What is the role of communication in Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) processes? This study looks at communication in PRS processes in Ghana, Tanzania, Moldova and Nepal, and in Latin America and the Caribbean. It also explores how the use of strategic communication is being integrated into national development planning and implementation. The rise of new information technologies has helped make civil society even more central in the national development debate. Improving communication can provide opportunities to reconfigure the relationships among government, donors, and civil society.
Ghana, Tanzania, Moldova and Nepal have all developed a communication strategy specifically for the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). A PRSP communication strategy provides the basis for considering how all the relevant groups can be encouraged to participate most effectively in the formulation of the PRS. It specifies the processes, institutional roles, communication channels and other aspects of communication in support of the PRS. Sometimes it also sets consultation standards.
The role of the media and civil society in influencing development policies are related and mutually reinforcing. In fact, the media often play a greater role in making information widely available, increasing citizen knowledge and awareness, explaining policy issues, and giving citizens voice.
The role of communication in PRS processes has evolved since 2000, with PRS increasingly integrated into policy planning, budgeting and government processes more generally.
- The introduction of new communication channels for public policy debate has empowered an array of stakeholders that previously were absent or marginal in the development agenda.
- Citizens are increasingly making the leap from policy awareness to demands for accountability.
- Methodologies such as participatory budgeting and planning and citizen monitoring have proven to be more successful and sustainable long term than consultation alone.
- Social accountability approaches have played a larger role in Latin America and Ghana than in the other case study countries.
- Donors often work together to support a stronger institutional base for ongoing dialogue about national development strategies, one that would be sustained after the PRSP.
To address the challenges of communication in national development strategies—both within and between government, civil society and donors—the following recommendations should be considered:
- Clear lines of communication need to be established between the central PRS unit and other parts of government, particularly line ministries and local government
- Clear links must be articulated between the PRS and other national development strategies and processes
- Capacity building should be part of a long-term and ongoing package of support for the design and implementation of the PRS communication strategy
- Capacity building of the media requires long-term donor support to improve the quality of reporting on macroeconomic policy issues
- Civil society needs donor support to assist with the cost of networking and consultation activities
- Donor harmonisation and aid coordination have improved government-donor relations, but both parties need to forge a new relationship with civil society to promote good governance
- A committee in a central government agency that has the power and prestige to lead and coordinate the process is important for strengthening communication and participation in PRS processes.