Recently, the lack of economic and social opportunities in many urban areas have triggered that the urban poor express a greater demand for a voice in local decision-making that affect their lives. An increasing number of city governments are realizing that open and responsive public institutions are imperative to achieving better and more sustained development results.
Important questions however remain: What are some examples of where the emerging Open Government approach has made a difference in the lives of the urban poor?
Something Is Changing
Fifteen years ago, the international community designed the Millennium Development Goals, including that of halving extreme poverty, through a process that mostly took place in New York, behind closed doors. A few years earlier, the World Bank had developed the guidelines of the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries from Washington, D.C. in a similar fashion.
Fortunately, this approach has changed.
Today, the process of identifying and consulting on the post-2015 development agenda has been opened to the general public including, importantly, those whom the goals are expected to serve. In fact, the United Nations and other partners have undertaken a campaign to reach out directly to citizens for ideas and feedback on the issues most important to them in the post-2015 agenda. Those who are formulating the post-2015 goals will no longer need to assume what the poor and vulnerable want: they will have a firsthand knowledge of what their priorities are.
The World Bank Group has explicitly stated that our new goals of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity cannot be achieved without institutions, structures, and processes that empower local communities, hold governments accountable, and ensure that all groups in society are able to participate in decision-making processes. In other words, these goals will not be within reach without a social contract between a country and its citizens that reduces imbalances in voice, participation and power between different groups, including the poor.
The World Bank Group is developing a framework to more systematically mainstream citizen engagement in Bank Group-supported operations with the goal of improving their results. The framework will build on experience from existing efforts and highlight additional context-specific opportunities to engage with citizens and seek beneficiary feedback.
The Bank would like to learn from the wealth of global experience in citizen engagement. Specifically, what works, when, why and how? Please share your experience through this short online survey. The team working on this would very much appreciate your input, which will help inform the framework.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Infographic: The Decline of Global Internet Freedom
Two years after the Internet went dark in protest of a proposed U.S. Internet censorship bill, four out of five people worldwide still don't have access to an uncensored Web. In celebration of the second annual Internet Freedom Day, Golden Frog released an infographic (below) chronicling the worldwide struggle for Internet freedom. "Everything you love about the Internet is at risk," the software firm said, painting a bleak picture of global Web sovereignty. Few countries can claim "mostly unrestricted" access; the U.S., U.K., Australia, and bits of South America, Western Europe, Africa, and Asia (specifically Japan) can freely roam the World Wide Web, without fear of government oppression or censorship. Almost half of the world, however, falls under heavy restrictions READ MORE
Rescuers Sift Through Social-Media Noise to Direct Typhoon Response
Wall Street Journal
In disasters like the typhoon that slammed into the Philippines, sifting through a barrage of confusing and conflicting on-the-ground reports is one of the first problems facing rescue teams. Social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook can make matters worse. All too often, users recycle what others have posted or retweeted without adding any fresh information. Sorting through all the noise is too much for individual agencies to handle on their own. So Swiss-born Patrick Meier is gearing up to attack the problem with a new approach called social mapping: Using a combination of volunteers and algorithms to filter the chaos and to provide rescue teams with a detailed, data-driven map of what they should be doing, and where. READ MORE
Are citizens receiving the greatest development impact for their development dollar? This is the basic principle at the heart of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to improve the transparency of aid, giving citizens in developing and donor countries the information they need to hold their governments to account for use of those resources.
Last week, as Publish What You Fund (PWYF) released their second Aid Transparency Index (ATI), which assesses adherence of the world’s major donors to their IATI commitments, the question turned from one of how institutions performed on the index to one of how aid transparency enables effectiveness, accountability and social change in real terms.
Kicking off the conversation, Duncan Edwards of the Institute of Development Studies challenged the basic assumption that because better data/information is accessible, citizens, governments and institutions will use it in their decision making processes. The common narrative in open development projects is flawed, Edwards claims, it simply cannot be proven that to “provide access to data/information –> some magic occurs –> we see positive change.”
AidData, along with several other voices, countered that while open data is certainly not sufficient to provoke positive change it is a necessary baseline to catalyze better development outcomes.
