Community Media Network South Sudan (COMNeTSS) in collaboration with UNESCO and UNDP with support from KOICA organized a Peace Conference on 12 February 2020 attended by 65 participants representing the media houses, civil society organizations, women groups, members of listeners clubs from the community, the government and other peace actors.
The Peace Conference celebrated the role community radios play in building and sustaining peace in South Sudan. The radio is the most commonly used medium of communication in the community to share and receive information. Radio also provides one of the cheapest access to information.
"The radio is a powerful tool for peace. Community radios can be and have been proven to be an effective tool for rural communities to participate in matters affecting them and a platform where a citizen can access information." Stated Mr. Julius Banda, UNESCO Country Representative, South Sudan.
"Our focus is on how we can bring peace to South Sudan. Peace has to come from all of us. We know the media can have a positive and a negative impact on peace; we should use the media for peace. Explained Hon. Mat Ruoh, Member, Specialized Committee for Peace and Reconciliation-South Sudan National Legislative Assembly.
The media industry, with the right capacity and investment, is very well poised to sustain peace in South Sudan. UNDP takes this investment seriously and has partnered with UNESCO and Community Media Network South Sudan to strengthen community Radios in Torit, Rumbek, Aweil, Bor, and Wau, with other locations lined up for similar support. Through this partnership, sixty-six journalists have been trained on gender and conflict-sensitive reporting, on the job training has been done in the five community radio stations, listeners clubs formed, and a Peace Journalism Award already set in motion!
"This is the first time the members of the listeners' clubs come to Juba to be part of the Peace Conference at the national level" stated Josephine Achiro, Executive Director, COMNeTSS.
One of the winners of the Journalism Peace Award, Rosemary Wilfred, shared the story she pitched for the competition "The people have tied their lives to the coming of the peace. Some youth have put their lives and dreams on hold, waiting for the peace to come. The radio has the power to influence people's opinions, change the narrative, influence the way people think, and how they want to live their lives going forward." The story she pitched wanted to bring out these experiences and offer an alternative narrative and thinking to the people who are still held hostage by their wait for peace so that they can continue with their lives, forgive others, even as the political peace process continues.
The partnership with the media industry for peace contributes to UNDP's country programme outcome of strengthened infrastructure for peace in South Sudan.