Opening remarks by Al-Amin Yusuph, Adviser for Communication and Information for South Asia, UNESCO, New Delhi

Opening remarks by Al-Amin Yusuph, Adviser for Communication and Information for South Asia, UNESCO, New Delhi

For the radio sector in particular, strategic partnerships involving the three tiers of broadcasting – the public service broadcaster, private FM channels, and CR – needed to be built, as each tier ought to leverage the strengths of the others in times of emergency and disaster. This was articulated by the panellists at UNESCO’s celebration of World Radio Day 2016 in India, which took place in New Delhi on 16 February 2016.

The theme of this regional event ‘Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster’ was particularly relevant for the South Asian context, where radio has played a key role in disaster management (DM) and relief operations during the recent floods in Tamil Nadu, the Nepal earthquake, and droughts and cyclones in Bangladesh.

Organized by UNESCO in partnership with the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), AMARC Asia-Pacific and the UNESCO Chair on Community Media, the World Radio Day event in New Delhi brought together around 100 stakeholders, including representatives of the Government of India, regional development organizations, UN agencies, NGOs working on media development and DM, and research and academic institutions.

The programme consisted of an inaugural session; experts’ presentations on the use of CR for DM; a high-level panel discussion on the theme ‘Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster’; and testimonials from community members about the efficacy of CR stations during emergencies.

The inaugural session began with opening remarks from representatives of the organizing partners, and was followed by guest addresses by senior Government  officials and domain experts: Ms R Jaya, Joint Secretary (Broadcasting), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; Dr Anil Kumar Gupta, Head (Policy Planning Division) and Head (Training Management Cell), National Institute of Disaster Management, Ministry of Home Affairs; and Mr Devendra Tak, National Manager (Media and Communication), Save the Children.

Panellists express need to formally integrate CR into disaster management

Panellists express need to formally integrate CR into disaster management

The panellists agreed on the need to map disaster-prone areas more effectively and build stronger linkages between the media, the local administration and agencies involved with emergency response, aid and relief. While there is a clear need to formally integrate CR into disaster preparedness and response plans, supporting interventions such as the capacity-building of CR stations for DM and a review of existing frequency allocation plans in order to accommodate contingencies such as natural disasters should also be considered.

The second part of the programme included experts’ presentations about the actual field experience of using CR for DM. Mr Suman Basnet, Regional Coordinator, AMARC Asia-Pacific, described how CR stations in Nepal had responded to the earthquakes and aftershocks of 2015, and had supported post-disaster rehabilitation efforts. A number of CR stations had suffered extensive damage, but had continued their broadcasts from makeshift shelters and camps.

Floods in India were the focus of two subsequent presentations. Mr John Nelson, the Station Manager of India’s first ‘emergency radio’ in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, set up at the height of the catastrophic floods of 2016, shared his experience of mobilizing community members and broadcasting from a disaster zone.

A different experience of working in flood-prone regions was recounted by Mr N Ramakrishnan, Executive Director of Ideosync Media Combine, who discussed Ideosync’s work on building the capacity of CR stations in Uttarakhand for disaster preparedness. A consortium of stations that sought to promote environmental protection through local interventions and advocacy was formed.

A team presentation by Gurgaon Ki Awaaz drew attention to CR stations’ creation of social capital, local solidarity, and offline spaces for engagement as an organic part of their role as broadcasters.

The expert presentations were followed by a high-level panel discussion moderated by Mr Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a leading Indian journalist, political commentator,  author, and media expert. Panellists included Dr Laxman Singh Rathore, Director General of the Indian Meteorological Department; Mr Rajeev Shukla, Deputy Director General, All India Radio; Dr Mitrasen Bhikajee, Head of the Natural Sciences Sector at UNESCO New Delhi and Member of the UN Disaster Management Team in India; Mr Bijoy Patro, Director, OneWorld Foundation India; and Dr Kanchan K. Malik from the UNESCO Chair on Community Media.

The panel focused on the theme of radio broadcasts and information dissemination during emergencies and disasters. Panellists observed that it was important to integrate local capacity development into national disaster preparedness exercises and disaster-related communication methodologies.

The event concluded with testimonials from the staff and community members of Radio Mewat and the CR station of the Institute of Management Studies in Noida about the transformational role CR has played for their local communities, and the initiatives they had undertaken around World Radio Day 2016. UNESCO recognized and felicitated these initiatives as part of the event’s closing ceremony.

Anirban Sarma
National Programme Officer
Communication and Information Sector UNESCO