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Citizenship

How Can South Africa Promote Citizenship and Accountability? A Conversation with Some State Planners

Duncan Green's picture

How can states best promote active citizenship, in particular to improve the quality and accountability of state services such as education? This was the topic of a great two hour brainstorm with half a dozen very bright sparks from the secretariat of South Africa’s National Planning Commission yesterday. The NPC, chaired by Trevor Manuel (who gave us a great plug for the South African edition of From Poverty to Power) recently brought out the National Development Plan 2030 (right), and the secretariat is involved with trying to turn it into reality.

I kicked off with some thoughts which should be familiar to regular readers of this blog: the importance of implementation gaps, the shift in working on accountability from supply side (seminars for state officials) to demand side (promote citizen watchdogs to hold the state to account) and the challenge from the ODI-led Africa Power and Politics Programme that accountability work needs to break free of such supply/demand thinking and pursue ‘collective problem-solving in fragmented societies hampered by low levels of trust’, which seems a pretty good description of South Africa, according to the NPC. I gave the example of the Tajikistan Water Supply and Sanitation Network as an example of how this can be done through ‘convening and brokering’.

Once I shut up, it got more interesting (funny how often that happens). Some of the most interesting questions (and responses from me and others).

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

FreedomInfo.org
Reasons Advanced for Lack of African FOI Laws

"Why does Africa have comparatively few freedom of information laws?

The reasons were explored in a number of papers presented at The First Global Conference on Transparency Research held May 19-20 at Rutgers University-Newark, N.J. (See overall report in FreedomInfo.org.)

One reason is that the western, liberal concept of access to information conflicts with different traditions of citizenship and governance in Africa, said Colin Darch, of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. “Indeed, the fact that the African campaigns for legislation per se have either lasted for decades or failed to get off the ground at all may be evidence that the wrong tree is being barked up.”" READ MORE

Civil Society: To What Purpose?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

"Associations may socialise individuals into practising core civic and democratic values, such as tolerance, dialogue and deliberation, trust, solidarity, and reciprocity."
 
I'd mentioned in a previous post that I had a few more thoughts on this report on citizen engagement from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC) at the UK's Institute of Development Studies (IDS). In light of recent conversations at the Bank regarding civil society, I've been thinking about the significance of framing civil society in instrumental terms (i.e., as a means toward an end in achieving sectoral reforms) vs. framing it as a fundamental institution of good governance. 

Shared Societies: The Link Between Inclusion and Economic Growth

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada and Member of the Club de Madrid, presented an argument in favor of fostering "shared societies" at the World Bank today - providing, unintentionally, CommGAP with a systematic case why inclusive communication and accountability promotes economic growth. The "Shared Societies Project" of the Club de Madrid operates on the assumption that inclusive societies are more peaceful and economically more successful. A shared society, in this organization's understanding, is a society "where people hold an equal capacity to participate in and benefit from economic, political and social opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, language, gender or other attributes and where, as a consequence, relations between groups a peaceful."

Institutions for Imperfect, Unpredictable People

Darshana Patel's picture

Since time immemorial, human beings have been defined by the theory of the state of nature.  The theory goes that - without an external, governing hand - humans enter a state of anarchy. Decades of work by Professor Elinor Ostrom, however, have gone into proving the limitations of this theory. In Crowding Out Citizenship, Ostrom describes the many assumptions behind the way policy textbooks and planners view human behavior:
 

“Centrally designed and externally implemented rules-based incentives – both positive and negative – are seen as universally needed to overcome all types of social dilemmas….The state is viewed as a substitute for the short-comings of individual behavior and the presumed failure of community. The universal need for externally implemented incentives is based, however, on a single model of rational behavior which presumes short-term, self-interested pursuit of material outcomes as the only mode of behavior adopted by individuals.”
 

“Leviathan is alive and well in our policy textbooks,” Ostrom says.
 

An Extra Hand

Stacy Alcantara's picture

Empowering women who constitute the majority of the most marginalized sectors in South Asia goes beyond simply giving them positions to occupy in government. It means equipping them to be able to represent their sector effectively as they occupy seats in one of the most premier decision making bodies in their countries—the government.