Economic Progress

What does media coverage of the SDGs tell us?

Mauricio Ríos
Communications Officer, World Bank
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The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York in the midst of great expectation and hype. The 17 SDGs, with 169 specific targets, are now becoming the road map for governments and the international development community for the next 15 years.

Now that all the publicity and excitement are starting to settle down, it seems opportune to look at the media coverage of the SDGs and developing countries to get a sense of how that coverage has played out over the past few weeks, and what some of the insights are that we can learn from for the way forward. This coverage mainly includes articles from various publications, websites, and blog posts in the English language. It does not include social media statistics from Tweeter or Facebook.

An analysis of this media coverage featuring the key words “SDGs” and “developing countries” show that, over the past three months, more than 2,400 articles mentioned these two key words somewhere in the text of the articles. The analysis, using the Newsplus database, covers the period July 8-October 8. It shows that almost a quarter of that coverage (more than 600 entries) took place during the last week of September when the UN meetings were held. However, the second week of July, right before the summer break, was also active in terms of SDG-related coverage, signaling an important communications effort in the lead up to the UN September meetings.

151021-sdg media coverage document distribution

Given the key words used, “SDGs and developing countries”, it is perhaps not a surprise that the most mentioned subject in the coverage is sustainable development, followed by poverty, and the environment.  Amongst the top 10 subjects, we can also find climate change and development/humanitarian aid, as well as famine-related stories. Domestic politics and international relations also are broader subject categories. The most mentioned industries, however, presents another picture, with renewable energy, development banking, and health care as the industries most mentioned in the coverage. The top ten mentioned industries also include financial investments, agriculture, waste management, and broadband infrastructure.

It is worth noting the latter since it has been widely acknowledged that digital technology, the data revolution and the spread of broadband coverage will play a central role in accelerating data collection and measuring progress on the SDGs, as well as enabling governments to improve their decision-making capabilities, and delivery of critical services. In other words, digital innovation and the role of information communication technologies will be critical for achieving the SDGs.

Furthermore, in terms of the most mentioned regions in this coverage, Africa leads the group of most mentioned regions, including a particular focus on Ethiopia and Kenya. Other developing countries amongst the top 10 mentions include India, China and Bangladesh.

On the other hand, the United States is most mentioned amongst the developed countries (perhaps naturally, given that the UN Assembly took place in New York), followed by the United Kingdom and New Zealand. This may also be explained by the fact that the analysis focused on English language media coverage.

In terms of most mentioned companies or organizations, the United Nations leads the pack of the most mentioned, followed by the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The high mention of the IMF related to the SDGs may seem a bit surprising, but this shows a more proactive and visible IMF regarding the development/poverty agenda, and particularly the SDGs given their critical relevancy for the Fund’s mission. The Africa Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the World Economic Forum, and the OECD are also part of the top 10 featured organizations.

The analysis also features the most mentioned executives, with the President of the Asian Development Bank,Takehiko Nakao, Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank and Christine Lagarde of the IFM as the top 3 most mentioned executives.  In terms of countries’ dignitaries, the most mentioned include Presidents Jinping Xi of China, Barack Obama of the US, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.  Luis Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank and Achim Steiner of the UNDP are also part of the most mentioned executives. And perhaps a bit surprisingly (or not) the top 10 group also includes Jorge Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis.

 Most mentioned executives

Last, but not least, the analysis also sheds some light on the most mentioned sources of this English language media coverage. The news agency All Africa, for instance, comes on top, followed by Foreign Affairs, based in New Zealand, and Devex, the development platform. Amongst the more mainstream media, we find Reuters, The Guardian, Dpa international service, and Xinhua news agency.

 Most mentioned sources
The SDGs, or Global Goals, aim to encourage countries to end poverty and boost shared prosperity in a sustainable manner. To achieve these goals and the more than 160 targets, a global and multi-stakeholder partnership will be needed. This brief analysis gives a glimpse at some of the main actors, industries, media outlets and organizations around the globe that are being most  visible and vocal about the importance of the SDGs for developing countries.

What other insights or main take away do you derive from this sample analysis?

This post first appeared on The World Bank’s People, Spaces, Deliberation Blog. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Mauricio O. Ríos is currently a Communications Officer with the World Bank’s Transport unit.

Image: Children, mimicking the actions of their paired adult, read newspapers. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz.

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