The Forum on Communication for Development & Community Media for Sustainable Rural Development was held in Accra, Ghana on 13th August 2015 as part of the 11th International Conference of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). The Forum was attended by representatives of community radio broadcasters, farmer organizations and development institutions from nearly 50 different countries.
The objectives of the Forum were to:
• Share experiences about the role and contribution of ComDev and community media to food security and resilient rural livelihoods;
• Identify options for promoting communication policies and services to advance rural development;
• Establish alliances between development programmes, farmer organizations, community media, and community radio broadcasters; and
• Agree upon initiatives, networking and coordination mechanisms to improve the contribution of community radios and networks to sustainable rural development.
Three parallel working groups focused on 1) inclusive communication policies, 2) partnerships between development initiatives and community media, and 3) the role of the ICTs and regional networks. This led to a final plenary session in which a number of recommendations, priorities and follow-up actions were agreed by the participants.
• It is essential to work across sectors to promote and implement law and policy reforms related to rural communication services for smallholder farmers and rural communities.
• Formal legal recognition of community radio must be ensured through a simple licensing process, equitable reservation of frequencies and robust funding.
• Government should be urged to invest in reinforcing community-based communication services and scaling-up good practices.
• The knowledge, confidence and agency of men and women should be facilitated to help them voice their needs and concerns, claim their rights, interact and organize themselves.
• Engaging in multi-stakeholder partnerships is necessary to embed communication for development initiatives and programmes in rural development.
PRIORITIES AND FOLLOW-UP ACTIONS
• Promote an active role for community media in development and steer inclusive communication policies in the different regions.
• Improve the work of community radio in rural development by enhancing the existing regional platforms and expanding the partnership to other networks and institutions.
• Preparation of regional strategies and engagement with relevant partners.
• Promote inclusive rural communication services as part of agricultural and rural development policies to guarantee the right to communication of smallholder farmers worldwide.
• Recognize the role of community radios in providing inclusive and demand-led communication processes involving farmer organizations and the rural population.
In order to fulfil these recommendations, the participants urged AMARC to mainstream communication for sustainable rural development as a permanent area of work at the global and regional level. Furthermore, the partnership between AMARC and FAO was highlighted as a way to leverage policy support as well as to enhance collaboration between community radios and rural development programmes at the field level.
The participants also agreed to expand AMARC Communication for Development Platforms (i.e. Onda Rural in Latin America, ComDev Asia in the Asia-Pacific region, Yenkasa Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa) to serve as regional hubs to foster the implementation of Communication for Development & Community Media initiatives for sustainable rural development.