EAC Communication Experts Discuss Joint Communication and Sensitization Strategies at the 4th East African Community Communication Policy and Strategy Forum, 10-11 March 2014.

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The 4th EAC Communication Policy and Strategy Forum concluded on 11 March, 2014 at the East African Community Secretariat Headquarters premises in Arusha, Tanzania.  The 10-11 March Forum brought together key implementers of the EAC Communication Policy and Strategy, mainly Communication Experts from the Partner States’ Ministries of EAC Affairs (MEACAs), EAC Organs and Institutions, and affiliate Organizations namely the East African Business Council, the East African Law Society, Kituo Cha Katiba: Eastern Africa Centre for Constitutional Development (KcK), East African Local Governments Association (EALGA), East African Civil Society Forum (EACSOF), to discuss joint communication and sensitization strategies and activities. The Forum also discussed the findings of EAC Brand Analysis undertaken in 2013. Addressing delegates on behalf of the Secretary General of the East African Community Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera, the Head of Department of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Mr. Owora Richard Othieno stressed that the Ministries of EAC in the Partner States, Organs and Institutions as well as the apex bodies have critical roles in implementing the EAC communication policy and strategy. He said there was need to harmonize work plans and activities highlighted in the Operational Plan of the EAC Communication Strategy. He called for concerted efforts in establishing a robust cooperation and participatory planning, organization and implementation of joint communication and sensitization activities hence increased public awareness and popular participation of all stakeholders in the integration process.  The current Chairperson of the Forum, Ms. Beatrice Kung'u, who is the Assistant Director/Head of Public Communications in the Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism of the Republic of Kenya, noted that the 4th Forum was convened at a time when EAC had just signed the Monetary Union Protocol in November, 2013. She urged the need for a joint approach towards the discharge of duties among all other Communications Experts within the MEACAs, EAC Organs, Apex Bodies and Institutions as well as crafting harmonized sensitization and public awareness messages and activities to publicize the EAC integration agenda.  At the Forum, reports were received on the status of implementation of the Communication and Sensitization activities in the respective areas. The Forum noted the increase in the sensitization activites being undertaken in all the Partner States for example in the Republic of Uganda, the directive by the government to sing the EAC Anthem at all public functions is being observed. In the Republic of Burundi there is placement of billboards with EAC messages in strategic places. In the United Republic of Tanzania, there are visits by the Hon. Minister of East African Cooperation and a team of offcials to senstize the border communities; while in the Republic of Kenya, there is enhanced and sustained media visibility of integration issues and the launch of annual EAC week in Public Univeristies. There are ongoing sensitization campaigns by East African Civil Society Organizations Forum members on EAC integration opportunities to citizens; and Lake Victoria Basin Commission media campaign on Lake Victoria Environment Management Project phase two (LVEMP II) in Kenya has been sustained. Kituo cha Katiba has continued to conduct training courses on the EAC Organs, Institutions and procedures, and Civil Aviation  Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) is taking the integration agenda to the regional aviation industry by holding the annual Aviation Safety Symposiums.  The 4th Forum reiterated the need for allocation of adequate funds for increased awareness and sensitization activities.  The 4th Forum formed a Task Force comprising of Communication Officers from the MEACAs, Kituo cha Katiba, EACSOF, and LVBC to prepare proposals on key joint sensitization, public communication and outreach activities that would require mobilization of funds at the regional level and submit to the Secretariat by 30th April 2014.  As per the Council directive at its 25th Meeting held on 27th to 31st August 2012, the Secretariat is expected to mobilize resources, where possible, from the Private Sector and Development Partners, among others, to implement the proposed activities.