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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

How can Ghanaian media set agenda on natural resources management?

The call on the Ghanaian media to set an agenda on good natural resources exploration practices and environmental protection management is a thought provoking prompting from Prof. Chris Gordon, Founding Director of the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS), University of Ghana, Legon, and Strategic Advisor for CDKN-Ghana.

First Biennial Medi Forum on Natural Resources, Environment, Climate Change and Science (BiM NECS 1)
Prof. Chris Gordon delivering his keynote and launch address at the First Biennial Medi Forum on Natural Resources, Environment, Climate Change and Science (BiM NECS 1)

In a sense, it is a reminder to the Ghanaian media of their ability in influencing the importance placed on topics within the public sphere, and to exert such influence on natural resources management. Prof. Gordon made the call when he launched the first Biennial Media Forum on Natural Resources, Environment, Climate Change and Science (BiM NECS 1), and delivered the keynote address, on Monday, June 12, 2023, in Accra.

But how well can the media do, in the face of the blatant disregard for the consequences of the indiscriminate destruction of the country’s environment in the process of natural resources exploitation, which according to Prof. Gordon, “We cannot bring back to equilibrium?” For this very reason and given the significant role natural resources play in national development and the survival of humanity, he insisted that “it is important for journalists to give special attention to that sector.”

Some prescriptions that media can follow

To set the required agenda, Prof. Gordon recommended several prescriptions including the need for journalists to learn and acquire in-depth knowledge of issues relating to the environment and climate change, which directly impact on natural resources. The media should also be proactive in monitoring government, industry and stakeholders in the natural resources sector.

Additionally, the media should be the megaphone that amplifies low voices and environmental challenges, so that policy can be used to address them. “This, Prof. Gordon maintained, “is very critical in the view of the current era, where social media has taken over the social discourse. It behooves journalists to rise to the occasion by putting natural resource management issues on their priority list.”

He cautioned that “such an agenda setting, must be based on facts and evidence to ensure the implementation of policies that would promote the sustainable exploitation of natural resources in the country.”

A Representative of the UN Women office in Ghana, Mrs. Afua Ansre, said one way of setting agenda on natural resources, was for the media to capture the voices of women in their narratives. “It is imperative for the media to include and amplify the voices of women in the narratives since, women in developing countries in particular, are disproportionately impacted by the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.”

Mrs. Ansre noted that such women focused narratives are important because, “as primary collectors of water, food and fuel in their communities, women bear the brunt of resource scarcity and environmental instability. Further, their voices are often marginalised in environmental decision-making processes, despite being holders of valuable knowledge and strategies for adaptation and mitigation.”

Therefore, when media highlights the female perspective, it is not just a matter of achieving parity in storytelling. “But it is a necessary step towards unearthing comprehensive solutions that address all facets of these complex issue,” Mrs. Ansre said, adding, “by doing so, we not only raise awareness about the unique struggles and contributions of women in the face of environmental and climate-related challenges, but we also underscore the significance of their roles as agents of change, innovators, and leaders in the pursuit of sustainable development.”

Collaboration is also essential

For her part, the Acting Director for Corporate Affairs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mrs. Audrey Quarcoo, emphasised the importance of stakeholder collaboration with media. She said the EPA recognises that collaboration with the media is essential to effectively engage the public, share knowledge, and inspire action towards sustainable environmental practices.

She stated: “…together with the media, we can propagate our messages, promote informed discussions, inform policy decisions on the environment and empower society towards a greener and a more sustainable future. We acknowledge the immense prospects that lie within the media’s ability to shed light on these critical topics.”

Mrs. Quarcoo saw media commitment to highlighting success stories, innovative solutions and the pressing need for change as some of the important elements that inspire positive action and influence decision-makers.

She called for a collective commitment to nurture a media landscape that prioritises the country’s ecosystems, adding: “Together, let us harness the power of media to shape an environmentally sustainable future, preserve our environment, and build a country where environmental consciousness thrives.”

Time for media to invest in research

The representative of Forest Watch Ghana and Kasa, Alert Katako stressed on the importance of media to CSOs advocacy in the NRE and Climate change sector, locally and internationally. He challenged the media to make the desired impact by embarking on “evidence-based reportage” saying, “that requires investing in research – research to improve your knowledge base so you can ask probing questions and demand satisfactory answers, know when laws are being broken and report on them.”

On behalf of the organisers, the Programmes Manager of The STEMinist Foundation, Ghana, Stephanie Asabea Opoku, spoke about the essence of instituting the Biennial Media Forum

“It is to amplify the media’s capacity to investigate, report, and focus on critical areas, enabling journalists to delve deeper into the complexities of natural resource management, environmental sustainability, climate change impacts, and the fundamental role of science in addressing these issues,” Opoku said.

An African initiative

The Biennial Media Forum as an African initiative, “expected to showcase Africa and Africans at the international level as a continent exerting agency and taking initiative in addressing its environmental and climate change issues, giving weight to the voice of the continent when contributing in the international arena,” according to the Executive Director of Afro-Sino Centre for International Relations, Pamela Adwoa Carslake, earlier in her welcome address.

Her sentiments echoed Prof. Gordon’s appeal to the media to ensure lasting impact in-country and across the continent, urging them to collaborate with other stakeholders to push the African voice – “An African solution to our environmental problems.” In other words, the agenda setting should not be for Ghana only, but also for the entire continent’s general context of addressing climate change, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity; the attainment of the SDGs and the Africa Agenda 2063.

Charting a new path

Chairman for the Forum was Dr. Collins Yeboah-Afari, Director General of the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT in Accra. A message read on his behalf by the Centre’s Director of Research and Innovation, Fred Yeboah, said the Forum marked the beginning of charting a new path to stimulate, push and motivate stakeholders to overcome the challenges of natural resources and environmental degradation.

He noted that this new move “…is championed by the media in collaboration with research, having recognised that their role should not just be gathering, packaging and disseminating information. They have become aware that they can further employ their skills for better influence and impact at the frontlines.”

The Biennial Media Forum is an initiative of the Media Platform on Environment and Climate Change (MPEC) and the Afro-Sino Centre for International Relations (ASCIR) in collaboration with The STEMinist Foundation, Ghana.

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

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