Crisis communication: challenges for strategic communication and possible inter-governmental synergies

The latest Club of Venice plenary took place in Florence at the stunning facilities of the European University Institute. At the event, I had the opportunity to introduce the Migration Capacity Partnerships for the Mediterranean (MCP Med) concept. As an overarching framework that aims to bridge cooperation agendas between Europe and its southern neighbours, MCP Med is as an innovative, scalable and operational capacity framework for migration cooperation for Europe and its Southern Neighbourhood partners. MCP Med aims to fully operationalise the partnership concept, promote cooperation based on equal grounds and following the principal of joint leadership and shared responsibilities, where all parties jointly develop, design and deliver accordingly to their own industry standards and through a bespoke modus operandi approaches and modalities.

Club of Venice meets at the European University Institute

During the plenary I also had the pleasure to moderate a session on communicating climate change and gave a speech about crisis communication and challenges for strategic communication and possible inter-governmental synergies.

When it comes to communicating the current Ukrainian refugee crisis that is putting significant pressure politically, logistically and humanitarianly on the European Union, public communicators need to be ready to explain the situation clearly to citizens and stakeholders. Some of you may remember the intervention of the Polish Ambassador to the UK whom last winter in London at the Club of Venice StratComm meeting talked of “our Ukrainian guests.” While that is certainly a laudable effort, in a recent discussion in an advisory group on migration campaigns run by an international organization, with over 30 experts, there was agreement across the board that “solidarity is high at the beginning of crises but wears out fast.”

One thing that is quite certain is that as long as migration is dealt with as an ad hoc “crisis” rather a continuous phenomenon, policy makers will always be in difficulty in a sort of run to put down a fire after another rather than building a solid and functioning firefighter station. So how can we make this happen?

One of the answers is to move from “capacity building” towards “capacity partnerships.”

In Europe and its neighbourhood, countries have increasingly invested in development of capacities to address challenges, including, but not limited to, irregular migration, reintegration of returning populations and human trafficking. At the same time, cooperation on migration seeks to address expectations for comprehensive partnerships that can deliver benefits in the economy, development, stability and security and among others.

To achieve better partnerships with its Southern neighbourhood, as called for in the new Agenda for the Mediterranean and the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum launched respectively by the EU last year and the year before, the EU needs to meet rising expectations from migration stakeholders and strive for a coordinated approach to migration governance. Migration communications are too often relegated to tactical response to crisis. There is untapped potential for strategic communications to be proactive and pre-emptively pave the way to migration governance actions. Thanks to the work of the Club of Venice to bring together institutional actors from different levels of governance, I am confident that these priorities for public communicators will be addressed within the most appropriate fora.

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