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Humanitarian journalism research praised by senior UN official

The UN’s deputy chief of humanitarian affairs today welcomed new research involving the University of East Anglia (UEA) into the influence of the media on the allocation of humanitarian aid by major governmental donors.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, said that research of this nature could help make humanitarian funding “more principled, efficient, effective and transparent.”

In her speech Ms Mueller responded to work by Dr Martin Scott, of UEA’s School of International Development, Dr Kate Wright of the University of Edinburgh and Dr Mel Bunce from City, University of London. The project is the first multi-country study of this issue to be undertaken. The full results of the study will be published later this year.

The researchers were asked to present their initial findings at the Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week forum in Geneva. This event brings together more than two thousand experts in crisis preparedness and response, from over 350 organisations and countries.

Dr Scott and his colleagues led a session on ‘Media's influence on humanitarian donors’ as part of a week-long programme to debate and find solutions to the common challenges in humanitarian affairs.

Following the session Ms Mueller said: “For humanitarians, the mainstream media is a vital and powerful player in catalysing international humanitarian response…

“We sometimes worry that humanitarian issues are not covered enough, that coverage is skewed towards some crises to the neglect of others. The space for more analytical, detailed and nuanced news coverage seems sometimes to be shrinking, meaning that audiences do not always understand the complex causes of crises, and how difficult it can be to deliver humanitarian aid effectively.

She added: “Until now, there was no systematic research into the influence of media coverage on major donor countries.

“These findings are not only interesting – they are instrumental to inform how we approach the media moving forward. And I think we can all agree that by better understanding the role of the media, we can help make humanitarian funding more principled, efficient, effective and transparent.”

Dr Scott said: “We are delighted that Ms Mueller has shown an interest in this research which we think will enable UN agencies, INGOs and journalists to better understand how to bring humanitarian crises to the attention of decision-makers.

“It will also highlight areas where donors themselves can be better informed about the role and significance of the news media.”

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