For some, communicating the SDGs is about raising public awareness. For others, it is a great way to inspire people and promote collective action. For Ghana’s Community Radio Network (CRN), however, communicating the SDGs is about rights: a right to be informed, a right to speak out, a right to be heard. That is why, in keeping with the SDG mission to leave no one behind, CRN set out to engage listeners in disadvantaged local communities for the SDGs.
- Programme trailers with short dialogues in 17 different local languages, providing basic information about the Goals.
- Magazine programmes covering SDG-related topics in greater depth for local communities.
- Live broadcasts where listeners can ask questions and share their views on magazine programmes they have just heard.
- Panel discussions with experts and local officials, which cover policies and include listener phone-ins.
As part of the project, CRN has organised workshops to train staff in production units on SDG communications.
Community radio stations in Ghana are non-profit organisations that provide disadvantaged rural communities with a platform to articulate their interests and share experiences. CRN is an umbrella organisation for 23 radio stations and 1 TV station, broadcasting in 17 languages and reaching some 460,000 listeners from many ethnic groups, for whom radio remains a highly important mass medium.
Several national institutions have recognised the importance of the CR-SDGs project. The National Development Planning Commission, for example, provides the broadcasters with information on the SDGs and their implementation in Ghana. In its Voluntary National Review (VNR) on SDG progress, delivered to the UN in 2019, the Government highlights the project – and community radio in general – as an important effort to raise public awareness and improve knowledge about the SDGs.
The VNR assigns “special roles to the media to champion the implementation of the SDGs. Specifically, they are envisaged to inform, educate and provide platforms for public debate and discussions.” To this end, it also highlights the importance of “institutions with access to communities and grassroots populations across the country”.
The importance of radio cannot be understated. UNESCO, which celebrates World Radio Day every 13 February, points out that “radio is a low-cost medium specifically suited to reaching remote communities and vulnerable people, offering a platform to intervene in the public debate, irrespective of people’s educational level.”
Besides empowering local communities, the CR-SDGs project also aimed to highlight the importance of community radio for the national media environment and development processes. Community radio stations operate in a contested media market, where commercial stations try to secure the airwaves. In Ghana, there is currently controversy about regulations that would limit community radio stations to a 5-km broadcasting radius, a move that could cut rural access to community media.
As governments decide on how to regulate different markets, they will need to consider the impact of such regulations on SDG engagement. After all, SDG 4.7 commits countries to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development. Moreover, SDG 16 calls on countries to “ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making” (SDG 16.7), and to “ensure public access to information” (SDG 16.10).
Any form of SDG communication that encourages and empowers citizens to articulate their views and needs is more than just a means to an end – it is an end in itself.
This post is published in partnership with Engagement Global, a German service agency working on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to engage civil society on issues of development co-operation.