It often seems to me that in international development today a bifurcated reality exists when it comes to the potential or actual role of the news media in the governance agenda.
Former Hong Kong anti-corruption administrator Bertrand de Speville was at the Bank recently, speaking about political will on anticorruption. According to de Speville, there are seven essentials to fighting corruption:
I went to New York with a colleague last week to visit the Open Society Institute (OSI). At CommGAP we are always seeking to win friends and influence networks. We met the Open Society Justice Initiative team. It was a useful and productive meeting.
There is a fascinating story in this week's edition of The Economist ('Calling the shots' May 3rd 2008 page 72). It is about the media in India. Apparently, some top Indian newspapers are signing 'private treaties' with businesses. According to the story, the newspapers accept payment for ads in the form of shares in the advertiser's firm. The magazines very legitimate concern is that this increasingly popular practice is exposing Indian newspapers to growing conflict of interest... The magazine also quotes an India media activist , Sevanti Ninan, and he says this practice will "grow and grow in a media which anyway has little notion of conflict of interest." The great danger in a situation like that is that headlines will be bought and paid for without the public knowing who is doing the paying. The integrity of the newspapers in question will be greatly damaged if this is revealed, but the real problem is that the public will not know the truth and public opinion will be manipulated by hidden puppet masters.
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.