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Contributing to Peace 0

The media component plays an important role in United Nations peacekeeping missions, says the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous. Interview by Anne Bennett for Hirondelle Foundation.

Anne Bennett : What does the partnership bring to the UN?

Hervé Ladsous : We define UN peacekeeping as a global partnership in many ways. UN peacekeeping currently works with Fondation Hirondelle in our missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, on two of our largest radio stations. Hirondelle brings specialist capacity in media development work that is not necessarily the core role of peacekeeping communications teams. This is an important added value. Hirondelle is also well placed to look over the horizon, beyond the life of a peacekeeping mission, and help us plan to ensure that our large radio stations make a meaningful contribution to longer term independent media culture in countries where this is a vital component of strengthening democratic development.

AB : What are the difficulties?

HL : It is natural that a peacekeeping mission and a media development organization may at times have different priorities. UN peacekeeping radio stations are established pursuant to Security Council resolutions and agreements with host governments for the UN to broadcast on matters related to its mandate in support of peace processes.

At the same time we, the UN and its partners, including Fondation Hirondelle, agree that the best way to do this in radio is to pursue a journalistic model of broadcasting, not simply “UN propaganda”. But getting the balance right in all circumstances is not always easy. These radio stations are a critical element in a UN mission’s capacity to fulfill its mandate to help stabilize countries and contribute to peace. We know from experience that there must be constant close collaboration between UN and Hirondelle managers to continually manage the character and editorial focus of these radio stations. We must also, together, try to plan how these radio stations could leave a practical legacy beyond the peacekeeping operation, including possibly continuing as independent radio stations.

AB : What concrete results from the partnership stand out for you?

HL : Radio Okapi in DR Congo and Radio Miraya in South Sudan, and before in Sudan leading up to the referendum, have made very solid, real contributions to the ability of the UN peacekeeping missions to fulfill their respective mandates, as well as to media development in each country. Hirondelle has been a critical partner in meeting the considerable challenge of standing up and managing these large national radio operations. Hirondelle brings a strong ethos of journalistic values and freedom of the press, as well as valuable media development experience and skills to the relationship.

AB : Looking ahead, how do you see the partnership evolving?

HL : We often say in UN peacekeeping that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all solutions. In each context, each mission and potential new mission, such as in Mali, we need to consider what is needed and what will work best. This may not always be large UN radio stations, but other ways to strengthen national broadcasters and promote public broadcasting models, or working in production-broadcast partnerships with community and other national radio networks. Hirondelle can bring its significant post-conflict media development experience to these efforts to ensure we have the capacity to be flexible and able to adapt to different needs in different circumstances.

Source: Fondation Hirondelle

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