11th UN Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development

Moving C4D up the International Development Agenda: Demonstrating Impact and Positioning Institutionally

Convened by UNDP & The World Bank- 11-13 March 2009, Washington

UNDG web page on the 11th Inter-Agency Round Table on C4D 

The objectives of the meeting were to review the evidence across sectors and agencies about how to assess the impact of Communication for Development (C4D) and present results clearly and concretely; discuss how to position C4D as a self-standing area of work in development, including the optimal institutional arrangements; review the use of communication-based research approaches to enhance project design and assess communication as a sector in client countries; and discuss C4D training and learning programmes designed to strengthen skills and ensure rigorous quality standards. 

The meeting offered an opportunity to review current C4D activities across UN agencies and the invited partners, discuss challenges and courses of action to strengthen the institutional position of C4D, and further improve monitoring and evaluation of C4D programmes. Following the Rome consensus, Communication for Development is defined as “a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods. It is also about seeking change at different levels, including listening, building trust, sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating and learning for sustained and meaningful change. It is not public relations or corporate communication.” 

Levels of activity, methods of approach, and institutional positioning of C4D vary widely across agencies. While the presence of C4D is well-established in some agencies, it is more recent in others. Despite differences, similar challenges remain to better position C4D as an integral component of aid and development programmes. A common challenge is raising awareness among key stakeholders about the richness of communication and its manifold contributions to programmatic goals. 

Participants agreed that decision-makers’ persistent lack of a comprehensive understanding of communication and limited awareness about its added value are key challenges. They agreed to design and implement advocacy actions to demonstrate how C4D could be better integrated into efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and improving aid and development effectiveness. With these goals in mind, participants discussed the need to produce a series of indicators of communication impact that are valid across agencies and programmes. They agreed that it was important to have compelling impact data to demonstrate the contributions of C4D, and improve the effectiveness of C4D interventions. Actions are needed to make Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) an integral part of communication programmes, and to utilize indicators that measure the impact of communication on technical goals. 

Based on the diagnosis of the challenges, participants agreed on the following recommendations. Four actions were accepted to strengthen the institutional position of C4D: 

  1. Develop a UN Round Table advocacy strategy for C4D that includes materials documenting good practices in key C4D programmes;
  2. Develop and implement a common learning framework on C4D in order to enhance the capacity of UN agencies, governments and external actors;
  3. Conduct advocacy actions to promote C4D at country and regional levels; and 4) coordinate common efforts closely with other inter-agency mechanisms. 

Two recommendations were adopted to strengthen M&E in C4D:

  1. Establish an inter-agency working group to develop a common M&E framework for C4D; and
  2. Conduct an agency-level review of existing national capacity development activities to assess ways to integrate M&E for C4D. 

The recommendations of the UN Round Table reach all Heads of Agencies including the office of the Secretary General, and the United Nations General Assembly in a prominent biennial report that encapsulates good practices and other valuable examples of C4D from within the UN system. This report provides updates on C4D thinking in the UN system, and it also serves as an advocacy tool.

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