Fragile States: The Role of Media and Communication

January 23, 2014
12:00 pm - 01:00 pm

Sponsored by the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy 

About the Event

Fragile states around the world demand international attention from both the diplomatic and development communities. They are states where governance tends to be weakest and development is most difficult to achieve. Media is often most vulnerable to cooption in these states.

Leaders of fragile states, many of which are struggling to overcome conflict or deep-seated political divisions, argue that allowing dissent in the media just makes things worse. Intervening to support media in such environments is complex, liable to be seen as interfering in politics and has rarely been a diplomatic or development priority. But growing analysis suggests that it should be.

BBC Media Action’s latest report, Fragile States: the role of media and communication, concludes that media increasingly matter in fragile states and that the transformation of media and communication environments poses not only challenges –but also opportunities – for policy makers concerned with conflict and post-conflict settings.

This discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities for media development in fragile states using Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya, and Somalia as case studies.




About the Panelists

James Deane is the director of policy and learning at BBC Media Action, where he oversees the organization’s research, technical assistance, and policy activities. He has spent more than 30 years working in the field if media development. Deane was a founding member and later executive director of the Panos Institute-London and immediately before joining the BBC World Service Trust (now BBC Media Action) in 2007, managing director of the Communication for Social Change Consortium, a New York-based organization set up by the Rockefeller Foundation. He has provided formal strategic advice and consultancies to several international organizations, mostly related to communication and media in development. He has a master’s degree in international communication and development and has written numerous papers and publications on media, information, and communication technologies. Deane is the commissioning editor of several recent BBC Media Action policy briefings on media in fragile states and author of its recent briefing, Fragile States: the role of media and communication.

Ammar al-Shahbander joined IWPR in 2004 and currently holds overall responsibility for activities in Iraq, where IWPR has offices in Baghdad and Erbil. He provides leadership for programs including media related legislation reform, security sector reform, women issues and leadership, and human rights programming. Al-Shahbander holds a degree in sociology and international relations from the University of Westminster in London. He speaks fluent Arabic, Persian, English, and Swedish.

Michael Dwyer is a senior program officer with USIP’s Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding Center of Innovation, focusing on traditional media, social media, and data projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan. From 2008-2012 he designed and/or managed media development programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Malaysia, as a regional manager (in Bangkok) and then vice president (in Washington) for Internews. He lived in Afghanistan from 2004-2008, working as country manager of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs IRIN humanitarian radio and news service, and as program manager of a national university journalism and radio training project. Prior to 2004, Dwyer worked in radio and online media for 10 years. He was a freelance correspondent in Southeast Asia, a radio/online producer and presenter at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and he worked at university radio stations in Sydney and Adelaide. Dwyer holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Adelaide.

Eric Robinson has been with the National Endowment for Democracy for nearly 6 years and is the senior program officer for East, Horn, and Southern Africa. Prior to the Endowment, he worked in Somalia for six months as a consultant with the United Nations and for five years for a small national non-profit organization that did capacity building training for refugee and asylum led civil society organizations in the United States. Eric has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in international relations from Wayne State University in Detroit.