Sustainable Development And Media

Om Prakash Ghimire


In the development sector, “sustainable development” is a commonly accepted guiding principle of global development which is widely understood as the broader outlook with optimum linkages between economic growth, social development, and ecological balance. It has become a popular jargon in international and national development arena, especially after endorsing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) as common development agenda of the world in 2015. The SDG is guiding document having 17 goals and 169 targets that need to be achieved by 2030 at national and global levels.

Though the concept of sustainable development was coined in the 1970s, it took more than four decades to be accepted as a guiding principle of universal development. This shows that establishing comprehensive development-related principles and guidelines for the world require a very long process. There may be lots of missing issues and views to enrich the concept of sustainable development which may be explored gradually.
One of the debates to be linked with SDG inevitably should be media because the latter represents the public voices and independent factors to create the open and broader discourse of development. As debate has continued since four decades back to link the media in promoting sustainable development, it is now more relevant in positioning the media as an important tool after the endorsement of SDGs.
The close connection between free, pluralistic and independent media and sustainable development has been acknowledged internationally. Sustainable development as an interlinked process of human development, is increasingly demanding the value of free and pluralistic media. It has been, and can continue to be, empirically tested for their role in attaining and sustaining development gains, and their prerequisite status in regard to good governance. But how to nationalise and localise these international knowledge and skills still remains unanswered. So, academia, research institution, media actors and policy makers need to reflect the significant contribution of media to foster sustainable development goal in Nepal.
International experiences and experiments have demonstrated three important things regarding the relationship between sustainable development and media. First, the correlation between free media and national development monitoring and priority-setting has been empirically evolving. Second, recognition of free media in the human society has become as an integral part of governance which is again a precondition of sustainable development. Third, the broad consensus on the functions of a free media system helps to promote the normative discourse of sustainable development. This proven relationship has established media as one of the driving forces of development.
Nepal is one of the signatories to SDG which has set 17 goals and 169 targets that cover the social, economic and ecological dimension of holistic development of human society. As one of the driving forces of development process, media can create synergy to achieve SDGs in Nepal. However, we need clear plan and strategy to enhance the role of media to achieve the goals. Unfortunately, even after four years of SDGs endorsement, Nepal has no concrete media strategy in relation to the goals.
Media is a technical platform and social arrangements that enables human communication, particularly on public issues. The emergence of popularly pervasive communication technologies like Internet and cell phones have opened the field to individuals and a range of social organisations to use it as effective and efficient medium of public communication. These new mediums have created the new kind of discourse in freedom of expression and press freedom as well. On the other hand, the borderless and virtual communication system has also demanded the new kind of regulation.
Free media ultimately functions for the safety and benefit of a society and its institutions to speak freely in the formulation of public policy and making the authority accountable. Independence of media demands a situation of self-regulation of media professionals to fulfill the public interest in the society. It also entails that any regulatory institutions are also independent of political and economic power. The ethics of accuracy and fairness are key to media’s contributions to democracy and development. So, the ultimate beneficiaries of independent and free media is the public.
In case of Nepal, we have golden opportunity to define and delineate the scope and area of media freedom since we are in the process to formulate dozens of media related laws. Legal provision is a strong foundation of both broadening and shrinking the contribution of media in holistic development in the country. That is why we need to assimilate free and independent media to the broader national development goal. For this linking media and national development in line with SDG is the demand of time.
Media pluralism is another important element to sustain and enrich any kind of cohesive development in the country like social, cultural and linguistic diversities. The recognition of free, pluralistic and independent media as an integral part of the sustainable development is also interlinked in term of development governance too.
So, media freedom does not mean only for big media rather it is required to promote small, local and alternative media in pluralistic sense. Our country has more than 120 different languages, different cultural identities, topographical and ecological regions. Development disparities could not be fulfilled through mobilising monolithic media rather it requires pluralistic ones.
UNESCO has given priority to free, pluralistic and independent media for both national development and media development. Renowned global media advocacy organisations have argued that access to information and media freedom are key to future development plan. The key spirit and conclusion of these proven facts and experiences as well as principles is that the free media helps to allow people to hold governments accountable in their efforts to achieve economic growth, social equality and environmental sustainability.

These international principles and national evidences have increasing role of media to support SDGs. This means free media are significantly contributing stimulators of the development equation. All those efforts and events indicate the close relationship between free media and sustainable development.
(The author is a social science researcher who also conducts TV programmes)  

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