UNDP upskills journalists to work on environmental issues

August 2, 2019

Photo credit: Andrey Krepkikh / UNDP Ukraine

Kyiv, 22 July 2019UNDP has launched the School of Environmental Journalism to raise the awareness of Ukrainian journalists, media activists and bloggers in the field of environmental protection and sustainable energy. Through it, environmental journalists can become advocates of change to improve the state of the environment, the rational use of natural resources, energy transformation and consequently a clean and safe environment for everyone.

Interest in environmental information is closely linked to the environmental situation around us, as confirmed by a sociological survey conducted by UNDP and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in December-November 2018. According to the survey’s findings, nearly a third of Ukrainian citizens – 29.7 percent – believe that low awareness and lack of knowledge about environmental issues and risks in Ukraine is preventing citizens and businesses from taking environmentally friendly steps. Also, a third of the population (30 percent) believe the government should regularly inform the public about the state of the environment and environmental risks to nature.

"The media have a strong potential to shape society’s agenda and promote ideas of sustainable development,” said Sukhrob Kakharov, the United Nations Development Programme Officer-in Charge. “The School of Environmental Journalism is a bridge between citizens and the ‘green’ agenda set by the Verkhovna Rada and civil society – key priorities for policy makers in the field of sustainable energy and environment for the period up to 2030.”

"The newsfeed or TV spots are among the key tools in shaping and communicating demands that environmental priorities be included in the programs of political parties and their leaders. We aim to provide news-writers with a wide range of tools for covering environmental issues, and to teach on how to use them effectively." 

Two training modules have already taken place as part of the School: in Kyiv on May 17, for journalists from the central regions of Ukraine and the capital, and in Lviv on July 11, for media representatives from the western regions. A total of more than 50 participants attended the events.

Representatives of relevant government agencies, experienced journalists, scientists and representatives of public organizations shared their experience and insights into the internal processes of environmental policy formation.

"For successful reforms in the environmental area, joint work with the media is essential to widely cover the complexity and stages of the reform process,” said Mykola Kuzio, Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine.

“Not only will it ensure citizens are aware – it will also contribute to their active engagement. And that’s already halfway to success. Ukrainian society needs quality changes in the environmental area in compliance with the best European standards. We can implement such reforms if each time we can place every event or occasion in the broader context of the relevant reform, knowing exactly where this event or occasion is on the reform implementation roadmap."

A European Union tool that has been actively used in Ukraine since the end of 2017 is the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure. Maryna Shymkus, Head of the Environmental Impact Assessment Division of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, described how the Unified EIA Registry could be used effectively in the work of the media and in journalistic investigations.

An important objective of the School of Environmental Journalism is to not only to produce more penetrating insight into such topics as European integration, climate policy, waste management, renewable energy, and so on, but also to offer a practical tool for working in these areas: help in searching for reliable information sources and experts, the use of appropriate terminology, and advice on topic selection.

"Journalists are often faced with one-sided information, myths, or complicated official materials on climate change. But this is a topic with extraordinary opportunities for the media! " noted Olha Vesnyanka, a trainer at the School of Environmental Journalism, journalist, a winner of contests for journalists on the goals of sustainable development, and a winner of the "For Contributions to the Development of Climate Journalism” award.

"I aimed to explain climatic terminology in simple words, share my own long-term experience in communicating climate policy issues at UN international conferences, and give advice on choosing experts and topics,” added Vesnyanka. “That’s because climate change is about everything: energy, urbanism, lifestyle, health, money. With this approach, journalists usually find it easier to work on the material and submit it to their editors."

During the training sessions, journalists acquired skills in working with environmental protection terminology, in particular in the field of climate change, and practiced preparing pieces on environmental topics and working with the Unified Registry of Environmental Impact Assessments, among other activities.           

The next module of the School of Environmental Journalism will be held on August 20 in Kramatorsk for journalists from the eastern regions of Ukraine. The selection of participants for this module has already started at: http://bit.ly/SEJ_East

Background information:

The School of Environmental Journalism was launched under the project "Support to the Parliament of Ukraine on sustainable energy and environment," implemented by the United Nations Development Program with financial support from Sweden, as well as the Green agenda for Ukraine up to 2030 – a set of policy priorities in the sustainable energy and environment area for Ukraine.

Media inquiries: Yuliia Samus, UNDP Communications Specialist, yuliia.samus@undp.org, +38 097 139 14 75