Millennium Development Goals Media Workshop

12 Aug 2010

“The what? The Millenn… what? Can you repeat the question please? The Millennium Develop.. what? I am sorry. I do not know anything about the Millennium and that..” These quotes are picked up from people on the street in Vanuatu, trying to answer a question of what they know about the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Few reports have been made in the media about the progress of the MDGs, which is why a one day workshop with a focus on these goals was held at the Chief’s Nakamal in Port Vila, Wednesday 11 August.

It was organized and facilitated by the Media Association blong Vanuatu (MAV), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), the UN Millennium Campaign and the government of Vanuatu. The workshop was opened by the General Manager of VBTC, Mr Fred Vurobaravu and participants were given certificates by Mr Gregoire Nibtik, Director, Department of Strategic Policy, Planning and Aid Coordination.

The media has a unique position

“The media is the only mechanism that can reach out to all the people of Vanuatu at the same time. We are in a unique position to inform people in their own local language and explain what is going on in the country. This is why we need to be more involved in Vanuatu’s progress towards reaching the MDGs,” Mr Moses Stevens, president of PINA said.

The UN Millennium Development Goals are eight goals that aim to improve development in the world. They were agreed by 189 counties in the year 2000, including Vanuatu. They aim to help poor people, secure free education for all children, reduce the number of children dying, improve general health conditions, secure the environment and also develop better conditions for trade and modern technology. Governments around the world, including Vanuatu, have promised to reach these goals by 2015 having signed the Declaration at the end of the 20th century.

“I don’t think we have had enough awareness about these goals, so we haven’t included them in our news stories. I hope that this workshop will inspire us to write more about them and also question the government and donor countries about the lack of progress in some of the goals,” Ms Evelyn Toa, President of MAV said. 

A broad spectrum of participants

The workshop was held for the media to remind them of their important role in democracy. The Millennium Development Goals are meant to improve the lives of the people in Vanuatu, and the media has a major role to play in communicating to the public any improvements, as well as any issues that need more work. 

“I’m hoping that this workshop will bring us together and also encourage a closer cooperation between the government, development partners and the media. We in the government also need to get better at informing the media about what we are doing, so we can use them to reach out to the public,” Mr Armstrong Masanga, MDGs National Coordinator with the Vanuatu Government said.

More than 30 participants, who come from a range of print, radio, television and online media, as well as representatives from stakeholder groups such as Transparency International, learned that with only five years to go to achieve the MDGs, it is important to raise public awareness to give the people of Vanuatu a possibility to participate and tell their stories.

“These goals are not just a global thing made up by the United Nations in New York. They are a promise of improvement made by the government of Vanuatu, so that people here will get access to better health care, education and increased opportunities. We in the media have to highlight this, so people can use us to speak up with their experiences in the urban and rural areas,” Ms Toa added.

Global attention

The Pacific region, including Vanuatu, is together with Sub Saharan Africa, one of the regions that are showing slowest progress towards reaching the MDGs. This will be brought up on the agenda when world leaders meet in a summit in New York from the 20-22 September this year. The media has a crucial part to play in the run up to this summit to let stories from the ground reach the politicians that are making decisions on behalf of everyone.

“One of the major challenges for the Pacific is that we tend to be forgotten in comparison with countries like India, China and Bangladesh in the Asia-Pacific region. But a child without access to education in Vanuatu has no more opportunities than a child without access in India. The media can help to bring this message to the government and the international community,” Ms Reama Biumaiono, Communication Officer in UNDP Fiji Multi Country Office, said.

2nd National MDG report

The Vanuatu government and UNDP are now finalising the second MDG report for Vanuatu, which will include statistics and show the current progress of achieving the goals. This will be a good foundation for the media to produce more stories on the MDGs in the next five years.

“We can make the MDG stories more interesting for the people of Vanuatu by using more pictures and translating them into Bislama, so that people that don’t speak English will understand,” one of the participants said.

“I think it is time for our local media to be more involved in the MDGs. The goals have been around for ten years, but we had heard little about them before now. We want to increase our efforts in the next five years, to make the public understand the promise made by the government of Vanuatu and the rest of the world,” Mr Stevens said.