Numbers alone do not confer strength, and if that can happen in an advanced democracy just imagine how tough it is to make numbers count in a poor, developing country.
A reader's comment to the blog post Whose Will Constitutes 'Political Will'?
"Political will" is surely one of the more elusive terms in the international development community. Sina captures much of its ambiguity well in his posting. In addition to what it is, we might also ask where political will comes from. In some cases it originates with an individual, generally situated somewhere within the state apparatus (best if at a high level) who becomes the "champion" that Sina refers to. But political will can also stem from civil society advocacy that puts enough pressure on the state to develop the political will needed to bring about action. The civil rights movement in the USA had champions over many decades, and they made some progress (e.g., Eleanor Roosevelt and the Marian Anderson singing controversy of 1939, recently commemorated on its 70th anniversary at Lincoln Memorial this past Easter in Washington). So there was some political will in high places that helped. President Truman's desegregation of the US military in 1948 offers another example. But it took another 20 years and a huge, sustained civil society effort to accumulate the pressure needed to strengthen political will sufficiently to pass the landmark civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s. So it was a combination of political will on the inside and civil society on the outside that moved civil rights along over the years, with each reinforcing the other. More recent examples abound (e.g., environment, women's movement). Analyzing the synergy involved and crafting ways to support it should be a critical focus of CommGAP.
There's nothing worse that can happen to a young scholar at her first conference presentation than having one of the big founders of one's academic field sit in the first row and stare intently at her poor little PowerPoint presentation. This happened to me with Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, one of the most eminent figures in the field of contemporary communication studies.
“Global problems require global solutions,” a newspaper editorial recently asserted in its analysis of the current economic crisis. From a communication studies perspective, stressing a particular aspect of an issue – in this case, the global nature of the crisis -- is called “framing.” To further one’s position, advocates frame an issue by emphasizing some aspects of the phenomenon and deemphasizing others. Contrasting frames on economic issues have been ubiquitous in the media for some time. Compare, for example, the ways in which The Economist and CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight interpret economic realities. Given the current crisis, the framing battle is even more apparent. Protectionists might prefer to focus on a country’s deteriorating local job market and claim that the most pressing need is for government to protect domestic employment or a “domestic jobs frame.” In contrast, those who believe in free markets might argue that protectionist policies will lead to contracting national economies and that the solution is greater liberalization or a “free trade frame.”
In this blog I am addressing the second of the ‘Ten Key Issues on (Development) Communication’ that states that there is a sharp and profound difference about a good everyday communicator and a professional communicator. I apologize to those of you who have this distinction clear in your minds and find this an obvious point. Unfortunately, many, too many, managers and decision makers in development institutions do not always seem to understand the difference between the two.
I have heard many times the sentence ‘He/she is a good communicator’, a seemingly positive statement. However it is a statement that can be rather frustrating when used interchangeably to denote a person skillful in presenting ideas and points of view and a person with a professional expertise in the field of communication.
In discussing governance reform efforts that have not worked, the phrase 'political will' comes up a lot, usually in the formulation 'lack of political will'. But it appears that the phrase is so elastic it is becoming meaningless. So, what really is 'political will'? Or, better still, whose will constitutes 'political will'?
In international development, 'political will' tends to mean this: we got the government to agree to a program of reform, either to accept a grant or take a loan designed to pay for the program. The leading government official involved in the process is known at 'The Champion'. Soon enough, in most cases, 'political will' means 'we have a champion in place'. This is what I call The Lone(ly) Champion Syndrome. Comes implementation and problems crop up. Is 'The Champion' influential enough to see the reforms through in the specific context? Is 'The Champion' even going to survive in office long enough to be helpful? As a colleague of mine likes to say, the champion at the beginning of the reform effort is not likely to be the champion at the end...assuming you still have a champion.
Afghanistan needs more well-trained Afghan soldiers and better Afghan police, but the question is who will pay for them? The country cannot afford to pay the additional costs out of its own limited budget resources—any further money coming from this source will be at the expense of much less funding for urgent development priorities like educating children, improving basic health, building public infrastructure, etc. Will the international community commit to provide predictable funding for a number of years for Afghanistan’s security sector? This is a critical backbone of the state, whose development is essential to over time progressively replace international military forces which are far more costly. Creating security forces without the ability to pay for them will lead to obvious problems. And while expanding the Afghan security forces, it is critical to ensure that sound oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.
“Effectiveness in aid is also effectiveness in governance”, said Mark Nelson, senior operations officer at the World Bank Institute (WBI) during a recent panel discussion on the progress-to-date of the
One of the major features of public discussion around the current global financial crisis is that the language of macro-economics is dominant. Different theories of macro-economics are being used to shape policy prescriptions, and these prescriptions are being shouted at policy makers. I suppose policy makers have to take Macro-economics 101 in order to be effective in their roles. Which is fine. But what about citizens?