in coastal regions and in small islands
Dominica workshop papers
‘Today, there is an unprecedented need for change to assure our future
well-being on earth. But who
plans such change, and how? And how do individuals, groups and societies come to
an awareness of the need for change and act accordingly? Communication, through
interpersonal, group and mass media, is at the heart of these processes, for
people take decisions for change once they have been motivated and empowered by
information they have internalised and found relevant to themselves and their
interests’. (Why communication? Chapter
2, Communicating for Development - Human Change for Survival, by Colin Fraser
and Sonia Restrepo-Estrada).
What is Communication?
is the transmission of data or information from one actor to another.
One can attempt to communicate by sending a message or a bit of
information or by sharing a thought with someone.
Such an act satisfies the definition of ‘communication’, provided
there is reasonable assurance that the message has been received.
All communication should have a purpose and the degree to which this
purpose has been satisfied determines the success or failure of the
communication. As can be imagined,
the effectiveness of an ‘act of communication’ is considerably improved if a
reaction (feedback) to the message could be obtained either immediately or soon
after the message has been received. Immediate
or early feedback ensures early correction or improvement, if necessary.
the best forms of communication are those that achieve interactivity…encourage
feedback…maintain a two-way flow…so that the message is influenced and
informed by the views of the recipient, thus allowing a dialogue to replace a
heard a story about a small fishing village near a secluded cove that was used
by pirates centuries ago. Most of
the villagers could neither read nor write but the stories of their history were
passed down from generation to generation, as fairy tales told at village
meetings around a campfire during the full moon. The stories told of shipwrecks on the coral reefs that were
hidden along the coastline and of nesting turtles, breeding whales and the
schools of fish that fishermen caught for their families and for barter with
neighbouring villages. They told of
the generations of villagers that were sustained by Mother Nature…of the sea
and its gifts…of the land and its gifts and of the delicate balance that the
people of the village maintained between their livelihood and Mother Earth…of
their love for the sea and the sand and how intertwined these were with their
lives and livelihood. The people of
the village then grew to love and respect Nature and to live lives of harmony
with nature, accepting the periodic hurricanes and tidal waves as parts of the
never-ending cycle of lives spent close to nature.
These stories tell us many things:
|That information is power and useful information can be the difference between life and death.|
|That people have to be informed of the connections between their interests and the preservation of their natural heritage from generation to generation rather than from day to day. In today’s parlance, ‘what does coastal stewardship have to do with me?’|
|That there are consequences to every action and that these consequences must be factored into the daily patterns of life of the village.|
|That knowledge must be stored and passed on and the lessons of history and the wisdom of the ages used to inform and sustain current activities.|
complex, multifaceted issue of promoting stewardship in the coastal management
of small, vulnerable states of the Caribbean should thus be seen as a challenge
to inform, educate, empower and motivate the region’s people towards becoming
managers and custodians of their environment and especially their coastal
environment. In addition,
effective coastal management should be accepted as people’s sacred obligations
to preserve and pass on their inheritance of the world around them to future
generations and as important contributors to the quality of their own lives.
stories of the little village relate to a simpler time in our history when the
oral traditions of our societies succeeded in communicating messages that
motivated citizens to protect and preserve their ecosystems and natural
environments. Today’s methods
need to be different but the principles of interactive communications are
challenge is to improve our levels of coastal management.
The oral traditions and institutional memories of our villages and
societies have fallen by the wayside. People are more dispersed and the
technological revolution has brought many alien messages that confuse the
landscape, present unsustainable options and divert attention from critical
issues that need to be addressed. People are less dependent upon nature for their livelihood
and survival and the industrial revolution and urbanisation have created many
new ways in which the environment and its ecosystems are destroyed.
proactive involvement of masses of citizens in the objective and adherence to
the principles of effective communication is the key to success of this
endeavour. This step-by-step
approach needs to focus upon the following elements:
|The message to be communicated.|
|The medium to be used.|
|The targets of the messages.|
|The connection between new information and changed behaviour.|
|The evaluative mechanisms and the means by which interactive messages could be informed and influenced by feedback to increase levels of understanding and ownership in the strategies to be employed.|
A discussion of each of these, in turn, follows:
|Identify and describe various coastal management and ecological issues that have had or will have positive or negative impact on the environment and/or the lives of citizens.|
|Quantify the costs/benefits to society.|
|Identify action required to maintain benefits or reduce damage to ecosystems.|
|If possible, develop incentives to encourage positive activity and penalties the community can impose to prevent or reduce damage to ecosystems.|
|Link recommended actions with historical traditions.|
|For each message, describe ideal outcomes envisaged from its transmission.|
|Describe the various forms that messages could take and categorise messages, e.g., public awareness; public education; public information, etc.|
This will depend upon the range and type of available media.
Which is most accessible by the majority of people?
For such issues, it would be preferable to use community media in which masses of people are involved and in which
they have taken ownership. In many
Caribbean societies, the extent to which people are themselves involved in the
major issues that affect their lives may be constrained by the absence of easily
accessible media that serve people’s interests, i.e. they are characterised by
voicelessness. In these circumstances, it will be difficult to create
necessary levels of involvement. This presentation could be used as an
opportunity to address this need and provide it with a ready focus.
levels of literacy (and access to print media) will determine the suitability of
the print media for this purpose.
In most Caribbean states, radio and in particular community
radio may be the most attractive conduit for these messages. Radio continues to be the most widely occurring mass media
instrument and has proven to be an excellent tool for inclusiveness and wide
accessibility as a medium. It also
facilitates open discussions, that, when augmented by telephones and other
communication and information technologies, can include large numbers of people
in exchanges of views and sharing of information. Such exercises help to develop levels of consensus leading to
action that, if sustained, can influence the policies of the society.
Community Multimedia Network
With the addition of a personal computer and Internet
connectivity, community-based group discussions on environmental issues could be
carried live (and recorded for later playback) on radio, television and the
Internet, and thus increase possibilities of reaching higher and higher
percentages of internal and external (regional) stakeholders.
These discussions and the feedback they generate could be shared through
community newspapers while popular videotapes and documentaries could be
produced to add range and depth to the exposure of the issues being highlighted,
thus creating a powerful multi-media network in support of this and other
critical initiatives. Examples of
such videotapes have been produced under the UNESCO/COSALC
pilot project on video production
for broadcast in the Eastern Caribbean Islands (Anguilla, Grenada, St. Lucia)
of the message
people that can be identified by characteristics that facilitate communication
with them as large, contiguous, cooperative and possibly homogeneous groups of
stakeholders. Refinements of messages directed at these groups are intended to
facilitate their acceptance and encourage their adoption as being in the best
interests of the target group.
process of communication needs to be evaluated in terms of its success in
empowering people to make decisions on subjects about which they were relatively
uninformed. Thus emphasis
should be on the inclusion of the target groups themselves, as well as their new
capacities, responsibilities and obligations that knowledge brings with it,
i.e., requiring changes of behaviour and/or direction.
this presentation, the necessity to improve the quality and effectiveness of
communication by replacing, as frequently as possible, a monologue with a
dialogue and by allowing the views of the target to influence the message, have
been highlighted. Consequently,
effective communication must always stand the test of whether it has reached its
audience and whether it has encouraged a change of behaviour, of attitude and/or
approach to the problem at hand.
It is through such enlightenment and empowerment driven by effective communication that partnerships may be developed and coastal stewardship may become an activity in which all are involved.