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Bolstering The SDG Decade: Journalism For Effective Debate

As part of the ONResearch Talks series, Julien Chambolle the Secretary General of Association Africa 21 talks to our ONResearch Partnership Coordinator Ugo Ikpeazu. The brief talk looks at the evolving work of the association in the SDG decade. 

Communication and knowledge sharing are crucial aspects of any progressive endeavor. Africa 21 is working with a range of stakeholders to launch the most extensive network of journalists on the African continent, focused on sustainable development and the environment. Why has Africa 21 taken this approach to knowledge sharing and what inspired this initiative? 

Without information sharing to make it known, any collective effort is in vain. It turns out that Africa 21 has for many years been monitoring information on the challenges of sustainable development in Africa. The association has observed that this theme, however vast, was not sufficiently developed in the African regional media. The association also noticed that where the subject was discussed, it wasn’t done in a coherent manner between countries and organizations. The media world in Africa has its own challenges and problems, like all economic sectors on the continent. Given the importance of this theme, for humanity, and for the continent, and given that Africa is not spared from these problems, Africa 21 wishes to highlight and promote sustainable development within African media. This is particularly important as the continent looks to industrialize and choose its own development path. This initiative has received support from the organization ‘Reporters Without Borders’, with strategic direction, following a joint event organized within the framework of the Human Rights Council in 2018.

In addition, for many years, Africa 21 has been active in international Geneva and in collaboration with organizations in this space. The association has witnessed firsthand the difficulty faced in communicating the achievements and international initiatives dedicated to sustainable development and having an application in Africa. This is why Africa 21 has decided to bring these two worlds together by promoting the UN’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development within a “Network of African journalists specializing in sustainable development and climate change”. The first event took place in October 2019 with the organization of the Media and Journalism Days in Africa, the 1st edition dedicated to the challenges of climate change on the African continent. Following the success of this event, several partners joined us. As such, the help of the Swiss Confederation was crucial for its implementation and we warmly thank the people who trusted us for this project.

How are partnerships playing a role in developing the structure of the journalist network? How will partnerships play a role in delivering on the mandate of Africa 21 and the network?

Partnerships are key to the success of the network. They are at the heart of it, providing expertise, first-hand information, and material and financial support. Through the platform we are setting up, a place is offered to international organizations to promote their publications on Agenda 2030 and make their experts available. These organizations have everything to gain from joining the project, by having access to journalists who are linked to issues in the field, working in the largest media in their country, and looking for first-hand information. In addition, they are closely associated with the agenda of annual activities such as regional workshops or the annual African Media and Journalism Days event.

What impact do you expect this network will have on policy and decision making on issues of sustainability and the environment among leaders of nations on the African continent? 

Our objectives are to strengthen and encourage journalists who wish to work on the issues of sustainable development and climate change in Africa. We also want to ensure that there is more content available on these themes in the African media and that there is a greater link  talk between the organizations in International Geneva working on this subject, and the actors around the continent. At the same time, we want to contribute to making a greater part of the African population aware of these issues and putting pressure on those in power at all levels. Another important idea of the project is to showcase local solutions to problems and share them with as many people as possible and encourage positive initiatives.

As you grow Africa 21’s network of Journalists, what message are you sending to the international community?

We want to unite goodwill around this project. The more international organizations and partner initiatives we have, the more African journalists can benefit. In addition, international organizations will also be the big beneficiaries of this project as they will have access to one of the largest networks of journalists in Africa. Sustainable development is not an option for Africa but the path that best guarantees endogenous development that can support the expected demographic growth on the continent by 2050.

Interviewed by Ugo Ikpeazu, Partnerships Coordinator and Research Associate at ONResearch.

Julien Chambolle

Julien Chambolle

Secretary General of Association Africa 21