In this article, we analyze whether the media has been facilitating or hindering public engagement with global governance reform efforts. By scrutinizing media roles, we aim to understand their contributions to the discourse on UN reform, considering their reach, influence, and implications in shaping public opinion. The media section of the September 2023 report of the Global South Perspectives Network consisted of two methodological approaches: a survey and a focus group with media professionals. This article presents the analysis of responses from 512 survey participants from 48 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa.
The survey’s focus encompassed newspapers, television, radio, and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It delved into how these media, including those of the UN system and other multilateral organizations, have disseminated information, influenced discussions and enhanced social engagement with global governance reform initiatives.
Effectiveness of media and the coverage of UN reform
Survey findings in Latin America (LATAM) revealed that 65.3% of the 202 respondents found mainstream media ineffective in covering UN reform. While 26.2% considered it somewhat effective, only 5.9% perceived it as highly effective. This widespread skepticism indicates a need for a reevaluation of mainstream media strategies in LATAM to better inform the public about UN reform, possibly influenced by factors such as prioritizing local issues and lacking knowledge and resources to cover the UN and its activities.
In Africa, 42.5% of 200 participants viewed mainstream media as ineffective in covering UN reform, with 36% considering it somewhat effective and 15.5% highly effective. Similar to LATAM, African respondents tended to perceive mainstream media as ineffective or only somewhat effective, possibly due to limited resources for international news coverage and a preference for local news.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region exhibited comparable pessimism, with 47.3% of 110 participants believing mainstream media was ineffective in covering UN reform. However, 29.1% perceived it as highly effective, and 10.9% found it somewhat effective. Doubts about effectiveness may arise from political influences, regional conflicts, or limited resources for comprehensive international reporting.
The prevalent perception of ineffectiveness in these regions underscores a crucial need for strategic reassessment in media approaches to foster better public understanding of UN reform initiatives. Factors such as prioritization of local issues and growing distrust in mainstream media appear to inform this doubt. Despite variations in the degree of skepticism among regions, the overarching theme suggests a call for nuanced communication strategies that not only address concerns but also leverage positive views. Understanding the complex interplay of factors influencing media effectiveness is essential for tailoring approaches that resonate with diverse regional contexts and ultimately contribute to more informed public discourse on UN reform.
The role of UN system media in raising awareness
Part of the survey focused on respondents’ perceptions of the effectiveness of the UN system media in raising awareness and promoting understanding of UN reform and multilateralism. The participants from LATAM largely expressed unbelief, with 41.6% considering the UN system media as ineffective, and 36.1% expressing uncertainty or having no opinion. Only a small percentage (5.9%) believed the UN system media was highly effective.
In Africa, a comparable pattern emerged, as 43% of respondents found the UN system media ineffective, and 25.5% expressed uncertainty. Trust in the effectiveness of UN system media was relatively low at 9%. Moving to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, a more divided perception surfaced, with 55.5% considering the UN system media ineffective and 20.9% finding it highly effective. A smaller percentage had no opinion (18.2%), and a minority considered it somewhat effective (5.5%).
Collectively, these responses highlight a prevailing disbelief across regions regarding the effectiveness of UN system media. The substantial number of respondents expressing uncertainty or lacking a clear opinion underscores an opportunity for more effective communication efforts to bridge the awareness gap. The consensus in each region suggests that the UN system media is generally perceived as ineffective, calling for strategic enhancements in its communication strategies to engage a wider and more informed audience effectively. The analysis indicates a need for improvements or increased visibility in the role of UN system media to foster a deeper understanding of UN reform and multilateralism.
The media of the institutions interested in UN reform issues
In the final question of the media section of the survey, respondents’ views on the effectiveness of social media platforms of the major institutions interested in UN reform, such as NGOs, universities, research groups and think tanks. In LATAM, 13.4% considered these platforms highly effective, while a larger percentage (46%) found them somewhat effective. However, 18.3% perceived them as ineffective, indicating reservations, and 22% expressed uncertainty. This mixed perception suggests a need for a nuanced communication approach to address both positive views and concerns about the effectiveness of social media platforms in promoting UN reform initiatives in this region.
Moving to Africa, a similar pattern emerged, with 21% perceiving these platforms as highly effective and 36.5% finding them somewhat effective. However, 25.5% considered them ineffective, suggesting skepticism, and 17% did not express a clear opinion. While there is a significant impact, the unbelief and uncertainty indicate the necessity for more engagement and awareness-building efforts to address varying perceptions in the African region.
In MENA, a majority (41.8%) viewed these social media platforms as highly effective, and 29.1% found them somewhat effective. A minority (15.5%) considered them ineffective, and 13.6% did not express a clear opinion. This relatively positive perspective suggests a significant impact on public engagement, yet there is room for improvement or addressing concerns within a subset of respondents. The segment that did not express a clear opinion indicates potential for enhancing awareness and understanding of UN reform efforts through these platforms in the MENA region.
These insights collectively underscore varying regional perceptions regarding the effectiveness of social media platforms in popularizing and raising awareness about UN reform. The results emphasize the need for tailored communication strategies to address specific regional considerations and enhance public engagement in UN reform initiatives, taking into account both positive views and reservations expressed by survey respondents.
In this context, FOGGS, through Katoikos.world, has launched this series of articles on the results of the research conducted by the Global South Perspectives Network. aiming to contribute to increasing awareness of issues related to global governance reform. In this way, it seeks to facilitate access to information and ideas, promoting the engagement of various strategic social actors, such as journalists, academics, students, government representatives, and NGOs.
For 2024, FOGGS has planned a series of communication and dissemination actions, always committed to prioritizing and amplifying the voices of the Global South for a pluralistic, participatory, and effective UN reform.