Transparency can only lead to greater social accountability if citizens understand what data means and if there is genuine public debate about a country’s development spending. The panelists at the October 24th Brookings Institution launch of the 2013 ATI report suggested how transparency can catalyze positive change:
Mwanachi, a Swahili word that means ordinary citizen, is the name of a governance and transparency program that was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development for five years in six African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leonne, Uganda, and Zambia. This program is the focus of a new report entitled Rethinking Social Accountability in Africa by Fletcher Tembo, who served as Director of the Mwanachi program since its launch in 2008. The report acknowledges the important role of several actors in in strengthening citizen demand for good governance, including civil society, media, elected representatives, and traditional leaders. At the same time, it challenges common notions of effective citizen-state relations that focus on a preoccupation with actors and actor categories. Instead, it argues that effective social accountability programs should focus on relationships and contextual realties that are driven by 'interlocution processes.' In other words, processes that address the complex web of incentives and actions through actors that are selected for their game changing abilities.
- Context-specific processes
- africa transparency
- Citizen Demand for Good Governance
- citizen empowerment
- Citizen Engagement
- Poltical Economy Analysis
- Political Institutions and Systems
- Research and Analytical Work
- Policy Engagement
- Voice and Accountability
- Sierra Leone
So having berated ODI about opening up access to its recent issue of the Development Policy Review on Transparency and Accountability Initiatives (TAIs), I really ought to review the overview piece by John Gaventa and Rosemary McGee, which they’ve made freely available until December.
The essay is well worth reading. It unpicks the fuzzy concept of TAIs and then looks at the evidence for what works and when. First a useful typology of TAIs:
By the late 1990s, moves to improve public finance management the world over led to the development of budget accountability and transparency as a sector in its own right…. An array of citizen-led budget TAIs has developed, including participatory budgeting; sector-specific budget monitoring (for example, gender budgeting, children’s budgets); public-expenditure monitoring through social audits, participatory audits and tracking surveys; and advocacy for budget transparency (for example, the International Budget Partnership (IBP)’s Open Budget Index). Many of these initiatives focus ‘downstream’ on how public funds are spent; less work focuses on T and A in revenue-generation, although this is growing with recent work on tax justice.
In recent years, Media & Information Literacy (MIL) has been increasingly recognized as a critical element in good governance and accountability. This is partly due to the rapid growth in technologies, which has contributed to a changing media landscape and new forms of citizen engagement. To thrive in this environment, citizens need the critical abilities and communicative skills to effectively access, analyze, and evaluate information. These skills will help citizens make informed decisions and form opinions that can impact their daily lives and the communities they live in, as well as minimize risks associated with the very same technologies, such as security, safety, and privacy. With its empowering effect, MIL can foster a citizenry capable and aspired to demand better services, hold leaders accountable and engage as active stakeholders in governance reform. Yet, MIL has struggled to gain the momentum needed to become part of the development agenda. However, this might be about to change.
I argued a few months back that information we get from story-telling is fundamentally different to what we get from polls and surveys. If we can’t predict what’s coming next, then we have to continuously work to understand what has and is happening today. (See: Patterns of voices from the Balkans – working with UNDP)
Methods we’re all used to using (surveys, mid-term evaluations) are ill prepared to do that for us and increasingly act as our blindfolds.
As I started working through the stories we collected, this question has become even stronger.
To give you some background, we started testing whether stories could help us:
Recently, I participated in several events that look at the space between empowered government (gov2.0) and empowered citizens (citizen2.0 both individuals and civic groups and NGOs).
One discussion was around tapping into networks of empowered citizens clustering around different issues for open policy making (Masters of Networks, Venice) and another on getting human-readable stories from data (Open Data on the Web, London).
Then, there was a question on how open data and modern technologies can improve environmental sector governance (#ICT4ENV, Cetinje), or strengthen political transparency and accountability (Point 2.0, Sarajevo).
Different countries, different venues, different leading institutions – but a common set of issues that I struggle with and that, I hope, will emerge as topics in some future events (one of those, shaping up to be the policy making 2.0. deluge in Dublin, is coming up this month).