To bring together global, regional and local narratives to highlight instances of best practices in Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) responses to COVID19, Tezpur University conducted a series of the international webinar.

The four-day event was recently organised by the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University in partnership with UNICEF, Assam.

The webinar series titled ‘SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Sensitive Risk Communication and Community Engagement’ deliberated upon the key principles and issues in risk communication and made a strong case for the need to address the gaps in communication at the community level and strengthen the voices of the people.

The event brought together eight professionals and academics from seven different countries like – India, USA, Belgium, Chile, Brazil, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, to address over 400 registered participants.

The participants comprised representatives of media, development professionals, researchers and students from over 50 different institutions in India.

Participants from USA, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Nigeria also joined the webinar.

The inaugural session on December 14, 2020 was addressed by personalities like Siddartha Shrestha, chief, Communication for Development, UNICEF India; Dr. Supriya Bezbaruah, technical officer, Risk Communication, WHO South-East Asia Region and Dr. Madhulika Jonathan, chief of field office, UNICEF Assam and Northeast India.

Tezpur University Vice-Chancellor Prof. V.K. Jain delivered the inaugural address.

Prof. David H. Mould, Professor Emeritus, School of Media Arts and Studies, Ohio University, USA, delivered the first lecture on ‘Risk Communication in Emergencies: Principles and Practices’.

He elaborated that risk communication strategies during Covid19 cannot be universalized and it needs to be contextualized based on the social, political, cultural and linguistic differences among segments of population in various countries, said a press communique issued by Tezpur University.

In his speech, Prof. Jan Servaes, Professor Emeritus, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium established the necessity of ‘Communication for All’ as the 18th Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to bridge the ever widening inequalities in our societies.

B.P. Sanjay, Professor of the Communication and Media Studies, Manipal Institute of Communication, highlighted that in order to achieve SDGs, contextualized communication strategies and customized media partnership are required, rather than advocacy of centralized media systems.

Dr. Paolo Mefalopulos, country representative, UNICEF Chile, shed light on the Multidimensional Model for Change which could help in combating long-term effects of pandemic on children.

Sisir Basu, Professor of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Banaras Hindu University, underlined the failure of top-down, linear, transmission models of communication.

Prof. Claudia Lago, Professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil highlighted the roles of activist journalists in facilitating communication in the periphery.

The final day of the webinar had Dr. Rohan Samarajiva, founding chair, LIRNEasia, Colombo, Sri Lanka and Ramathi Bandaranayake, researcher from LIRNEasia, who jointly presented the findings from their study on ‘Risk Communication in a Pandemic: Preliminary findings from the Asia Pacific’.

Mohan J. Dutta, Dean’s Chair Professor, Communication, Journalism & Marketing Director, CARE, Massey University, New Zealand shared his thought-provoking insights on ‘Radical Democracies, Socialist Politics and Pandemic Response’.

The lecture series came to a close with concluding remarks by Prof. Joya Chakraborty, head of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University, who reflected on the four-day deliberations and reiterated on the need for continued dialogue and engagement to ensure inclusive communication for all.

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