When PR and Media People Meet on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

Most times public relations people meet with their regular stakeholders, the media representatives to brief them about new developments or to respond to media enquiry. But on this special occasion, it is neither for press briefing nor on media enquiry. It is an occasion for interaction on how to cement relationship between the news hunters and image merchants. And guess the issue: DISASTERS.
The event was held in Geneva, Switzerland with some side attractions for selected spokespersons of response agencies and as well as journalists covering disaster issues from some countries. The programme has a theme “Towards a new approach to disasters from consequences to causes.” It was co-sponsored by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), together with the support of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the European Commission’s Directorate General Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.

The venue is the International Conference Centre, Geneva where the Third Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is taking place. This segment of the programme was to train about 40 media and national platform representatives from Africa and Middle East Countries. Luckily Nigeria is also represented.

From the outset, the spokesperson of UNISDR, Brigitte Leoni while welcoming the participants who came from various countries said that national media organizations play an important role in promoting national disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies and programmes. According to her “to do so, however, they need to know what disaster risk reduction is about and to have established contacts with key DRR professionals who can provide them with accurate and timely information. At the same time, National Platform representatives need to be trained on how to better promote disaster risk reduction issues through the media at the national level.”

On the other hand Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head UNISDR urged the participants to play their roles in reducing the risk in disasters. She said the danger of inaction on the part of policy makers as well as those that could spread the information on DRR would be worst on our communities.

Richard Meares with wide experience from Reuters anchored the sessions where information officers and the journalists spoke frankly with sincerity about the seeming frosty relationship between them when it comes to information gathering and dissemination. While we discussed and deliberated on what constitute news and how the relationship should be defined, there were unclear issues on how best to influence not manipulate media reporting. Ethical issues were also raised but answer to the real question could not be answer. The question is why should media ignore most stories from organisations’ perspective? Must organisation cough out monetary resources in the name of adverts to get public adequately informed on potential hazards?

YAShuaib with Margareta Wahlstrom Head of UNISDR (DRR) and Yahya Jafee of Palestian TV

As a participant, I can say that it is quite exciting to have highly skilled resource persons as well as speakers addressing us on various topics from media coverage, media relations, crisis management and the new thinking on Disaster Risk Reduction.

As a participant I have healthy interaction, mutual exchange of experiences and expertise with other participants during the programme. We also have the additional opportunity of attending the Third Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction which was meant for high level delegations from multilateral, multinational organisations and government institutions across the globe.

The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, after declaring the main conference open, also addressed us at a Press Conference with other journalists that came to cover the Conference.

Other side attraction was the launching of a guide for journalists covering disaster risk reduction by Tim Sebastian of British Broadcasting Corporation who encourage every journalist or PR person to have the book. It is indeed must-read book. Because I still enjoy reading it now.

The most touching moment was when Ban Ki-moon disclosed that: “This conference’s aim is to reduce risk of disasters, through technology, knowledge and economic tools. But for many of us, this mission is also deeply personal. The United Nations is the global first responder to disasters and crises.

“As Secretary-General, I have seen the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, the destruction from the epic floods in Pakistan…the horrific impact of earthquakes in Haiti, Western China and Chile. I have looked in the eyes of those who have lost loved ones. I have listened to those who have seen the world they know disappear in a flash. And I have struggled to answer their simple, one-word question: Why? Just recently I was in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The hand of man was responsible for that catastrophe twenty-five years ago. But the earthquake and tsunami in Japan gave us the disaster in Fukushima with all its echoes of Chernobyl and a grave warning to the future.

“As we have learned again and again, no country or city – rich or poor — is immune.”

YAShuaib with other participants at Media/PR workshop in Geneva on DRR

While I observe that most of the discussions centred on natural disasters, there are some countries that are so blessed and have never witnessed or recorded such natural catastrophes yet the dangerous antics of undesirable elements as well as ineptitude leadership in such nations are major resons for unwarranted human-induced disasters like wars, conflicts and diseases.

We must invest wisely today for better future through public awareness and empowerment of the people. The job is for all of us the journalists, PR people and all human. Disaster risk reduction is everyone’s business.


About the author

Yushau Shuaib


  • Good writing but you need to be detailed on the arguement between the PR men and the journalists

  • I am a journalist here in Nigeria. I could I get the copy of the book. Is it for sale or free. Can you give us the contacts

  • always appreciating and commending every contribution you are making on PR.keep on with the good job.i wish u safe journey back home.

  • So Sebastin of BBC does travels. I thought he is always looking forward to interviews on in his London’s studio

  • How do you apply Disaster Risk reduction in places where there are huge human casulties from conflicts e.g Libya, Syria, Nigeria and Israel and Palestian.

  • First off I want to say terrific blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thank you!

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