Yesterday I noted how the UN is trained media how to report on biodiversity, among other things. Today I’m going to look at their public relations campaign, called CEPA. There is some incredible stuff in here.
Here is perhaps the most interesting part of what the UN is doing regarding biodiversity. This document explains everything:
Article 6 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) calls on Parties to prepare National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) as the primary vehicle for implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity at the national level. Many countries have prepared their NBSAPs but still need to implement them or to successfully mainstream biodiversity conservation in the work of other sectors.
Parties have the challenge of developing effective communication education and public awareness (CEPA) strategies to implement the NBSAP and to stimulate and engage people to conserve biodiversity and to sustainably use natural resources.
In otherwords, the NBSAPs are the legislation regarding biodiversity which the nation has either passed, or is trying to pass. In order to over-come the challenge of developing effective communication to the public, this document was written. It explains how governments can take certain steps to educate the public about the biodiversity problem and their solutions. It is a fascinating read.
Let me stop for a second before I go into details of the document. If you think about the rationale behind this, it is very anti-democratic. They have either already implemented these plans, and are trying to sell them to the public as a positive thing, or they are trying to form the public’s opinion so they can then act. Notice there is no listening to the public for their desires, no possibility of stopping implementation of these policies. It is nothing less than a public relations campaign to put a good face on something they are going to do no matter what the public says. At least, that is how the UN has written this document. Now onto specifics. Let’s look at a graphic first:
“In several biodiversity–rich countries, the forces promoting biodiver-sity are not consolidated and powerful enough to influence major
policy decisions in favour of effective conservation policies…This gap in decisive leadership by governments remains a significant impediment to achieving substantive progress in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity.”
The forces promoting biodiversity? Gap in decisive leadership by government? This sounds nearly like war rhetoric. This tone is continued throughout the document.
Later they focus on different phases in the implementation of CEPA and what takes place:
Identification phase: During the policy identification phase CEPA’s role is to put the issue on the agenda, and to track the role of various organisations in society that are doing so. The government plays a low profile role, assessing how important the issue is, and the diversity of views held. Communication services listen to what people say and how people feel about the issue, and track the public dialogue in the mass media, and the views of stakeholder groups. This allows the government to pin point specific issues affecting the target groups of this area of biodiversity policy. Opinions are communicated by the government, attention is drawn to the issues and support is mobilised and the themes are defined.
They track public dialogue in the mass media, pinpoint certain issues, then communicate those issues and draw attention to them. Here’s the next phase:
Formulating biodiversity policy: In this phase CEPA is used to raise public awareness of the issues regarding biodiversity loss, increase the public’s understanding of the policy proposals and create broadly based support for the issues. The problems tackled are those which legislators have accepted but for which solutions have yet to be found. At this stage the target groups are opinion leaders, decision makers and the general public. The CEPA methods used are knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) surveys, assessing and deciding on how communication will be integrated in the policy mix of instruments, designing the CEPA strategy, and consultation with those who will be involved.
Here they raise public awareness and create support, tackling problems which “legislators have accepted”. They then target specific groups: opinion leaders, decision makers and the general public. Next phase:
Implementing the biodiversity policy: At this stage the aim is to communicate information about how to implement the policy. The idea is to communicate the substance of the policy and the accompanying measures to specific target groups. As intermediaries such as associations or NGOs play an important role in reaching target groups. Here, CEPA is used to mobilize networks and stakeholders, to explain benefits of participation and to build capacity for them in mobilising society. Methods of CEPA include information campaigns, specific information materials, marketing and advertising, training, education, consultation with target groups and stakeholders.
“Communicate the substance of the policy and the accompanying measures to specific target groups.” Such as NGOs, clearly the paradigm of the public will. Notice education is included in the list of ways to mobilize society. The Green Wave? Last phase:
Management and control: Here CEPA provides a service to sustain newly adopted attitudes and behaviour. The aim is to provide information about the policy that is being pursued as well as provide feedback reactions to that policy. CEPA may be in the form of an active service explaining complex regulations and legislation, or announcing modifications of policy instruments such as to incentives or legislation.
Sustain newly adopted attitudes and behaviour? I’m not sure what they means, except maybe they want to keep their supporters supportive once the legislation is enacted.
That the how the CEPA is enacted through the process. In my opinion, it subverts the democratic process by crafting public opinion in a particular way. There are many examples of this in the document. Here is an interesting statement made about perception vs. reality:
There is no one truth! I’m not sure how he can say that with any certainty…but that’s another story. There are several tips on how to motivate people here as well:
“To involve people, nothing is more powerful than working on their emotions”. I don’t doubt the validity of that statement, and many environmentalist seem to have taken that advice to heart. Here is both a humorous and frightening slide:
I’m not sure what is meant by media bias against biodiversity, maybe that is a problem in some other countries. Considering the UN deliberately trains journalists and partners with news agencies, it is hard to be worried about a bias against biodiversity. In any event, the second part of that graphic is what is frightening. In all caps, “MANY GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS AND MINISTRIES DO HAVE POSITIVE AND FLOURISHING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE MEDIA”. Whenever media and government get cozy, problems arise.
Here’s another example of government pushing the biodiversity agenda using CEPA tactics:
I like the second approach best. “In the second the NBSAP works with other actors in society to stimulate interest in biodiversity, so that teachers, parents and children ask for more opportunities to learn about biodiversity.” If you let them think it’s their idea, they will accept it more easily. Of course, it is the government that ‘stimulated interest’ in the first place.
All of this effort to shape public opinion can’t go to waste, so there is a section devoted to evaluating how well the CEPA tactics are working. Here is a graphic (click to blow up):
Does this seem creepy to anyone else?
“A tracking and account of press conferences, media briefings, editorial board appearances, TV news placements, radio talk show bookings, etc. as outlined in the campaign’s strategy…Monitoring key leaders’ use of the Internet to assess improvement in their communications skills, better use of technologies and their integration of communications into the overall strategies of the campaign...tracking the actions of organization connected to the campaign and of their members for evidence of increased membership or volunteer presence, voting patterns, public support and demand, and public willingness to inform inform or participate in the policy process.”
Tracking and monitoring the online actions of key leaders, organizations, and their members? We are talking about government surveillance of the internet in order to ascertain our opinions on biodiversity. Very big brother.
This document shows that governments (or at least the UN) have given extensive thought to the issue of manipulating the public in order to pass biodiversity measures. Combine that with their education of children in how terrible biodiversity loss is, and their direct training of the media in reporting biodiversity loss stories and it appears that the UN is intentionally presenting a distorted case of biodiversity loss in order to pass legislation for their own reasons.