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Rebuilding Citizen-State Relations: Public Opinion, the Media, and State Viability Dr. Sina Odugbemi Program Head CommGAP, The World Bank February 4, 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Rebuilding Citizen-State Relations: Public Opinion, the Media, and State Viability Dr. Sina Odugbemi Program Head CommGAP, The World Bank February 4, 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rebuilding Citizen-State Relations: Public Opinion, the Media, and State Viability Dr. Sina Odugbemi Program Head CommGAP, The World Bank February 4, 2010 International Parliamentary Conference on Peacebuilding

2 Introduction Contexts are decisive Limits on analysis by an international civil servant  focus on issues and processes and  policy implications Presentation Outline Communication infrastructure and the public sphere Framing the state or nation Public opinion and legitimacy

3 Citizen-State Relations in Post-Conflict Countries The broad landscape: Unstable elite consensus Operative vs. deep consensus Unsettled idea of the nation Contested and in flux Weak legitimacy and exit temptations Fragmented media system and public sphere Ideal direction of travel: Rebuild a national media system and public sphere Cultivate a shared national identity Restore loyalty and legitimacy

4 Rebuilding the National Media System and Public Sphere Why it matters: State capacity implies effective communication infrastructure Ancient and modern “Spherecules” destroy state viability What it involves: Infrastructure of communication Coverage of territory Access by all citizens Shared national conversation space

5 StateCitizens Media Communication Infrastructure Infrastructure Loyalty & Identity Legitimacy

6 Role of the Media in Framing the State or Nation A nation is “an imagined political community” created, in part, by the media through targeting a mass audience or generalizing and addressing citizens as the public. - Benedict Anderson (1983), Imagined Communities… “We” vs. “They” narratives and mobilization Wars of the airwaves (within or without the country) Including ICTs Problem of selective exposure and return to conflict

7 Media Events Can Help Integration Media Events: Outstanding events that are covered by most national media Attract a very large audience Broadcast live Interrupt usual media schedule Interrupt daily routines (people gather in front of TV) Examples: Coronation of Elizabeth II. Truth and Reconciliation Commission South Africa U.S. State of the Union Address National sports team competitions (Nigeria, Iraq)

8 Mandela Plays the Springboks Card South Africa: Rugby World Cup 1995

9 “Nothing appears more surprising … than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. … as FORCE is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular. “Opinion is of two kinds, to wit, opinion of INTEREST, and opinion of RIGHT. By opinion of interest I chiefly understand the sense of the general advantage which is reaped from government; … When this opinion prevails among the generality of a state, or among those who have the force in their hands, it gives great security to any government. “Right is of two kinds, right to POWER and right to PROPERTY. … “Upon these three opinions, therefore, of public interest, of right to power, and of right to property, are all governments founded, and all authority of the few over the many.” - David Hume (1741), Of the First Principles of Government Public Opinion and Legitimacy (I)

10 Public Opinion and Legitimacy (II) David Hume: Of the First Principles of Government Legitimacy depends on majority opinions that: This government has a right to rule over me. This government and the state act in my interest (including the interest of my group). My rights and my property are secure. Substantive challenge State as “fountain of justice” (J.S. Mill) Communication challenge Shaping public opinion through two-way communication with the public Two-fold challenge

11 Without Voice, Exit is Tempting  A call for an inclusive politics  Suppression of voice is an invitation for a return to conflict - Albert Hirschman (1970), Exit, Voice, and Loyalty… VoiceExit Citizens express their dissatisfaction and prompt government to react Citizens turn away from the government toward other groups for identification Fragile state

12 The Ideal Post-Conflict Media System Constituted to encompass pluralism and diverse political debate A public service broadcaster that promotes voice, inclusiveness, and diversity within and without e.g., South African Broadcasting Corporation? A broadcasting code – and media ethics – designed to ensure civility and respect for all ethnic groups, sects etc.  Not easy to achieve in practice!

13 Observed Persistent Challenges with Regard to Post-Conflict Media Once the domestic players return to power, media structures become part of the power struggle. Under authoritarian control, information hegemony is still rampant. If deep divisions persist, ethno-sectarian media will flourish somehow (within and without the state). Authoritarian rulers forget “everyday talk” and its role in shaping opinions (mosques, temples, churches, clubs, workplaces, dinner tables etc.). Therefore, they’re sowing seeds for further conflict if grievances and lack of voice persist.

14 Conclusion Rebuild a genuinely national media system and public sphere Media system must support the idea of the nation or shared, inclusive political community Media events can help unite the nation Work to ensure that public opinion supports the joint enterprise Information hegemony and authoritarian control of the media is tempting, but will promote exit, not loyalty


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