Saturday, December 19, 2009

Climate Voices: directly to you, for you.

I feel passionately about aid organizations such as ours, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, using their vast grassroots network and global reach to provide a platform for people to directly voice their concerns - as opposed to 'speaking on behalf of' or 'in the interests of' marginalized or invisible people struggling and battling against poverty, migration, violence, conflict, human rights abuses, HIV, stigma, the real and present danger of climate change ... you name it (the photo shows Wang Hui Min, sitting on a makeshift raft that he uses to visit his submerged house, seen behind him. Wang now lives on a dyke with his family of six).

The embedded video here was produced specifically for the Copenhagen Climate Conference with this same purpose in mind i.e. to give a voice to the people whose lives and livelihoods are right now being seriously threatened because of the consequences of climate change in their communities. The idea was to bring them directly into the Copenhagen conference center so that they could speak directly to governments and delegates making decisions that have a very real impact on their survival and the future of their children and communities - this is not a cliché but a fact.

In record breaking time - three weeks from concept to delivery - we dispatched almost a dozen tv crews, all locally hired, to meet with and interview ordinary people trying to cope with climate change - a genuine attempt to use our global presence to give a voice to the voiceless. This has been screened all over Copenhagen and is just now uploaded onto YouTube whose motto "broadcast yourself" has never been so relevant.

The next step or the next challenge is to really really really make it possible for people to broadcast themselves and tell their stories directly without any obvious involvement from organizations such as ours. For this we are putting the finishing touches on a partnership with Thomson Reuters and others built around empowering communities affected by disasters to communicate directly to the outside world without need for meddling intermediaries - the intermediaries will simply build capacity and facilitate pushing out the message of the people who are too rarely heard.

As Rupert Murdoch correctly predicted when he first came across MySpace "For fuck sake - the people have taken control"! Right you are Rupert - power to the people. Exciting times have just kicked off. This vid is only 5 mins but we have hours of footage which we will repackage and reversion to influence the decisions beyond Copenhagen. Its a drop in the ocean I know, but what an ocean .... really interested to hear what you think, not just of the video, but of the aspiration.



  1. Copenhagen has failed. The UN has failed to address the most important crisis in human history. This is now the time for sanctions, boycotts and embargoes. A new alliance is needed. An alliance of hope and peace and justice must be built to oppose the axis of pollution, extinction and self destruction.

  2. Thx for the comment Canada guy - can't but agree with you. Once again politics and profit trump people and polar bears! Love the name of your blog. Have you seen this (being a Canadian)- I found it pretty impressive, would like to see the full movie:

  3. Hi Conneally, thanks. I haven't seen that movie, I think I'll check it out. I'm sure it will be depressing, but we need to keep informed. :)

  4. Paul, this is a subject close to my heart.

    Last year I went to Kenya after the post election violence to work with local community stations in the Rift Valley. In order to get the local journalists involved I started recording audio in some of the camps for displaced people. I managed to secure some photography training for a young Kenyan woman I was working alongside and we started producing audio slideshows together.

    We took these around the radio stations and on watching them the journalists felt compelled to start visiting the camps themselves, reporting on what was going on and inviting people living in the camps onto the radio.

    The work resulted in dozens of hours of radio featuring the voices of those most affected by the violence. The team were nominated for an Amnesty International Media award and won a POYI in the News Multimedia category.

    All that is to say is that a little bit of training can go a long way but it needs to be properly supported. I was on the ground for three months.

    Just giving people cameras and a bit of training can produce poor work and false hopes. If it's about empowering people, then no problem, but if the work is poor no-one should expect an audience, it's patronising to do so.

    When I ran radio programmes in Ethiopia I set the same standard for the production teams as I did when I was producing shows for the BBC. And our work wasn't equal to anything I produced for Radio 4 or BBC 5 Live, some of it was better.

    Recently I trained MSF UK comms team to record the audio for the project we've just completed on the website. One of the things though I think that was really missing from that project was a local person working on the producion team in a meaningful way.

    20000 people watched the videos in the first two weeks (60% through to the end) and over 1000 people have sent messages to the Congo, so from that point of view it was successful, but what is the legacy?

    In Kenya the woman I worked with (Dolphine Emali) went on to train other Kenyans in photography who have just produced their first photo book on the subject of male circumcision. That book is our reward because it's proof that training, support and somebody pushing you on who has really high expectation of what you can achieve can be all that is needed to produce stunning work.

  5. Hi Duckrabbit - thx for the comments and the stories. Media development and training is not exaactly our business but we are forging closer and closer relations with organizations who do specialize such as internews, thomsom reuters and bbc world service trust. We just recently signed a partnership with thomson reuters foundation to work with them on what is being called emergency information service - our primary interest is to promote training and contacts between reuters staff and our red cross / red crescent colleagues on the ground who, as members of their own communities, can better tell the stories that need to be told. I fully agree with you on the 'quality' argument - well done on the kenya story - very rewarding I'm sure. And now, I actually have a saddle of rabbit (no duck unfortunately) under the grill (stuffed with black pudding and mushrooms) so must away and serve the hungry chicks who are all aching for santy to arrive. Happy holiday.