After two years of being involved as a media partner, Free Press Unlimited joins Clingendael Institute and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies in the new phase of the Planetary Security Initiative. During the coming 3.5 years Free Press Unlimited and Clingendael Institute will actively work with local journalists, academics and the youth in countries highly affected by the effects of climate change, mainly in the Middle-East and Levant-region, to increase public awareness and spark international debate. 

Failed harvests, large-scale floods, migration and war: climate change is linked to all of these threats. In many places, journalists encounter these themes in their work. They talk with people who live and work in rural areas that are most affected by the destabilising impacts of climate change. They also see how these impacts intersect with other regional or local tensions. This gives them a rare perspective that can help policymakers come up with possible solutions to climate and security challenges.

Including journalists in the discussion

A wide range of people worldwide discuss in depth climate issues; scientists, politicians, famous actors, environmentalists and economists. Journalists are rarely invited to take part in these discussions, not to mention in decision making, even though they have a lot of experience and often report in depth on stories that reveal the relations between water, conflict and climate.

Since the start of the PSI, Free Press Unlimited has been working to include journalists from around the world in the discussion by inviting them to participate in the yearly Planetary Security Conference. This conference brings politicians, diplomats, researchers and environmental advocates from around the world together to exchange knowledge. Every year before and after the conference, Free Press Unlimited, together with media partner Stanley Foundation, organised a training programme for the participating journalists.

New mentoring programme

The South of Iraq, and more specifically the Basra region, is greatly affected by the changing climate. This leads to all kinds of new challenges for that region and Iraq as a whole. To specifically support this region, Free Press Unlimited starts a production and mentoring programme for local journalists. The aim of the programme is to provide local journalists and academics the opportunity to research and explore local stories related to climate change, water and potential conflict. Their stories and publications will be published in Iraqi, regional media, and the English translation on the PSI website. The publications have the intention to trigger discussions on a local level among affected communities, and at a national level among policymakers and experts in the field.

The mentoring will be done by Free Press Unlimited trainer Khaled Sulaiman. Khaled publishes extensively on climate change related topics on the independent online news site Daraj and has recently published a book on climate change and droughts in Iraq.

The mentoring programme has resulted in a few publications already, including one about how the rising sea levels affects the region of Basra, and one about how drought ignites tribal conflicts in Southern Iraq.

Vital role of journalists

Journalists working in the field have close contact with local communities, who are experiencing the environment changing around them. This generates a unique perspective and knowledge. Local communities could be suffering a lack, or floods, of water, with the effects of climate change and the conflicts that follow affecting them directly. Their voices should be heard, and policy makers held accountable. On the other hand, local communities also have a need for current information, to be kept up to date on the latest reports from climate scientists, and understanding the policies and solutions that are being implemented as a result. Journalists play a vital role in sharing information in both directions.

Mission

The approach of the consortium and Free Press Unlimited is to empower and value locally rooted independent quality journalists and academics as catalysts for change. Free Press Unlimited firmly believes in seeking engagement with local communities affected by climate change via journalism and new storytelling approaches which takes a solution based approach.

The Planetary Security Initiative is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Credits for the picture of the header: Metrography.