Chief of UN Food Agency says sustainable development rests on better communication

27 October 2006 –

Better communication – including more listening by donors – needs to be a more central part of developments efforts, the head the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has told a major conference on development and communications.

“Giving people a voice, helping them to make that voice heard, only then does development become sustainable,” Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO told some 700 delegates at the First World Congress on Communication for Development (WCCD) in Rome that wrapped up on Friday.

“It also helps to be a good listener because there is much to be learned from the other side,” he added.

The three-day conference, attended by policy-makers, academics and media professionals, was jointly organized by FAO, the World Bank and the Communication Initiative Partnership, and was hosted by the Government of Italy.

“This Congress demonstrated that Communication for Development is an essential development tool and needs to be raised on the global agenda,” said Paul Mitchell, manager of the development communication division at the World Bank.

Professionals from over 200 organizations engaged in creative workshops and seminars in order to share experiences, exchange ideas and debate the most efficient communications strategies.

Conference participants distilled days of case study presentations and debates into recommendations on ways policymakers can improve communications to produce more tangible development results.

While noting the rapid advance of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), which is accelerating economic growth and creating a global marketplace, Mr. Diouf said these new technologies could also widen the gap between those with access, to cell phones and the internet, and the one billion who do not.

“By extension the danger is to further widen the divide between all those who eat three meals a day and the 854 million who count themselves lucky to get one,” he warned.

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