The recent massive streets protests against the brutal and deadly assault on a young woman in a private bus in India capital, New Delhi, have been likened to the Arab Spring of India, a definitive turning point in the country’s political evolution. Clearly, in both its composition and content, the protests resonate with, not only the revolutionary street demonstrations in early 2011 in many countries in the Middle East, but also with a number of other movements that have burgeoned in countries across the world over the last couple of years. In the wake of the Arab Spring, and supposedly drawing inspiration from it, demonstrators occupied the financial centers of the US and Europe, conjuring up images of the 1960s. Unrest over austerity measures in European capitals hit by the global financial crisis continued. In the UK and Chile, students took to the streets protesting against high university fees. And in India itself, the anti-rape protests came on the heels of an anticorruption movement, unparalleled in its mass participation, media attention, and longevity.
Sometimes it seems like the devil has all the best tunes, while the angels struggle to get their message across. In development, some of the most interesting and important concepts are rendered impenetrable to non-specialists by a morass of jargon.
Take human rights for example. Yesterday was the International Human Rights Day, but I for one, find that the dry, legalistic and jargon-filled language of the ‘human rights community’ often seems depressingly, well, inhuman. One example is, alas, Oxfam’s new ‘Learning Companion to the Right to be Heard Framework’, published yesterday to coincide with this year’s International Human Rights Day’s focus on ‘voice’.
But please read it, because under all the jargon-laden sentences about ‘governance components as mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in delivery of quality essential services’ there is some real and useful substance. Trust me.
Yesterday’s post discussed two of the case studies from last week’s Asia Development Dialogue on active citizenship. Today’s installment covers my more general thoughts on the discussion, based on some final reflections I was asked to give at the end of the day.
First, I felt pretty privileged to be able to eavesdrop on a conversation between activists, political leaders and academics from 10 Asian countries: a women’s rights organizer from Myanmar seeking advice from a women’s leader from muslim Southern Thailand on dealing with ethnic conflict; a woman mayor from the Philippines asking a Cambodian leader if she had considered expanding her work on nurturing grassroots women’s political leadership to other countries. Fascinating.
The phrase “gender gap” may be well known – but what about the gender gap for data? Today at an event at the Gallup Organization in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called for better data-gathering on girls and women as an essential way to boost women’s empowerment and economic growth.
“Gender equality is vital for growth and competitiveness,” said Dr. Kim at “Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap” in Washington, co-hosted by the State Department and the Gallup Organization.
But the lack of gender-disaggregated data hampers development efforts in many countries, Dr. Kim said.
“We need to find this missing data. We need to make women count.”
A record number of CSOs participated in the recently concluded Spring Meetings in Washington. Over 550 civil society representatives (see list) – 200 more than in 2011 – attended the Civil Society Program which spanned five days from April 17 to 21. Of these, the Bank and Fund sponsored 29 CSOs / Youth Leaders and Academics (see list) from developing countries in order to ensure that voices and perspectives from southern civil society and young people were adequately represented at the Spring Meetings. These sponsored participants participated actively in a week-long schedule of events, including numerous bilateral meetings with Bank and Fund senior managers.
“……..I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” (Invictus by William Ernest Henley)
The genie is out of the bottle. Scanning the news reveals that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones, Internet, Satellite television and social media are having an effect on events in the so-called Arab Spring. The “Facebook Revolution” is becoming a buzzword. Not sure how and why, click here. Does this have any practical significance for our operational activities in projects or programs aiming to increase participation in socio, economic and political change processes? The answer suggested here is Yes. Traditional participation approaches referred to here as “Voices 1.0” are being directly influenced by the witnessed proliferation of ICTs rendering them more interactive “Voices 2.0”. This complimentary shift has direct implications for operational work throughout the project cycle.
All too soon the UN’s proclaimed International Year of Youth will be phased out. This will happen after the 12th of August 2011. For most youth development activists, I think the 12th of August 2011 which marks International Youth Day and the few days after should mark another time of stock-taking.
Building partly on a previous post on the value of indices, I'm highlighting this week a new edited volume published by Peter Lang Press, entitled Measures of Press Freedom and Media Contributions to Development: Evaluating the Evaluators. This rich and informative collection of essays, edited by Monroe Price, Susan Abbott and Libby Morgan, focuses a spotlight on well known indices in the area of press freedom and media independence, raising valuable questions about what the indices are measuring, what they are not measuring, and the linkage between assistance to independent media and democratization. I've contributed a chapter to this volume, as have expert colleagues such as Guobin Yang, Andrew Puddephat, Lee Becker and Tudor Vlad, Craig LaMay, fellow CommGAP blogger Silvio Waisbord, and many others.
World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated today and throughout this week with events around the world. Here in Washington, a veritable who’s who of journalists, free speech advocates, government officials and NGOs have gathered to network and learn from each other at the World Press Freedom Day 2011 conference, hosted at the Newseum by UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State.
