Their voice comes in minor or major key – as rap, folk or pop. Boy, they do have a voice, and they are raising it, as a citizen voice and as a singing voice. On voices-against-corruption.org music bands from around the world are making the pitch, in different languages and different sounds: Congolese and Philippine pop singers, Macedonian and Senegalese rappers, and beautiful Zimbabwean choruses are amongst the many bands that come together to support a global youth anti-corruption network and to help break the silence that still surrounds this pressing challenge in many of their home countries.
Greeks and Greek-Americans in the U.S. Diaspora, like myself, have been watching the strikes, demonstrations and tragic deaths that have brought our country to a standstill with mixed emotions. The images of Athens burning, tear gas rising and riot police clashing with citizens sharply contrast with images of white sandy beaches, beautiful islands, historic landmarks and mouthwatering cuisine that usually come to mind. Despite feelings of shock, sadness and even anger, to those who know Greek public political culture in its entirety, it is not surprising to most that this day would eventually come. Greek citizens, immigrants and those with strong ties to the country, admit the role that societal norms, mainly tax evasion, nepotism, clientelism and bribery (all very persistent in Greek public political culture) are in part responsible for bringing the country to the brink of collapse. For the past decade, Greek citizens did not heed warning their culture of corruption and the shadow economy could not sustain the system.
I was passing through Accra recently and while walking through the lobby of the hotel was stopped by a poster for a regional conference on Freedom of Information and at the same time ran into several colleagues and old friends. It was an interesting exercise to be very aware of an issue and personalities but be on the outside looking. The conference was well attended, drawn by the start power of former US president Jimmy Carter, his center and high level activist and political figures from Africa. The Carter Center which has been at the forefront of this work is able to draw attention to and raise the profile of the issue in West Africa.
But what did it all mean to local people? When I asked Ghanaians working or staying at the hotel about the conference, there was very high recognition but mostly it was linked to former President Carter. But the issue drew little recognition or excitement. Ghana did announce that after years of languishing on the books an FOI bill would be introduced into Parliament. But to the people outside of the conference this would have little impact on their daily lives. Their worries were much more about food, shelter, safety, schooling and the actions of the government in power on their lives.
Why don’t Finns worry about locking their bikes on a busy Helsinki Street? Why do Finnish skateboarders who advocate anarchy politely abide by traffic laws? Why indeed is Finland so uncorrupt? The answers to these questions are presented in a paper by Darren C. Zook called “The Curious Case of Finland’s Clean Politics,” which a colleague recently shared with me. Zook points out that, puzzlingly, most corruption literature today focuses on countries where corruption is rampant in order to document and examine incidents and causes of corruption. Instead of focusing on the bad news, he posits, why not learn from the “clean” countries? His paper examines Finland as a source of inspiration for a model of clean government.
Current rehabilitation and development rhetoric calls for listening to the Afghans and giving them the lead. Sadly, actions too often defy these wise words. The challenge is to make way for genuine in depth Afghan involvement at a time when the problems inherent in a lackluster government beset with corruption are so complex, and, particularly, when the aid-dispensing agencies so often disregard coordination and cooperation.
Politics within the prevailing environment of conflict imposes a sense of great urgency, no doubt, but many basic development principles are being set aside when they are most needed. Plans that rest on massive projects designed by outsiders lavishing too much money and demanding instant implementation are bound to be ineffective. Quick fixes never have worked. Throwing around money indiscriminately just compounds problems and raises new dilemmas. Sustained development, as has been established for decades, requires patient on the ground interactions over time.
Yesterday I attended an excellent presentation by John Fingleton, Chief Executive of the UK office of Fair Trading. He discussed his recent paper: “Government in markets – why competition matters – a guide for policy makers".
As you can see from many of our blog posts, we're somewhat struggling with getting a good grip on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and their role for governance and accountability. We're also somewhat split along the lines of enthusiasm and scepticism with regard to the possibilities of using ICTs to straighten out a distorted public sphere and further development. This morning I learned about eProcurement, a very particular application of ICT in the context of government accountability, that seems to me a good argument in favor of us technology enthusiasts.
Shanta from the World Bank's Africa blog looks at the relationship between teachers and politicians. One explanation for the poor quality of education in some developing countries is that many teachers are nothing more than political appointees. This often means that they don't bother showing up for work:
Earlier today I pondered Bill Easterly's thoughts on how to help Haiti. Tomorrow I will have the opportunity to hear the thoughts of another World Bank alum-turned-charming curmudgeon: Joseph Stiglitz.
The World Bank’s Investment Climate Department (CIC) has reviewed the recent literature on the relationship between restrictive regulation, corruption and business environment reforms, finding that corruption is positively correlated with restrictive regulation.
This morning I published an interview with Jean Pesme from the World Bank's anti-corruption program StAR. Here's a look at what else happened on Anti-Corruption Day:
Today is Anti-Corruption Day, and the day prompts this reflection on aspects of the fight against corruption. I was at the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Doha, Qatar, November 9-13. It was an opportunity to witness the debates around anti-corruption efforts, attend seminars and meet experts, officials as well as activists. Here are the impressions/conclusions that I came away with:
December 9th is the UN's official anti-corruption day, and in order to celebrate, PSD blog has been working with t