By Faraz Chandio
In the contemporary landscape, journalism has ascended to unprecedented levels of influence, wielding the potential to enlighten and galvanize global audiences. It is now better poised than ever to champion the cause of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a collection of 17 overarching objectives designed to usher in a more sustainable and equitable future. These SDGs essentially serve as the cornerstone for what we consider “standard” journalism. These goals encompass every facet of life and various professions, including journalism itself, and strive to cultivate a brighter future for all. Each of these goals is accompanied by specific targets, assessed using indicators, and their successful attainment has become a priority for nations worldwide. Unfortunately, it is disheartening to observe that a significant proportion of journalists and media outlets tend to sidestep reporting on SDGs, focusing instead on trivial matters driven by substantial financial incentives.
In September 2018, the United Nations established the SDG Media Compact, a collaboration of 85 major news media companies globally, aimed at propelling media towards more proactive coverage of SDGs-related matters. This underscores the monumental impact that SDG-focused reporting can have, particularly in developing nations such as Pakistan. The configuration of this initiative is intriguing – 20 outlets from Europe, 14 from the Americas, 15 from Africa, nine from the Middle East, and a substantial 27 from Asia, with an additional 12 solely from Japan. Japan’s deep involvement in SDGs reporting highlights its significance, and Japanese media has taken a pioneering role in advocating for the realization of these developmental goals. Japan’s recognition of the importance of fulfilling these goals and the potential benefits they bring underscores the imperative for Pakistani media to learn from this example and actively engage in this noble endeavor. Reporting on SDGs holds numerous advantages that can be beneficial for Pakistan.
Foremost, reporting on SDGs can facilitate businesses and multinational corporations operating within or in partnership with Pakistan to gain awareness. This, in turn, aids in formulating policies that are advantageous not only for these entities but for the creation of a sustainable future where the potential of essential elements is duly recognized. By measuring and disclosing their impact on SDGs through media channels, businesses can enhance stakeholder engagement, foster sustainable decision-making processes, and bolster accountability. Media can serve as the anchor, ensuring that these businesses find a secure berth in the harbor of sustainable success. Various ongoing efforts acknowledge the pivotal role of the private sector in attaining the SDGs. Initiatives like the Global Reporting Initiative, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and United Nations Global Compact are collaboratively crafting a guide that supports businesses in assessing their impacts, aligning strategies with the SDGs, and setting company goals. This collaboration empowers businesses in Pakistan to effectively integrate SDG reporting into their existing operations, thereby aiding them in pursuing the actualization of SDGs. The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) initiative’s involvement in this platform further enhances the value of corporate sustainability disclosures for the financial community.
Another compelling rationale for reporting on SDGs lies in empowering the younger generation to break free from the shackles of mistrust and despondency. As educational demand increases, awareness among the youth has surged significantly. This new generation actively seeks transparency when making career decisions, purchasing products, and engaging in investments. Corporate impact carries paramount significance for this demographic, transcending the concerns of previous generations. They delve beyond surface-level statistics and reporting, inquiring about the impact created, externalities generated, and the identities of stakeholders and beneficiaries. Media outlets aligned with SDGs in an authentic manner enable the youth to understand the context of their intended impact and their role in the broader global initiative within their chosen sphere. Given the rapid growth of a country like Pakistan, reporting on SDGs becomes an inevitable necessity.
Contrarily, reporting on SDGs is often marginalized in Pakistan. The media in our country frequently overlooks the importance of SDG-related coverage, prioritizing sensational stories driven by the quest for higher viewership ratings (“TRP”). In the process, they overlook developmental goals that might require years of collective effort and instead concentrate on fleeting matters like celebrity controversies aired on live shows. The media’s current preference for drama over substantive issues dilutes the potential for meaningful change. Media outlets have the capacity to dissect and discuss celebrity disputes on live television, offering opinions on how these clashes could be avoided. Yet, they rarely contribute to discussions about how sustainable development goals can be achieved within a developing nation like Pakistan. When the media places profit ahead of authentic awareness, the full realization of SDGs within a nation like Pakistan becomes an elusive goal.
Another significant factor contributing to the lack of SDG reporting in Pakistan is the prevailing mindset fueled by poverty and corruption. In a nation where citizens are bombarded by escalating consumer prices and distressing instances of corruption across both public and private sectors, the focus shifts away from developmental goals. People find themselves preoccupied with fulfilling immediate needs, their visions for the future clouded by inflation and stagnation. The government should consider instituting policies that incentivize and support media houses in engaging frequently with SDGs to counteract this prevailing mindset.
In conclusion, journalism’s unparalleled influence makes it a potent vehicle for advocating the SDGs, promoting sustainable development, and raising awareness among the masses. The SDG Media Compact initiative serves as a testament to the transformative potential of SDG-centric reporting. It is imperative for media outlets, particularly in developing countries like Pakistan, to recognize the value of this endeavor. Reporting on SDGs not only aligns with the global movement towards sustainability but also holds the power to shape businesses, empower the youth, and reorient the media’s priorities toward more meaningful pursuits. By focusing on SDGs, the media can contribute to a brighter, more sustainable future for all.
The writer is an author and Journalist