Why are we running this project?

At the Conference of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in November, the world’s countries are keen to find joint responses to the global challenges posed by land degradation and climate change. Both conferences are taking place on the African continent this year, the UNCCD in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and the UNFCCC in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Africa is particularly affected by land use and climate change because its soils, water, and ecosystems are under severe pressure – on the one hand due to the effects of climate change, which include extreme weather events such as droughts, and on the other hand due to non-sustainable practices in agriculture, livestock breeding, and deforestation. To preserve people’s livelihoods, to protect biodiversity and to strengthen climate resilience a regenerative and just transition of land use is required. Assertive African voices and perspectives are needed as well as journalists who are able to understand the topics and perspectives being negotiated and who can communicate them to their local audiences.

However, people in African learn about the debates, initiatives, and decisions at UN conferences solely from material supplied by international news agencies – if at all. African media companies tend not to have the resources to send their journalists to attend global meetings. By providing funding for Internews, we are contributing to making genuine African reporting possible for a local audience by giving media representatives virtual and in-person access to the negotiations, to the decision-makers in politics and business, and to civil society initiatives, as well as by conducting preparatory discussions with the participants to explain the content and context of the two conferences.

What are our goals?

The agreements resulting from the negotiations at UNCCD and UNFCCC will have a crucial impact on the future of African societies and the preservation of the natural resources on which they rely. A balanced and well-grounded reporting helps local audiences to develop a better understanding of the interlinkages between climate change and land degradation in their respective contexts.

The Earth Journalism Network (EJN) created by Internews trains and accompanies African journalists so that they can report on the UNCCD and the UNFCCC; the aim is to improve both the quality and the quantity of media reporting in various sub-Saharan African countries. The journalists report in the run-up to the UN conferences, during the negotiations, and following the two global UN meetings. This increases the transparency of the negotiations for African populations, provides space for African perspectives, and meets the demand for authoritative media reporting. Beyond the two UN conferences, the project additionally strengthens the regional and global networks of specialized journalists who report on climate change, and raises awareness of the topic in the media companies of those taking part.

How does the project work?

15 journalists from sub-Saharan African countries will take part in the UNCCD conference virtually and in the UNFCCC conference in person. Experienced African experts will train the journalists in advance, briefing them on the topics to be negotiated there, and will accompany them throughout the UN conferences. By way of introduction, the journalists will attend an orientation workshop that will provide insights into the conference themes and information about how reporters can find their way around at the conferences and supporting events. During the conferences, daily (video) briefings will be run for the journalists in the mornings so that the key events of the day can be explained to them by the trainers. Furthermore, the trainers will act as mentors, supporting the journalists as they produce their reports. Briefings with high-level speakers will also be organized.