By Yoichi Masuzoe, Governor of Tokyo
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report firmly centered on the reality of human-driven climate change. If we don’t take immediate and tangible steps to reduce the consequences of these actions, we will face an environmental crisis that will have a major impact on mankind’s existence. Here in Tokyo, we are extremely concerned about this danger, as it poses a huge threat to our goal of becoming a sustainable and environmentally-friendly city.
In the year 2030, it is estimated that the number of people living in urban areas will exceed 60 percent of the world’s population, and measures at the city level are now crucial. The effects of climate change are already becoming apparent in a range of forms, and Tokyo is no exception. Tokyo has undertaken several measures to mitigate these effects, including launching the world’s first urban cap-and-trade program. In addition, Tokyo is implementing a number of pioneering initiatives, such as measures to counteract storm surges and floods, as well as major earthquakes, and advancing urban planning to realize a more resilient city.
These laws are commonly referred as the right to information (RTI) or freedom of information (FOI). The international community recognizes citizens’ ability to access public information as a human right.
My good friend and colleague Naif was furiously sketching on a flipchart. His demeanor, usually calm and scholarly, was intense. Naif was sharing with us the main outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, the highpoint of Yemen’s state restructuring process which brought together the most disparate groups of Yemenis, from Houthis in the Northwest and Hadramis in the East to the Hirak in the South. They sat together and, through dialogue, agreed on a series of guiding principles aimed at guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, reducing the centralization of power, eliminating corruption, and empowering women and youth.
“Central bankers have had enormous responsibilities thrust on them to compensate, essentially, for the failings of the political system. And my worry is we don’t have sufficient tools to do that, but we’re not willing to say it. And, as a result, we push as hard as we can on the existing tools, and they may create more risk in the system.”
- Raghuram Rajan, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India since 4 September 2013. Prior to his post at the Reserve Bank of India, Rajan was chief economic adviser to India's Ministry of Finance in 2012 and chief economist at the International Monetary Fund from 2003 to 2007.
, making their government data available to enable public scrutiny and citizen monitoring, and enhance government accountability. The Open Contracting community is devising Open Contracting Data Standard to enhance disclosure and participation in public contracting processes. In the U.S., the GovLab at New York University developed an OpenData500 project that has an interactive visualization of how U.S. companies are using government data for new business opportunities. It’s all a good start.
Despite all these developments on opening up data interaction, a critical question remains: how can we make sure that governments disburse public resources to those that need it most, and that public contracts are allocated in a transparent, accountable and efficient manner?
In response to such situations, development specialists typically call for sector-wide reforms. And the design of such reforms draws on sector policy analysis and on the assessment of service delivery arrangements and capacity. Increasingly, since the 2004 World Development Report, sector reforms also seek to make teachers, health professionals and other service providers accountable to citizens and communities.
"And so the good news -- and we heard this in the summit -- is that more and more countries are recognizing that in the absence of good governance, in the absence of accountability and transparency, that’s not only going to have an effect domestically on the legitimacy of a government, it’s going to have an effect on economic development and growth. Because ultimately, in an information age, open societies have the capacity to innovate and educate and move faster and be part of the global marketplace more than closed societies do over the long term. I believe that."
-Barack Obama, President of the United States, speaking August 6, 2014 at a Press Conference after U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit
As noted in a blog post earlier this year, the World Bank Group is pursuing a Competitive Cities Knowledge Base (CCKB) project, looking at how metropolitan economies can create jobs and ensure prosperity for their residents. By carrying out case studies of economically successful cities in each of the world’s six broad regions, the Bank Group hopes to identify the “teachable moments” from which other cities can learn and replicate some of those lessons, adapting them to fit their own circumstances.
The first two case studies – Bucaramanga, in Colombia’s Santander Department, and Coimbatore, in India’s State of Tamil Nadu – were carried out between April and June 2014. Although they’re on opposite sides of the globe, these two mid-sized, secondary cities have revealed some remarkable similarities. This may be a good moment to share a few initial observations.
Bucaramanga and Coimbatore were selected for study because they outpaced their respective countries and other cities in their regions, in terms of employment and GDP growth, in the period from 2007 to 2012. Faced with the same macroeconomic and regulatory framework as other Indian and Colombian cities, the obvious question is: What did these two cities do differently that enabled them to grow faster?
This was a central question posed by CIVICUS in its recent report, “Beyond our Two Minutes: State of Civil Society / Intergovernmental Organization Scorecard.” This first of a kind report considered the mechanisms for and effectiveness of the civil society engagement policies in ten prominent international organizations, including the World Bank Group (WBG). It was published as part of the “State of Civil Society Report for 2014” which has become an annual flagship report on the status of civil society worldwide.
The IGO Scorecard assessed the following IGOs: FAO, OHCHR, ILO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNHCR, UN Women, WBG, WFP, WTO. The study assessed the civil society outreach policies and practices of the IGOs around four aspects and specifically: access, policy, programs, and empowerment. The perception survey was based on two online questionnaires which CIVICUS sent out earlier this year, one geared to CSO representatives and the other for IGO staff. CIVICUS received a total of 462 responses from CSOs (including 52 which commented on the WBG), and some 200 responses from IGO staff (including 26 from WBG staff).
Overall, the study found that global governance has undergone “incredible transformation” over the past 20-30 years, and there is much more space for civil society to access global organizations today. It notes that “where once IGOs had to justify the inclusion of CSOs in their work, today it is the exclusion of CSOs that requires justification.” It cites as an example the fact that the number of CSOs accredited with the United Nations grew from less than 100 in 1950 to over 3,900 today. Yet, the report found that it is not clear how seriously IGOs take civil society outreach and how much influence CSO leaders exert beyond their ‘two minute’ plenary speeches at UN conferences. The Scorecard found that IGO civil society ‘focal points’ also express concern about how effective their own outreach is, as well as feel that CSOs often lack the technical capacity and skills to influence IGO policies.
Good governance is critical for all countries around the world today. When it doesn’t exist, many governments fail to deliver public services effectively; health and education services are often substandard; corruption persists in rich and poor countries alike, choking opportunity and growth. It will be difficult to reduce extreme poverty — let alone end it — without addressing the importance of good governance.