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United Nations Environment Programme


Dams and Development Project

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The World Commission On Dams

Communications and Outreach

It is a truism that all politics is language, and all language is political. What is often less recognised is the craft that must go into ensuring that the language of an independent organisation like the WCD is accurate without being aimless, dispassionate without being dull, clear without being cliché and balanced without being boring.

In roughly two years a small media and communications team at the Secretariat produced a steady stream of concise, graphic and informative documents. In addition, it disseminated that work to the right people, through the right language, at the right time, for a global result.

This effort involved press releases, speeches, newsletters, summaries, updates, reports, documents, letters, editorials, leaflets, banners, posters, articles, press kits, diagrams, photographs, montages and even letters to editors. It targeted newspapers, weeklies, radio, television, web sites, and electronic lists. It employed every medium at its disposal, from PowerPoint presentations to the WCD's web site, to old-fashioned pen on paper.

Primary stakeholder constituencies were informed of the WCD process through a number of outreach tools that were developed, including:

  • WCD Interim Report - To mark the WCD's first anniversary, an Interim Report for June 1998 to June 1999 was written and printed in July 1999. The Interim Report was distributed to the WCD's stakeholders and their networks and an electronic version is available on the Commission's website.
  • Website dissemination - the work programme and all its annexes, the final report and the translated summaries, were available on the Commission's website. The full reports of the Regional Consultations and the summary of presentations were also on the site.
  • Information folders - were distributed via programme staff and at international conferences. Portuguese, French and Spanish language translations were prepared.
  • Nine quarterly issues of the DAMS Newsletter were distributed in hard copy format and an electronic version.
  • WCD leaflet - The English version of the leaflet was translated into French and Spanish. French, Spanish and Portuguese versions of the leaflet were also be available on the website.
  • The WCD databank - A databank of more than 5000 organisations and individuals participating and/or interested in the WCD work programme was maintained to facilitate outreach and communication activities.CD - ROM

The disc's entire contents have been organised under three main categories:

The Final Report

Dams and Development: A New Framework For Decision-Making, Formatted English and final draft Spanish An Overview translated in 7 languages Press Kit from Launch 16 November 2000, PowerPoint Presentation; Feedback and Reactions.

The Knowledge Base

This category presents the most comprehensive, global and independent review of dams to date, including: In-Depth Detailed Case Studies of Dam Projects (8) and Countries (3); Thematic Reviews (17) and Contributing Papers; Report of the Cross-Check Survey of Large Dams (from sample of 125); Regional Consultations (4); Submissions (636 online out of 947 total).

The WCD Archive

The WCD Archive shows that nothing took place in a vacuum, or isolation, but part of a process that began before the historic meeting in Gland and continues long after the WCD disbanded itself. Some of these offer frozen snapshots of consensus building in action, and include: The Work Programme; About the World Commission on Dams; Speeches; Media Releases; Newsletters; Photo Archive.

The communications team polished and packaged the WCD Report, overviews in 9 languages, Knowledge Base, and complete WCD archives into a single, graphic, easy-to-use CD ROM that will be disseminated to 15,000 individuals and organisations. The WCD included two complementary copies of the CD with the ninth, 8-page newsletter, DAMS. It continues to translate the Report Overview into several new languages on request, bringing the total to more than a dozen so far.

More than 550 news clippings that have come in from cities and communities around the world in the past two years and have been collated and electronic copies have been posted on the Commission's website.

Lastly, intense pressure under which the communications activities took place cannot be underestimated. The tensions of opposing forces - some wanting to dissolve the Commission, others wanting to give it powers beyond its mandate forced a communications strategy that walked a tightrope between asserting the Commission's independence and authority, yet doing so in a tone that persuaded rather than compelled, and that offered more light than heat.

 

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