This year’s theme is “Twenty-First Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.” Listening to some of the speeches, you can hear a distillation of several points that many of us who support voice and accountability repeatedly stress: the Internet and digital platforms, as well as traditional journalism, have tremendous potential to contribute to freedom of expression, democratic governance, and sustainable development. At the same time, that potential is prevented from its full realization by a host of factors, including governmental and other forms of censorship, surveillance, intimidation, and other means.
The Bangladesh Non-lending Technical Assistance on Local Governance (NLTA) is a policy and technical assistance instrument of the World Bank complementing the Bangladesh Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) that has been supporting the Union Parishad (UP), the rural local government since 2006. The NLTA, supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Norway and AusAID, is broadening the dialog on decentralization, strengthening intergovernmental frameworks, and enhancing downward accountability and citizen’s voice in local governance.
Under the NLTA program, one journalist from each of 64 district press clubs was trained in LGSP rules and social accountability process and established a Local Governance Journalist Network (LGJN) in early 2009. This network of journalist is carrying out investigative reports as “third party monitors” on the implementation of LGSP. They are also facilitating local level dialogues between UPs and communities; facilitating citizen’s to hold the UP accountable.
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.
Earlier this month, CommGAP hosted a conference on "Deliberation for Development: New Directions." The meeting was headed by the World Bank's Vijayendra Rao and Patrick Heller from Brown University and provided a vast and rich overview over the issue of deliberation as it concerns our work on the ground. Here's a little summary of the day, which by no means captures even a fraction of the wealth of information and knowledge that was presented, but may be an appetizer for our forthcoming book gathering all those contributions.
The first speaker, Arjun Appadurai of New York University, spoke about the importance of context: success of deliberation depends on factors outside the deliberative frame, mostly social and political power structures. Individual deliberation events may fail more often than not, especially if it's about allocating resources for the poor. However, while isolated deliberative occasions may be a failure in their own narrow context, in aggregation over time even those failures can alter those very contexts that made them fail at the outset.
- Vijayendra Rao
- Varun Gauri
- Susan Watkins
- rule of law
- Public Deliberation
- Poverty Alleviation
- Porto Alegre
- Policy Making
- Peter Evans
- Patrick Heller
- Participatory Budgeting
- Michael Woolcock
- JP Singh
- Jane Mansbridge
- Gram Sabhas
- Gianpaolo Baiocchi
- Ghazala Mansuri
- Gerry Mackie
- Female Circumcision
- Arjun Appadurai
- Archon Fung
- Ann Swidler
CommGAP and the World Bank Development Research Group Poverty & Inequality are hosting a conference on "Deliberation for Development: New Directions" on Friday this week. We have a number of high profile speakers and commentators lined up, who have done cutting-edge research on deliberation and how it can increase development effectiveness. The conference will be convened by the Wold Bank's Vijayendra Rao and Patrick Heller from Brown University. Arjun Appadurai (New York University) will talk about "Success and Failure in the Deliberative Democracy," Ann Swidler (Berkeley) and Susan Watkins (University if California) will discuss "Practices of Deliberation in Rural Malawi." JP Singh of Georgetown University will compare the participatory character of the WTO and UNESCO, while the World Bank's Michael Woolcock will examine the link between deliberation and the rule of law. Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Brown University) will talk about "The Global Translations of Participatory Budgeting” and Gerry Mackie (University of California) will address the educational effects of public deliberation.
“Spring Meetings” is the name used to describe a series of events—seminars, roundtables, press briefings and official meetings—spread over five or so days every year and all geared toward one thing: improving the lives of people in the developing world.
Discussions throughout the week focus on a broad range of topics (see meetings and civil society forum schedules) and are in many ways a prelude to the main event—the official meeting of the Development Committee—a group of 24 finance and development ministers appointed by each of the countries, or groups of countries, represented on the Boards of Executive Directors of the Bank and Fund. This year's meeting is set for Sunday, April 25.
The Development Committee meets twice a year and advises the Boards on critical development issues and on the financial resources needed to promote economic development in developing countries. The President of the Bank has a special responsibility to propose topics that he believes require the ministers’ attention.
This year’s agenda, just announced, includes:
- Strengthening Development after the Crisis: World Bank Group Post-Crisis Directions, Internal Reforms and Financial Capacity
- World Bank Group Voice Reform: Enhancing Voice and Participation of Developing and Transition Countries in 2010 and Beyond
Bank President Robert Zoellick just gave his traditional pre-Spring Meetings briefing to the press, where he talked about a multipolar world economy and how the World Bank is changing to meet the needs of a new reality.
“Economic and political tectonic plates are shifting,” he said. Developing countries are key sources of demand for recovery from the crisis, and “over time, they can become multiple poles of growth.”
Zoellick said the Spring Meetings represent a turning point for the World Bank. Over the weekend, the institution’s 186 shareholders will be considering four issues:
- the first capital increase in more than 20 years
- whether to give developing countries a bigger say in the running the institution
- the Bank’s post-crisis strategy, and
- the most comprehensive reform program in the Bank’s history.
"Agreement on this package of measures, if successful, would represent a multilateral success story,” he said.
For more information:
- Spring Meetings press briefing—prepared remarks
- Financial resources website
- Meetings on Twitter
- Meetings on Flickr