Increased cross-learning and cooperation among developing countries has been a remarkable feature of the global economy in recent decades. It's been some time now since knowledge and technology flowed only from advanced economies ("North") to developing ones ("South").
The practice of deliberation has had its place in participatory governance, in development and other areas, for some time. What do you think of when you hear "deliberation"? Porto Alegre's participatory budgeting? India's Gram Sabhas? Parliament? America Speaks? It's all that - and so much more.
In the most common understanding, deliberation is some form of interpersonal discussion about an issue of public concern. This can range from everyday talk about political issues at, say, the kitchen table, to formalized group discussions that aim at solving a common problem. One definition comes from Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs*, who state that deliberation is "the process through which deliberative democracy occurs," a "specific, important, and idealized category within the broader notion of what we call 'discursive participation'." The category is ideal because, à la Habermas, it requires a range of ideal characteristics to be truly deliberative, first and foremost openness and equality of discourse.
The landmark piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law yesterday - The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 2010 - was a massive lift for all concerned. Students of governance always say that a crisis is one of the best opportunities for reform, yet the fact of the global financial crisis has not made the reform of financial services an easy lift in any country. And we all know why: banks are rich and they can hire the best lobbyists either to block or water down the reform. So, the reform process has been tough, but now we have the historic legislation.
Last Thursday night, Charlie Rose interviewed Barney Frank, the Chair of the Financial Services Committee of the US House of Representatives. Frank, together with Senator Dodd, his opposite number in the Senate, shepherded the new law through Congress over many tough months. Towards the end of the interview, Rose asked him to reflect on the lessons of the reform process itself. What had he learned? You might be surprised by one of the things he said; but, then, if you have been reading this blog, you might not be.
Here is what he said:
“Did you kill somebody tonight?” Durga Pokkherel asks the police officer while in police custody in Nepal, after hearing terrified screams. As told in her memoir, Shadow over Shangri-la, the police officer replies: “You always imagine something big. He is not killed. As a routine treatment he was enclosed in a sack and beaten. But he would not speak a word, so some other police friends put a couple pins in his fingers. That is all.”
The dialogue took place in late 1990s, when both Maoists and the state committed human rights abuses in Nepal, a country on the top of the world, where caste, ethnicity, gender status and regional disparities have largely determined inequality. Social exclusion fostered state fragility, a Maoist rebellion, and a civil war that lasted for ten years (1996-2006).
After an unpopular royal coup in February 2005, the international community put pressure on the government to accept international monitoring under the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The monitoring created the space for peaceful political protest and, in April 2006, the King restored Parliament. Civil war came to an end with elections and the declaration of the Federal Republic of Nepal in May 2008.
Before I joined the World Bank about a year and half ago, I worked for DFID, the British Government's development ministry. DFID is part of the British Civil Service. That means I was a civil servant. And I attended a variety of training courses at the Civil Service College.