poverty.” Information poverty is manifested by lack of access to communication platforms, under-representation or misrepresentation in the media, limited access to relevant and accurate information and knowledge, exclusion from participation in decision-making processes, and limited media freedom, according to authors Lee and Vargas.

This chapter also identifies the ways in which information poverty “undermines” the vision of the SDGs, and provides concrete recommendations on how to democratize information  and communication.

Another chapter focuses on gender issues in news media content. It offers evidence that more than two decades since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing – hailed by UN Women as a turning point for the global agenda for gender equality – “gender issues in media content remain pertinent and the power to change lies with governments, the media, and ordinary audiences.”

In “What Do the SDGs Mean for the World’s Indigenous Peoples?,” contributor Dev Kumar Sunuwar looks at the important role that media and communications play in creating “spaces for the expression of Indigenous voices” and sharing stories about “the diversity of cultures, languages, and histories.” Kunuwar underscores the need for information and communication in Indigenous languages and notes how community-based radio remains the most accessible platform for Indigenous Peoples.

The book also includes “Communication Is Inscribed In Human Nature,” a landmark essay written in 1999 by the late Michael Traber, a mass communications expert and WACC’s former Director of Studies and Publication, which explored why communication is “an essential human need and a fundamental social necessity.”

“We hope that this book becomes a resource for all those who believe in the necessity of democratizing communication and information as a stepping stone towards truly inclusive and meaningful sustainable development”

The book, co-published by Southbound publishing house in Malaysia, is available for sale here. 

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