Note: What follows is the summary of this report. The full report can be accessed at this link.
This report covers the key considerations and results from the all interested parties (stakeholders) meeting held in New York, United States, June 27-28 2017, hosted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with The Communication Initiative (The CI). This meeting was part of a process aimed at discussing, exploring, and making recommendations towards the establishment of a global mechanism to advance the scale and impact of communication and media for development and social and behaviour change. This report should be read in conjunction with the Options paper (see Related Summaries, below) and the comments from the overnight survey between days 1 and 2 of the meeting (included in the annex of the report).
In the build-up to the meeting, an extensive consultation process was undertaken, which included meetings (face-to-face or virtual) with more than 200 practitioners, donors, researchers and academics, and government and UN agencies' staff who work in this field in all regions of the world. Alongside these consultations, The CI facilitated a survey of 579 participants from 95 countries and organised a virtual community group to discuss the mechanism options and offer substantive feedback. In addition, 15 substantive contributions were received and discussed through The CI's Soul Beat network in Africa, and 43 substantive contributions were received and discussed through The CI's University and Higher Education network. These inputs collectively informed the development of the aforementioned Options paper, which outlines a set of mechanism options and the way forward for an initial negotiation process that culminated with the stakeholders meeting.
Most of the more than 60 participants in the New York meeting had engaged in these on-site or virtual consultations. The key questions they set out to address were:
- Which specific priority challenges and issues need to be addressed in order for thw communication and media for development, social and behaviour change field of work to become more effective at greater scale?
- Which mechanism provides the best organisational possibility for addressing those priority challenges?
- What are the main steps that need to be taken to implement that mechanism, and who is responsible and accountable for taking that action?
In step with the Options paper, the sections in the overview report are organised according to the following:
- The key principles for this field of work - The challenge for the meeting participants was to determine how key elements for this field of work (e.g., participation and engagement of communities as the driver of the process) could be distilled into a clear and recognisable phrase - across the various actors of this diversified field of work - and provide a clear outline of the added value and necessity of this field of work. The report outlines various considerations that emerged from the meeting; for instance, the phrase "communication and media for development, social and behavioural change" was not favoured, as it was seen as providing little insight or guidance related to this work. On the other hand, there was also a reluctance to agree on a name that was overly identified with one particular aspect of this field of work. It was left to Warren Feek and Rafael Obregon, along with other partners willing to join an interim working group or committee, to review this discussion, propose a name for the mechanism, and develop an implementation plan, among other tasks.
- The main priorities for action for the planned mechanism - In priority (descending) order, the participants rated the following: amplifying our policy voice (1rst), agreeing and communicating the most credible and compelling evidence, raising funding levels, raising programming standards, deepening civil society engagement, and raising training standards (6th). The focus of these priorities included references across all elements of development action. Participants did raise questions about, for instance, the desirability of linking the priorities to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and/or placing the overall initiative in the context of the SDGs. Allied to the priorities was some strategic guidance concerning the manner in which they should be implemented. To cite only one example: There is concern that in working on very complex and embedded behaviours, social norms, cultural expressions, etc., there is very little possibility of making the substantial shifts required in the course of the 3-, 4-, or 5-year timeframe that is standard for the funding of most programme initiatives. Strong suggestions were made that the timeframe issue should be a substantial policy point in the work of the mechanism.
- The mechanism options considered - The discussion was framed by the Options paper, which outlined these 3 major possibilities to emerge from the extensive consultations: a Standing Committee of the United Nations; a council of membership-based groups; and a Federation of issue-focused networks. There was a strong preference among the participants for a structural base that would allow and support all 3 options. Some of the positive aspects as well as the downsides of each choice are outlined in the report. However these elements are incorporated, it is agreed that the approach chosen should both enhance and support existing mechanisms related to particular segments of this field of work, and that the new mechanism should not compete with existing processes related to parts of this field - for example, the Communication for Development Network (C4D Network).
- The structural and funding base - With regard to the former, the highest and majority preference was to establish a small virtual team using online coordination tools, with consultancy contracts to one or perhaps a few organisations as the basis of their work arrangement. With regard to the latter, the majority preference was for one organisation to raise or provide new money to support a small 2-year funding arrangement for start-up purposes. In consideration of these options and the preferences expressed, the participants contributed some suggestions, such as: The convening of the mechanism process, including in-person meetings, needs to happen on a regular basis in Southern contexts in order to enable and hear perspectives and experiences from around the world.
The meeting concluded with a plenary session in which all participants had the opportunity to share their personal reflections on how to take this process forward. Participants stressed that the global mechanism should focus primarily on the role and contributions of this field to national development goals, which could be organised around the priorities identified throughout the consultations and captured in the Options paper. Participants also recommended that it was necessary to set up an interim committee or working group that can rapidly start the process. They outlined the main tasks of this working group, which will include those aim to reflect the broad range of stakeholders convened for this process.