It is more and more evident that communication and information issues are intrinsically connected to questions of sustainable development and human dignity.
In “Want Social Change? Give Communities More Agency” (IPS, 3 May 2019) Ashif Shaikh writes that in India no external force can bring about real change in society. Only the community itself can.
The case study Shaikh puts forward involves the historical injustice faced by caste-based marginalised communities whose members, “Even if they earn money and stop doing caste-based work, the social stigma never goes away.”
In this respect, Shaikh calls for economic of livelihood rehabilitation (the ability to negotiate with employers); social rehabilitation (involving all stakeholders not just excluded people); and political rehabilitation (increasing public space for marginalised people).
He argues that non-profits should only play the role of facilitators. “We can help create appropriate forums for them; but it is they who will come up with the strategies… People who’ve been facing oppression and discrimination were ready to take up the struggle; they were ready to find solutions. What they needed was a platform to talk about their issues.”
UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 is “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. Yet there is no word in the targets that better communications at all levels can facilitate this process.
In contrast, WACC has long advocated that the vision of Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved unless communication and information ecosystems enable people to participate in decision-making related to sustainable development.
To some extent, this is a matter of how they are represented in the media. Do we see the faces of marginalised and excluded people and communities? Do we hear their voices? Do they have effective access to media? But there is more. As the International Panel on Social Progress 2018 report underlines:
“Not only access to the technological means to receive information and content, but also to appropriate pertinent and affordable technologies. The design of media infrastructures and digital platforms needs to be pertinent to diverse language communities, individuals with different ability levels, learning styles, and financial resources.”
In practice, this means working to ensure that those who suffer marginalization and exclusion, and whose voices should be at the heart of any effort to advance sustainable development, are able to participate in the decision-making processes that will ultimately affect their lives.