At last week’s Women’s Forum in Deauville, many participants said they wanted the private sector, governments and society-at-large to respond more effectively – fewer words, more action – to global humanitarian and development concerns. Whether clamping down on female genital mutilation or the need for companies to assume more socially responsible roles, there were at least two issues of particular relevance to Switzerland.
The first is that of aid workers and journalists operating in volatile humanitarian and conflict zones. What about their families if they are killed, executed or kidnapped? Or seriously injured? While the United Nations, ICRC and other major organizations have the financial infrastructure to deal with such incidents, the bulk of voluntary aid agencies and freelance journalists do not. In many ways, such individuals are risking their lives for our global conscience.
War insurance has simply become too expensive. It is time for donor governments and insurance companies to share the burden. This is where Switzerland – and International Geneva – can make a difference, notably to inspire donors, such as the European Commission’s ECHO, to underwrite an insurance plan that is affordable for those operating in dangerous areas.
The second is reporting itself. At one Forum session on media, panellists talked about data, advertising and web-hits. The participants, however, saw it differently. “We don’t want data; we want good reporting and insight,” noted one company director. This means credible “content” enabling readers to make informed decisions for their businesses and personal lives.
Apart from those with public funding, such as the BBC, most news organizations today have not found the right business plan. They’re all cutting back on local and international reporting, including the New York Times, Le Monde and Le Temps. Only the big foreign stories get covered, while investigative reporting has gone out the window. “Data” is definitely part of the ever-expanding media platform, but this does not represent nitty-gritty “drag them into the court of public opinion” reporting, which remains indispensible for a healthy democracy. We still need trusted and experienced journalists for context, but also to keep governments, corporations and even the international aid community honest and accountable.
So who’s going to pay for real reporting? The Geneva-based Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, which has received $22.3 billion worth of donor and private funds to date, was created because we consider the eradication of such diseases in the public interest.
Why are we not thinking the same with regard to independent information, notably a Global Fund for Reporting to help journalists, broadcasters, film-makers, photographers and others do their job properly. That is, of course, if we consider being informed to be in the public interest and essential to our future, and the future of our children. Because if we don’t, then we only have ourselves to blame.
Edward Girardet, Managing editor. firstname.lastname@example.org