OECD approves new guiding principles for media development | #mediadev | DW | 26.03.2024
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OECD approves new guiding principles for media development

Get an overview of the six "Principles on Relevant and Effective Support to Media and the Information Environment" that encourage development actors to step up their efforts.

OECD headquarters in Paris, France

Following two-year consultations, the OECD approved the principles on March 22, 2024

March 22 marked a big step for the international media development community. The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) adopted six "Development Cooperation Principles on Relevant and Effective Support to Media and the Information Environment." 

This is the result of a two-year advocacy effort by the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and supported by many other organizations, including DW Akademie.

The principles were adopted as non-legally binding recommendations. They highlight the importance of freedom of expression, independent media, and access to information for citizen participation, peace, just societies and sustainable development. In providing recommendations to donors and practitioners, they aim to strengthen and scale up media development globally.

According to the principles, development cooperation providers should:

1. Ensure that assistance does no harm to public interest media.

The first principle is to be understood as a minimum standard that all assistance providers must adhere to. Notably, this may include ensuring that assistance is gender sensitive, gender transformative and intersectional. 

2. Increase financial and other forms of support.

In addition to increasing the overall volume of support to the media and information environment, this may also include integrating media development within wider and coherent development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding efforts.

3. Take a whole of system perspective.

The third principle highlights that the media and information environment should be considered as a development sector in itself, a critical part of efforts to promote and protect democracy, human rights, gender equality and development as well as a sector which can support implementation of other development goals. A whole of system approach may include adopting a long-term approach to media assistance, encouraging data collection and analysis, supporting a diverse range of media, journalism and information stakeholders as well as the broader enabling environment, and engaging in international policy debates and norm-setting.

4. Strengthen local leadership and ownership.

This principle aims at empowering media partners as well as other actors in the information environment such as civil society organizations and online content creators. For instance, this may include particular attention to underrepresented and marginalized groups as well as ensuring that assistance responses remain grounded in local realities, with audiences and the public interest always at the center.

Female community reporter in Uganda interviewing a woman holding her baby

Community journalists are important actors in creating locally relevant content that places audiences at the center.

5. Improve coordination of support.

The fifth principle applies to both coordination among donor agencies and between development and diplomatic efforts to support media freedom, especially in contexts of crisis. This may include streamlining administrative requirements, ensuring multistakeholder coordination – e.g. with tech companies and content creators – as well as broadening coordination efforts to initiate dialogue with non-DAC development cooperation providers.

6. Invest in knowledge, research, and learning.  

Among other aspects, this includes drawing on existing experience and research, keeping up to date with advancements in technology including artificial intelligence, and supporting innovation and experimentation.

Successful outcome after two years of consultations

The principles recognize that media and information ecosystems today are facing unprecedented challenges as the digital transformation has led to a collapse of traditional business models in journalism, mis- and disinformation are poisoning public debates, authoritarianism and polarization are on the rise globally. Against this backdrop, support to free and independent media is more crucial than ever.

"The adoption of the principles marks a historic milestone for the media development community. By acknowledging the importance of supporting media and information environments, the OECD not only underscores the vital role of media in democratic societies but also lays the groundwork for fostering resilience against disinformation, promoting transparency and safeguarding freedom of expression," said Mira Milosevic, executive director of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD).

As strategic partner of the German development ministry (BMZ), DW Akademie provided input and feedback during the two-year process, together with more than 200 representatives from bilateral donor agencies, implementing organizations, civil society and media development organizations.

Minister Svenja Schulze in Ouagadougou

German Development Minister Svenja Schulze visits a fact-checking initiative in Burkina Faso

Ute Eckertz, senior policy officer in the division "human rights, disability inclusion, media" at the BMZ stated: "Germany endorses the Principles. The current level of assistance for media development is not sufficient to address the challenges. Among many other things, the sector plays a major role in combating disinformation, a threat which has recently gained even more urgency."

Next steps in implementing the principles

All stakeholders have agreed to advance implementation at the international, national and local levels. This includes connecting the principles with processes such as the Media Freedom Coalition and the Freedom Online Coalition as well as events such as the annual World Press Freedom Day and the UN Summit of the Future in September this year.

Going forward, members of the Network on Governance of the OECD DAC will discuss the implementation of the principles every two years based on voluntary reports. As part of its planned State of Media Development Report, DW Akademie is looking into the possibility of developing a tool for the sector to track the implementation of the principles.

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