How Radio Programming Can Promote Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace

Editorial from Daniel P. Aldrich, Director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program, Northeastern University


UNESCO is pleased to share this article by Dr. Daniel P. Aldrich, Director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program and Professor in political science and public policy at Northeastern University in Boston. Aldrich has published five books, more than 45 peer-reviewed articles, and written op-eds for the New York Times, CNN, and many other media outlets. He has spent more than 5 years in India, Japan, and Africa carrying out fieldwork and his work has been funded by the Fulbright Foundation, the Abe Foundation, and the Japan Foundation, among other institutions. He Tweets at @danielpaldrich.


It is appropriate that on World Radio Day 2019 we think about the ways that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments, and citizens can create cohesion and promote dialogue and peace through radio programming. While not a silver bullet that can solve all challenges, radio programming has the chance to help change attitudes and create new positive norms among listeners around the world in a cost effective way. I had the chance to study programs set up by the United States government in their new approaches to countering violent extremist organizations around the world. Under the category of soft security and development programs, I looked at programs focused on norm messaging through local radio programming in Mali, Chad, and Niger.


Initially through an analysis of data from 200 respondents in two similar, neighboring cities in northern Mali, Africa and then with surveys of more than 1,000 respondents from across Mali, Chad, and Niger I saw how radio listening changed perspectives and altered behavior in statistically significant ways. Controlling for demographic, political, and socioeconomic conditions, residents in these countries who were exposed to the programming displayed measurably altered civic behavior and listening patterns in comparison with their counterparts. Results show that individuals exposed to multi-level U.S. government programming were more likely to listen to peace and tolerance radio programming. Further, individuals who listened more regularly to such programs participated more frequently in civic activities (such as voting and meeting with their political representatives) and supported working with the West to combat terrorism. Those findings indicate positive effects from radio programming. At the same time, though, higher levels of radio listening had no measurable impact on opposition to the use of violence in the name of Islam or opposition to the imposition of Islamic law. Further, data indicate that women and men have responded to programming in measurably different ways.


These mixed results have important implications for current and future soft-side programs for countering violent extremism. Hopefully NGOs and governments alike will recognize the power present in radio programming and will continue to invest in programs that can bridge gaps and bring us together.


Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author; they do not necessarily represent those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.