New climate change body recognises islands’ needs-• Comesa pledges support for media forum just set up


The steering committee of the new regional forum

Each of the island nations’ media will be represented at the forum’s meetings and contribute through a network being created by the forum whose 45 journalist members elected Comorian Saminya Bounou to sit on its steering committee representing her country, Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar.

Other groups represented are the southern, eastern and central African blocks, by members voted in at polls presided over by Common Market for East and Central Africa’s (Comesa) officials who said they will support the new body.

Comesa helped organise the meeting with the support of UK’s Department for International Development and the Norwegian Grant organisation.

Members were to vote in a general manner but those who know the islands argued if the region is not specifically catered for the unique ways climate change is hitting the Indian Ocean region may be overlooked hence the body allocated slots for each region.

Ugandan Patrick Luganda was elected chairman of the committee which is expected to draft a constitution for the new forum and report back to the members what progress the organisation will have made.

Meanwhile the journalists are expected to work together to address issues identified at the meeting as the ones preventing polluters, policy makers and the region’s population from understanding what they need to do to help slow down climate change or put in place measures to mitigate its effects.

The journalists for example said climate change is a reasonably new and complex issue explained by specialists with many technical and scientific terms which the media must understand and put it in simple language for those who are not experts.

Experts in a few countries like Seychelles where leaders were said to be well aware of the need to address the issue urgently, policy makers were said not to be interested enough in climate change issues and the media, especially news editors, generally ignores environmental issues preferring ‘more sensitive issues’.

Few journalists have a passion for climate change issues, are willing to research into matters related to it or care enough to simplify the language they use, they said.

Not many politicians understand the need for the campaign and some parliamentarians meeting next door to the journalist were heard to say focusing on climate change is a waste of time, showing the media representatives a sad example of why many governments do not dedicate any resources to the climate change fight.

Journalists are rarely present at international forums where negotiations for emission cuts are held and therefore understand little about the processes and so previously offered little support to the campaign, but the new body will seek to change that, they said.

The new media forum members welcomed Comesa’s support but said they will try to look for their own funds so if the umbrella body becomes burdened by new priorities the media group will survive.
Launching the media body Comesa’s climate change adviser Dr Mclay Kanyangarara said supporting such a union was not on its budget for this year but the regional body will seek to help prop it given the  importance of its proposed roles.

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