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Governance

The Mass Media and Ghana's Success

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As you must know, Ghana has just had a remarkable transfer of power from one party to another in spite of how close the contest was. A new president has been sworn in and the country is looking to the future as a stable democracy. From the perspective of this blog, two things have been striking.

First, the global news media have been all over the story. All the leading journals of opinion have published stories and opinion pieces saluting Ghana's achievement. It is also interesting how often the stories have been framed as one hopeful sign of progress coming out of Africa. You can feel the collective sigh of relief . And the reason that is interesting is that there is still a debate out there regarding the extent to which liberal constitutional democracy is a universal form of rule, not dependent on specific cultures. Ghana is saying Africans too can build a democratic political culture as well as anybody.

Correlations between Press Freedom and Human Development Demonstrated

Andrea Cairola's picture

With the new year, the UNESCO printing house has just come out with the copies of the paper “Press freedom and development: an analysis of correlations between freedom of the press and the different dimensions of development, poverty, governance and peace.”

It is satisfying to see brand-new books containing the study on which I’ve been working as part of a research project implemented by the Centre for Peace and Human Security (CPHS) at Sciences Po University, with UNESCO's support. And it is even more interesting to see some of the conclusions that the independent scholars reached in this research -- namely, that press freedom is positively correlated with good governance, human development, and democracy. This is, of course, one more argument to corroborate the theories on how a functioning public sphere contributes to peace-building and governance.

Media Literacy: Teaching that the Open and Fair Exchange of Information Is Vital for Civil Society

Susan Moeller's picture

One could make a strong case that the reason why Barack Obama won the US presidential election is because of “Media Literacy” — not just the “Media Literacy” of his campaign workers, but that of a wide swath of the American electorate. 

A Step Forward for UN Peacebuilding

Henriette von Kaltenborn-Stachau's picture

Just before the holidays I participated in a UN conference on the role of the public sphere in post-conflict societies. The one-day event, titled “Media and Communication in Peacebuilding” was organized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in collaboration with the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office.

Public Opinion in Action in 2008

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The power of public opinion is the power of ordinary citizens; it is the power of aware, engaged multitudes. And there is a way of understanding the spectacular events of 2008 in terms of the power of public opinion. Let's take just a few.

1. The first is the crisis in financial markets and the global economy. Whatever technical experts eventually decide to be the origins of the crisis, there is no doubt that public opinion has played a role in intensifying the crisis. It has done so through the collapse of public confidence in financial institutions generally. For what is 'confidence' but the opinion widely shared that the financial system is sound and your savings and investments are safe? That collapsed in so much of the world in 2008, beginning in the United States. There is no doubt that restoring 'confidence' will be crucial to ending the crisis; that means, recreating majority opinion in the stability and secure management of the global financial system.

The ‘New’ Politics of Public Service Broadcasting in South Africa: Is the SABC Insulated?

Fackson Banda's picture

One can be forgiven for suggesting that the South African Broadcasting Corporation is a microcosm of South Africa’s changing political landscape. In a way, this correlation between politics and state broadcasting has always been the ‘curse’ of the SABC, the legally sanctioned provider of public service broadcasting in the country. Prior to the ‘blessing’ of the multiparty democratic elections of 1994, the ruling National Party used the state broadcaster to inculcate the ideology of apartheid or racial separatism. 14 years after ushering in a multiparty dispensation, there is a sense of political déjà vu in the operations of the SABC.

The operational chaos being witnessed at the SABC is indicative of the fast changing political terrain in South Africa. Under the SABC Charter, the SABC is governed by a board of directors. Board nominees are vetted by a relevant portfolio committee of Parliament.

Human Rights Never Get Old

Andrea Cairola's picture

It was a hectic time for human rights last week here in Paris because of the many initiatives to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed on 10 December 1948 in this very town, at Palais de Chaillot. And it was hectic here at UNESCO’s HQ as well, which among many initiatives opened its doors to the last living witness of the Declaration’s drafting group, lawyer Stéphane Hessel awarded with the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize.
 
But working myself in the “Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace Division”, of course my focus was on the Declaration’s Article 19, the right of every individual to “freely seek, receive and impart information through any media and regardless of frontiers”. A perfect formulation by those wise drafters Mr Hessel was part of. And a forward-looking one if we think that the wording “through any media and regardless of frontiers” was conceived in the aftermath of WWII, but it is even more of appropriate nowadays in the age of the Internet. Let’s repeat it once again: “freely seek, receive and impart information” - that is to say the essential prerequisite for two-way flow of information among public sphere’s three sectors: the media, the civil society and the State.

Media Literacy: An Avenue to Broader Citizen Participation & Good Governance

Susan Moeller's picture

Development economists used to argue that elections were THE best instruments of accountability.  But events have overtaken that idea and now there are many, including Oxford economist Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion, who are focusing on the limitations of elections: “If you have an uninformed citizenry,” Collier says, “elections just won’t work.”

Once articulated, it makes sense that the sine qua non of good government and economic development is an informed society.  And on the face of it, getting critical news and information out to citizens should be an easier and easier task in today’s digitalized, networked and hand-held world.  But Collier and others note that most media—across regions and on any platform: print, radio, TV or online—aren’t interested in serving the public good, because “there is no finance to that public-good role.  Indeed far from there being finance for it,” says Collier, “there is actually a hostile environment to it….”

Communicating Change or a Shift?

Caroline Jaine's picture

Communicating change is a specialist field.  PR and HR companies charge a small fortune for seminars on the subject.  Whilst corporate and government communicators wrestle to understand how they might persuade colleagues that important, imminent, organisational changes are good for them - so that they can achieve that all important "buy-in" which leads to the shiny path of success - organisations are using change as a selling point

Why Democratic Institutions Matter

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

In certain circles, democratic governance is seen as something of a luxury in the developing world. What people really need are the basics: shelter, food, livelihoods, etc., the argument goes. Yet what frequently goes unsaid is the importance of democratic institutions and practices to such basics. Nowhere is this more apparent than during public health crises.


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