"Today, perhaps more than ever, the world needs more independent and free media to foster open and well informed societies," said the GFMD's newly elected chairman, Ricardo Corredor in his closing speech at the 2016 Jakarta World Forum.
Corredor's inspiring talk was both a farewell speech and an address welcoming the GFMD's new steering committee members elected at the Jakarta forum, an international conference organized by GFMD.
Corredor thanked the new members, who include a representative from DW Akademie, for assuming the responsibility of advancing the global network. He also thanked the 400 experts from 62 countries present at the Jakarta forum for working on issues such as new trends in investigative journalism, safety of journalists, indicators for Sustainable Development Goals and identifying regional challenges for media in Southeast Asia.
Ayman Mhanna, director of the GFMD presents election-results of the new steering comittee
Those at the Jakarta World Forum were united by the belief that media development needs strengthening and that this requires organizations from different countries to work together more, for example, by building knowledge exchanges, conducting joint research, combining advocacy efforts or coordinating media assistance activities.
And in relation to the Global Forum for Media Development, these considerations raise the question: How can a global umbrella organization specifically help with these issues and what exactly can it achieve?
Here's some background on what the GFMD is about and what direction it is heading in the future
- GFMD is a global network of 200 member organizations involved in media development. The forum highlights the importance of independent, pluralistic and sustainable media. It aims to make media development an integral part of international development strategies, just like education or health. It believes in collaboration, shared learning and professionalization. GFMD is growing with one or two new members joining the network each month on average. In Jakarta, several Asian participants announced they will apply for membership.
- Secretariat and director. GFMD has a newly structured secretariat in Brussels led by GFMD executive director, Ayman Mhanna, who was appointed in January 2016. Mhanna is supported by program and project manager Caroline Giraud and office manager Stephanie Khalaf. Together they ensured the Jakarta conference was a smoothly running, well organized event.
- Finances. In the past years, GFMD has survived thanks to the extraordinary personal engagement of its former chairman, Leon Willems. In Jakarta, Willems emphasized critical financial situation of the GFMD. Although the forum's income has increased, more fundraising is needed to ensure the survival of the network.
- Steering Committee. GFMD now has 14 new steering committee members who were elected in Jakarta. They represent seven world regions (Africa, Western Europe, Eurasia, Middle East and North Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and North America). Western Europe is represented by Laurent Allary from France's media cooperation agency, CFI, and Petra Berner from DW Akademie, Germany.
- Sustainable Development Goals. One of the forum's past successes was lobbying for the inclusion of freedom of expression and free media into the framework of the SDGs. GFMD, together with the freedom of expression organization Article 19, took the lead in forming a global coalition of 200 NGOs to advocate for the inclusion of free expression. In the end, Target 16.10 (Public Access to Information) survived the negotiations. Together with UNESCO, GFMD is currently involved in discussions on indicators related to this target.
- Coordination. In the past, GFMD has engaged in coordinating diverse media development actors in countries such as Syria, Yemen and Myanmar. At the Jakarta conference, U Soe Myint, chairman of the Mizzima Media Group in Myanmar, emphasized the importance of media development coordination in his country in the past years. "We had to build trust among all stakeholders. In the beginning, the international community was very dominant. But we then entered a next stage where national actors were leading the dialogue." Jesper Højberg, the Executive Director of Denmark's International Media Support, also emphasized the importance of such joint efforts. "Coordination is necessary to avoid duplication of interventions as well as repetition of mistakes. Through information sharing mechanisms the efficiency of the media development work can be improved and the donor attention can be increased," he said. It became clear, however, during controversial discussions about coordination experiences that different media development actors have differing views on how to best organize coordination – and what role GFMD should play in such activities.
- Networking. GFMD prides itself of its global networking. A new academic study by Adam J. Saffer of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has analyzed this network. Staffer found the network has a high degree of centralization, indicating the majority of relationships within the GFMD comes from a few select members. His analysis reveals that GFMD's relationships are mostly directed towards or among members from the global North. At the same time, members from the global South lack relationships with other members in their region. Saffer suggests strengthening regional links within GFMD.
First meeting of the steering comittee after the elections in Jakarta
The study's findings feed into the future ambitions of new chairman Ricardo Corredor, who wants more South-to-South exchanges and a more active role for forum members from the global South. In this way, he aims to turn the network into a truly global forum for media development.
The new steering committee members from the global North, however, also have something to bring to the table: the US organization IREX, as well as France's CFI envision joint research activities and country evaluations to better convince donors of the media sector's importance.
Petra Berner from DW Akademie, in her presentation to the general assembly, expressed her interest in developing new concepts for media development to meet the challenges of the digital world. "We need to better understand new forms of digital participation, engage in dialogue on digital rights – and exchange with the expert communities that develop these areas," she said.
"Decoding the future" was the motto of the Jakarta World Forum for Media Development. It is now up to the next generation of engaged forum members to tackle this challenge – not only for sake of media development in general but also for the future of GFMD.