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Media Coverage Expands for UNRISD

3 Jun 2003



The Institute has always nurtured a strong relationship with a wide range of academic journals and reviews, but has tended to devote less time to cultivating links with the more general public media outlets. However, over the last few months, the Institute has been reassessing the need to cultivate new and diversified audiences.

The issues that the Institute deals with are important/relevant not only to academic circles, but also to the general public. Therefore, in order to make the Institute's work more accessible to the public and also to generate debate, the Institute has been reaching out to public media.

The Institute has helped to provide a balanced perspective on debates on neoliberal globalization and its discontents. One of its most important publications was Visible Hands, which was published for Geneva 2000. An article in the French daily Le Monde hailed the UNRISD report Visible Hands as a sign of the return of economic dissidence within the United Nations system. “The title hardly reflects the violence of the attack against neoliberal deregulation contained in the report”, commented Le Monde journalist Laurence Caramel. She added: “This UNRISD offensive marks the return of radical discourse unheard of in the United Nations since the 1970s.”. At the launch of the report the Swiss daily Le Temps said that Visible Hands was “excellent” and “easy to read” and that it had proved to be one of the most exemplary UN publications in recent times. There was a sizeable media presence on the occasion of the launch of the Russian and Arabic versions of Visible Hands in 2002 in Moscow and Beirut. In an article titled “UN report lists ‘failures of neoliberalism’”, a Lebanese paper, The Daily Star, reported that the publication had “revealed the fault lines of globalization.“ A long-established Beirut-based francophone paper, L’Orient-Le Jour, added that UNRISD had made the case for “Globalization with a human face”. Three Middle Eastern television channels were also present on the occasion.

At the third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, UNRISD held a conference on Racism and Public Policy, which received widespread coverage in both South African and international media outlets. Referring to the Institute’s report produced for the conference, the Agence France Presse chose to highlight the scourge of modern day slavery in the Afro-Arabic borderlands. The AFP article was hotly debated during the event. Le Monde emphasized the plight of migrant domestic workers in the Middle Eastern Gulf states. Several articles inspired by contributions to the conference, as well as about the event itself, had appeared in African Development Forum, allAfrica.com, Agence France Presse, Business Day, Conference News Daily/The Earth Times, Daily Mail & Guardian, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Le Monde, Social Development Review, and Xinhua News Agency, among others. Guardian Unlimited, The Guardian’s online edition, also featured a link to the UNRISD conference Web site as a “Useful link” from its daily online coverage of the world conference.

Another area of UNRISD’s work, that received sustained local coverage, is the project on Information Technologies and Social Development in Senegal. Two Dakar dailies, Quotidien le Soleil and Sud Quotidien, have continued to carry articles on the UNRISD project since the outset. They also covered the wrap-up conference held in the Senegalese capital in 2001.

Global Media Governance—A Beginner’s Guide is one of UNRISD’s most recently co-published books. A well-attended press conference was organized during the Second Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on the Information Society held in Geneva in February 2003 to launch the publication. It has received a fair amount of media attention, given the topicality of the subject and the fact that the authors offer insights into the world of media itself. West Africa, one of the Continent’s most influential weeklies, remarked that UNRISD had "done well to tackle a range of issues that are involved in regulating the media globally.”

Another example of a book that received some general media attention is The Native Tourist, an UNRISD co-publication. The author, Krishna Ghimire, one of the Institute’s research co-ordinators, was interviewed by the BBC World Service on the subject of the development of national tourism, along with the Minister for Tourism of the Maldives, another guest speaker in the programme.

More community focused media outlets have also promoted the Institute. For example, India Abroad, a weekly newspaper of the Indian American community published from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, has reprinted chapter four (“Hindutva as a savarna purana” and “Violence and survival”) of Creating a Nationality: The Ramjanmabhumi Movement and Fear of the Self by Ashis Nandy, Shikha Trivedy, Shail Mayaram and Achyut Yagnik (UNRISD and Oxford University Press, 1995).

One of the Anglophone radio stations based in the Geneva region, Radio-74, aired an extensive 50-minute long interview of UNRISD’s Director, Thandika Mkandawire in 2002 at evening prime time.

UNRISD and its publications have also been featured regularly in a wide range of on-line journals. The Institute’s Web site has been selected for inclusion in the Social Science Information Gateway (SOSIG)—“the acknowledged leading Internet authority on what’s worth looking at in the social sciences”. SOSIG (www.sosig.ac.uk) aims to provide a trusted source of selected, high quality Internet information for researchers and practitioners in the social sciences, business and law. It is part of the UK Resource Discovery Network.

An example of collaboration with more specialized media is the Solagral publication Courrier de la planète. The “Courrier” (Nos. 64 and 68) contains extracts, translated into French, of four recent UNRISD publications: Business Responsibility for Sustainable Development by Peter Utting (Occasional Paper No. 2) appears as “Un intérêt bien compris”; UN-Business Partnerships: Whose Agenda Counts by Peter Utting (UNRISD News No. 23) appears as “Les pièges du partenariat”; Corporate Codes of Conduct: Self-Regulation in a Global Economy by Rhys Jenkins (PP TBS 2) appears as “Conduite à risque”; Toward Integrated and Sustainable Development? by Solon L. Barraclough (PP OC 1) appears as “A la mode de chez nous”.

Background documents for the UNRISD conference on Racism and Public Policy have been translated into Portuguese and published on the Web site Afirma Revista Negra Online by the Brazilian NGO Afirma Comunicação e Pesquisa (www.afirma.inf.br).

Dissemination staff at UNRISD continued to improve the depth and effectiveness of outreach to the general media by managing proactive “contacts databases” targeting the media. A total number of 1,234 press releases were sent by UNRISD during the reporting period to some 835 carefully selected recipients in the media. New contacts are being identified in the media in regions where the Institute’s media contacts have been limited in the past. This is an ongoing process which is being achieved through: (i) systematically identifying and personally contacting interested persons (in particular, editors, columnists, and economic journalists) in various media outlets (i.e., the written press, radio, television, electronic media and news agencies), through Internet searches and traditional research methods; (ii) deleting from the databases media that have not reported on UNRISD or its publications over the past four years; (iii) proposing UNRISD papers for publication in the press by contacting editors of newspapers; (iv) sending press releases so as to prompt journalists to request papers and generate feedback and more personal contacts.

Contributing quality research to the media is one of the Institute’s outreach priorities. Dissemination to and monitoring of the media are time-consuming activities, but in the last few months the results and feedback have been encouraging. Much more remains to be done as far as the monitoring is concerned.