Addicts are known to be narcissic – they tend to think that their affliction is unique and cannot possibly be compared to anyone else.
I start a new job next week, so more riveting (I hope) field experiences to come. For now, I wanted to introduce a few projects, most “new” in the field, that have caught my eye.
Soccer (aka football) is more than just a fun, popular, international sport. Soccer plays a role in international development by funding global education, effecting positive social change and producing renewable energy. Yes, renewable energy.
Soccer and Society
Amazon, the company behind the Kindle, perhaps the world's most famous e-reader, recently announced an international version of its digital book reading device that will allow users to connect via 3G to download content in over 100 countries. The early success of the Kindle, together with products like the Sony Reader, and the excitement over recently announced products like the Nook and Plastic Logic e-reading devices (Wikipedia has a nice list of these things), portends profound changes to the way we consume and distribute reading materials going forward. The excellent (and highly recommended) Mobile Libraries blog explores what all of this might mean for one of most venerable of all information gathering, curation and dissemination institutions: the library. While Mobile Libraries documents issues related to how e-books and the like may transform the roles of the library in the industrialized countries of Europe, North America and Asia, there is no clear equivalent information resource highlighting what such advances might mean for developing countries. But, in various ways, many people and projects are hard at work exploring such issues.
Andrew Puddephatt’s Exploring the Role of Civil Society in the Formulation and Adoption of Access to Information Laws defines the main contours of Access to Information (ATI) movements in 5 countries (Bulgaria, India, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom). In Bulgaria, ATI was established by an environmental eco-glasnost movement that emerged in a post-Communist society (glastnost meaning transparency). In India, the ATI movement was embedded in a larger, anti-corruption movement led by the rural poor communities. In Mexico, a group of social activists and experts from academia and media conducted a targeted campaign for ATI just as Mexico was joining the OECD, NAFTA, and the WTO. The campaign for ATI in South Africa grew out of a post-apartheid civil society which recognized that information (or the systemic denial of it) was a key factor in perpetuating racial, social and economic inequality. The movement for ATI in the United Kingdom was spearheaded by a specialist NGO that capitalized on a government in the process of implementing broader constitutional reforms.
|An IFC investment helps provide clean, affordable water to underserved communities in developing countries.|
Many of the measures proposed in the World Development Report (WDR) 2010 will require substantial engagement with the private sector. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has estimated that more than 80 percent of the investment required for climate change mitigation and adaptation will have to be privately financed. For this to happen, the key requirement will be meaningful targets and supportive public policies.
One area in which private initiative will be critical is in the development and dissemination of new climate friendly technology. As the advance edition of the WDR states, "Technological innovation and its associated institutional adjustments are key to managing climate change at reasonable cost. . . . Mobilizing technology and fostering innovation on an adequate scale will require that countries not only cooperate and pool their resources but also craft domestic policies that promote a supportive knowledge infrastructure and business environment."
For several reasons, an increased focus on accelerating new technology is urgently needed.
A year ago I was assigned from a World Bank operations team providing support to countries in Europe and Central Asia on energy, climate mitigation and adaptation to work in a Bank administered trust fund, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), as a thematic coordinator for energy and climate change in this program. One of my roles is to coordinate a program that is providing support to six emerging economies—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa—that are proactively seeking to identify opportunities and related financial, technical and policy requirements to move towards a low carbon growth path.
The program has been underway for two years and individual country studies have been managed by World Bank operational teams. The governments of these countries have initiated country-specific studies to assess their goals and development priorities, in conjunction with greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation opportunities, and examine the additional costs and benefits of lower carbon growth. This requires analysis of various development pathways—policy and investment options that contribute to growth and development objectives while moderating increases in GHG emissions.
It is uncontroversial that the resources governments spend belong to the people. How these resources get allocated varies from country to country at the national and local levels. Debates and deliberations surrounding the budgetary process are usually technical, tedious, and time-consuming. Nonetheless, budgeting in the public sector is a critical entry point for the demand for better public goods and services and, more broadly, meaningful and effective citizen engagement. If citizens could exercise their voices in the prioritization of public sector spending, then government programs would have a higher likelihood of reflecting the needs and wants of constituents. So a key challenge and opportunity in this area is finding a judicious balance between solid technical analysis and meaningful citizen participation.
Last week and this, the Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA) piloted the new World Bank Institute's (WBI) new Core Learning Program "Introduction to Social Accountability" near Johannesburg, South Africa. CommGAP was invited to present a module on "Communication and Strategies for Constructive Engagement" - introducing our core concepts and messages on mobilizing public opinion to create genuine demand for social accountability. Here's a comment from the evaluations of our module: "The mobilization of public opinion is vital for social accountability. I have to admit that I was not aware of the importance of public opinion for social accountability before this course!"
When I went to South Africa in the winter of 2008, I was eager to cross the Atlantic Ocean and set foot on African soil for the first time. Also, I was excited to be able to meet and share ideas with the other young finalists of the International Essay Competition I have mentioned before in my blogs. And yet, I wasn’t expecting that South Africa would also teach me a lesson about how cruel human beings can be as well as how crucial forgiveness is for a society.