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Stichting Panos


The Panos Network and its member Institutes contribute to sustainable development and democracy - at local, national and international levels - through the strengthening of media, information and communication processes and partnerships.  They share the belief that:

  • The people most affected by global change -- often the most marginalised societies and the most marginalised peoples within societies -- should help shape and respond to such change. 
  • Freedom and pluralism of information within societies are essential preconditions of sustainable development. A plural media and a plural civil society are vital information multipliers, and critical in ensuring genuinely democratic public debate.
  • Information is central to change, and people need and have a right of access to understandable, relevant and unbiased information so that they may play an informed and active role as citizens in democratic societies.
  • Informed inclusive public debate is an essential ingredient in the effective functioning of democratic societies. 
  • People have a right to information that enables them to make their own minds up about issues according to their own circumstances, values, cultures and beliefs, and information must therefore include a range of perspectives from different sides in debates. 
  • The process of producing and disseminating information (such as who produces it and who owns it) is often as important as the information itself, and analysis and reporting on issues should principally originate from people affected by those issues.


The current strategy of the Panos Network is based on three complementary goals:

  • bridge the communication divide, in order to increase the access to information of vulnerable, marginalised and excluded people and to strengthen their voices to participate in and influence the development agenda at all levels;
  • create favourable conditions for policy debate and change on the basis of accurate, balanced and inclusive information;
  • build an innovative and effective global Network based on the principles of fairness, equity and respect for diversity.


The Global Panos Network shares the GFMD's vision and is committed to supporting its mission.  www.panosnetwork.org

 

THE INSTITUTES AIM IN PARTICULAR TO

  • Encourage and develop innovative information and communications activities and techniques to enable marginalised groups and communities to play an active role in development debates and to foster more democratic societies.
  • Stimulate and inform public and policy debate, and to provide authoritative, accessible information on key development and environment issues.
  • Support the development of a genuinely plural media, and to contribute to the creation of legal and regulatory environments which nurture development of free, democratic and plural media.
  • Provide support and encouragement for both mainstream and alternative media in covering issues of most concern to the poor and marginalised.
  • Increase the capacities of media, NGOs and other civil society organisations in developing countries to analyse key environment and development issues for themselves, and to subject national and international policy to a more rigorous, informed and constructive analysis.
  • Enable other information actors to communicate the results of this analysis to a wide public, especially via radio and the vernacular press.
  • Develop with NGOs and media mechanisms for communicating more effectively the aspirations and perceptions of people outside the political elites, and to inject these ideas into national and regional decision-making processes.
  • Research and work to strengthen the presence of women in the media/communications fields, with particular emphasis on development and environment communication.
  • Provide information channels for South-South and South-North communications.

APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT

Communication is part of the fabric of societies. By receiving, giving and discussing information and ideas we are able to make decisions and form opinions – parents decide if their child will go to school, an HIV positive person decides whether to declare his or her status, and individuals decide how to vote in an election. Communication enables health services to ensure the supply of medicines in their clinics, farmers to find out the price of their crops, and diaspora communities to send remittances back home. Communication underpins development. The opportunities for communicating have increased enormously, especially over the past two decades. A technological revolution has brought us digital communication, satellites, the internet and mobile phones. And many countries have become more democratic, allowing greater freedom of speech and a more varied and independent media. So why should development agencies, donor organisations and civil society groups focus on communication? Because there are still many gaps:

  • mass media (newspapers, radio and TV stations, and online news services) may have increased in number, but this is not always matched by the quality, variety, or relevance of their content
  • poor people in rural areas of many developing countries still lack access to telephones, the internet and other forms of media, even if they could afford them
  • the English language continues to dominate the internet, which is primarily geared towards people in rich countries – little content is produced by and for people in developing countries
  • the potential of communication to be “bottom-up” - empowering poor and marginalised people to speak for themselves and participate in democratic processes, not just to receive information - has not been fully exploited
  • development planners often neglect communication, failing to appreciate how essential it is for sustainable development strategies; fragmented approaches to communication for development have led to confusion, poor decision-making and missed opportunities

MINDING THE GAPS

Panos believes that a communication environment that promotes development is one that enables poor and marginalised people to make their voices heard, that helps people to participate in decision-making, and that encourages public debate – from the community level all the way to international policy. We promote and support a broad and integrated view of communication. We have pioneered the use of oral testimony – training local people to conduct interviews that draw out direct personal experience and memory – as a way for ordinary men and women to articulate their perspectives on development and change.

As the Commission for Africa's 2005 report, Our Common Ground, noted: “The media is an educator and key information source that can help deliver the Millennium Development Goals, promote transparent governance and, through balanced reporting, help prevent conflicts. The wide benefits from plural media means it acts as a public good in development.”Much of our work supports the media – especially radio, the medium that in many countries reaches poor people most easily - and analyses the role it can play in development. We help radio stations produce programmes on issues of local public concern, and we enhance the skills of journalists to report on development issues. We also endeavour to strengthen the legal and regulatory environments which allow an independent and quality media to flourish – for instance by supporting local organisations to lobby against high taxes on small radio stations. 

Making the internet and other telecommunications more accessible and affordable to poor and marginalised people, as well as to rural people, is key. At the national policy level we host debates between governments, private sector providers and researchers, for example on the pros and cons of allowing greater competition between internet service providers. Finally, we have built up a solid reputation for our expertise and analysis on the role of communication in development.

We collaborate with major international development agencies – such as the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, the UK’s Department for International Development and the UN Economic Commission for Africa – encouraging them to devote more efforts to communication. By working in a variety of ways with a range of stakeholders we aim to strengthen the voices of poor and marginalised people and enable them to participate in development.