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Douala conference on communication highlights UNESCO guidebook on climate journalism

Climate change in Africa is a fundamental human problem that requires rigorous journalistic coverage. This was the key message during the session on communication and climate change at an international colloquium on "Communication and Social Change in Africa 3: ICT, Creative and Cultural Industries, Social Appropriation and Cultural Diversity”, co-organized by the universities of Grenoble (France) and Douala (Cameroon).

The session, held on 11 April and moderated by Dr Tchiadeu Gratien, a climatologist in the Department of Geography at the University of Douala, focused on journalism education as a ‘window of opportunity’ for introducing climate literacy into the classroom – and eventually into the newsroom.

Unveiling UNESCO’s recently published book Climate Change in Africa: a Guidebook for Journalists, Fackson Banda, programme specialist responsible for journalism education and knowledge-driven media development at UNESCO HQ in Paris, outlined the educational, democratic and developmental benefits of climate change journalism for African countries.

Another UNESCO publication introduced was the Compendium of New Syllabi, with Banda drawing the over 50 participants’ attention to the module on science journalism and bioethics, incorporating climate change.

The participants, who included teachers and students from Cameroon, Burkina Faso and France, decried the near lack of authoritative reporting on climate change, welcoming the UNESCO publications as important tools in the journalistic struggle to raise public awareness of the issue.

However, while many participants thought the books would be a useful resource, several wondered how the resource-constrained African media could undertake meaningful investigative climate change journalism, and asked if governments would provide an enabling environment.

In response, Banda informed the participants of UNESCO’s intergovernmental International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), including its annual grants for initiatives aimed at improving both the regulation and practices of media organisations in Africa.

The meeting recommended that students and teachers of communication and geography collaborate in their research projects on climate change and communication, drawing in insights from both disciplines to better shape the interdisciplinary basis of adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

The colloquium, held from 10 to 12 April, was the third in the series, with over 200 participants drawn from Cameroon, Canada, Belgium, Burkina Faso and France.