Communicating Development Cooperation to Domestic Audiences

Feb 8, 2018

January 31, Beijing-- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), hosted a policy dialogue on “Communicating Development Cooperation to Domestic Audiences in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The event was attended by around 120 Chinese and international representatives from government agencies, research institutes, major domestic and international media outlets, bilateral and multilateral development agencies and the private sector.

At the policy dialogue, UNDP launched its latest report titled “Communicating Development Cooperation to Domestic Audiences: Approaches and Implications for South-South Cooperation Providers,” an introductory study that examines development communication approaches of China, Brazil, India, the Netherlands, South Africa, Turkey, South Korea and the United Kingdom. It compares the approaches adopted by these South-South cooperation (SSC) providing countries and traditional development partners, including the context and rationale, and draws implications and recommendations for countries that wish to enhance development communication domestically.

The report finds that there are some recurrent themes in how various countries choose to communicate their development cooperation to domestic audiences. Whereas traditional development partners have generally established certain institutional structure and policy for communicating development cooperation domestically, in SSC providing countries, there is much room to enhance communication efforts and increase public’s understanding of their governments’ development cooperation programs. The report suggests that domestic communication about development cooperation needs to be context-specific if it is to be effective. In the end, it proposes five key points for SSC countries, especially China, to consider when developing a domestic communication strategy for development cooperation.

Based on the findings of the report, government officials, development practitioners and media specialists shared their experience and perspectives regarding development communication in three panel discussions at the policy dialogue. They reached consensus that 1) it is important to learn communication approaches from different countries and agencies; 2) storytelling about development should always have a human angle; 3) various types of institutions beyond the media need to be involved in development communications.

For many countries, how to communicate development cooperation to domestic audiences has long been recognized as an important and yet challenging task that needs to be dealt with strategically. As the world’s largest developing country, China is still facing persistent domestic challenges such as eradicating poverty by 2020. However, as a major development cooperation provider, China is firmly committed to supporting other countries in achieving their sustainable development agenda. How to balance domestic development priorities with international expectations has become an important but challenging task for China.

Ms. Agi Veres, UNDP China Country Director, observed that there is increasing public attention towards China’s international engagement, and growing interests among Chinese institutions working on development cooperation to diversify their communications approaches. She said, “As a result of China’s increasing openness about its development cooperation, there has been an increasing level of discussion in the media and among the general public about China’s development cooperation. It is encouraging to see that there has been a greater number of initiatives to help China communicate its development cooperation to both the domestic and international audiences.”

The policy dialogue has served as a useful platform for discussion and exchange on this topic. With the aim of laying the ground for future discussions, research, and innovative practices on development communications, UNDP hopes that the report and the policy dialogue could serve as the first step towards future cooperation and policy initiatives in this field.

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