There is a lot of attention paid to Freedom of Information (FOI) Acts.
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.
It may seem like a bit of a reach to connect the recent book about faulty rivets on the Titanic with the public sphere, but bear with me.
In my last post, I discussed one of the supreme values undergirding the democratic public sphere: the public use of reason, that is, a commitment to reason, to argumentation, and the possibility of agreement. I discussed the threat posed to that value and the possibilities of the public sphere if claims are based on the supposed demands of a Deity.
I think it is safe to say that on average religious faith plays a bigger role in public life in most developing countries than in the West or in places like China and Russia. In these latter societies, secular humanism appears to reign supreme.
The Bank’s increased attention to governance since the early 1990s has naturally brought with it calls for robust measures that enable us to specify what exactly we are trying to improve in this area and how well we seem to be doing it. Overall, however, the consensus on the centrality of good governance to development is yet to be matched by agreement on good indicators for it.
I sat down the other day with a group of specialists from a Country Team within the World Bank. We were discussing efforts to improve the governance system in that country and how a Program like ours - CommGAP - could help. It was a good meeting and we agreed on a way forward. But several of the specialists in the room raised a common enough challenge.
What is the basis of the claim that 'People, Spaces and Deliberation' are central to how you achieve good and accountable governance durably? One way of buttressing is to step back and reflect on two competing interpretations of governance, really, politics. The first interpretation of governance or politics is that it is purely and simply the business of the elite.
One of the foundational commitments of CommGAP is the belief that a national democratic public sphere is an essential and self-perpetuating part of the architecture of good governance. At the very heart of a democratic public sphere is a media system that is independent of government control and is both free and plural.