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Encouraging leaders to do the right thing

Nicholas van Praag's picture

“Spare the stick, spoil the child.”

Rewarding the rewardable

That was the advice from proponents of the tough love approach to parenting that prevailed in Victorian times.


Plus ça change. Looking around the world today, encouraging leaders in fragile states to do the right thing, whatever that might be, is more about punishing them for erring in the performance of their governance duties than rewarding them for doing good.


There is a panoply of international sanctions to punish leaders who abuse human rights, undermine constitutionality or indulge in corruption. Some are regional, others global. Some are formal, others informal. Whatever their provenance or legal standing, the stick remains the instrument of choice.


Mechanisms to recognize or reward good leadership are few and far between. Yet leaders are human and, unless they are beyond redemption, they are more likely to respond to recognition and rewards than sanctions and reprimands.


The Nobel Peace Prize and the Ibrahim Prize are both strong incentives and could be emulated to acknowledge the contribution of leaders who consistently do well.  Why not find ways, for example, to reward ministers who make a lasting impact on corruption or top brass in the military who reform the security sector peacefully? 


The World Cup and lessons from South Africa’s transition

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Who would have thought that rugby could change the world?  Two decades ago the apartheid regime in South Africa was brought down by a range of pressures.  But the clincher for many South Africans was being ostracized from rugby and other global sporting competitions. 

As South Africa prepares to open the 2010 World Cup, the country's passion for sport is offering an equally powerful way of celebrating its full membership in the international community.

With the national team about to square off against Mexico in the first of this year's matches, I am thinking as much about the drama of penalty shoot-outs and the like as lessons of peaceful transition. 

When I was in Cape Town a couple of months ago I visited the city’s brand new football stadium which is squeezed between an up-scale residential neighborhood and the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a pretty amazing structure.  I also visited one of the gritty townships in the Cape Flats area north of the city. It was hard to believe I was in the same country.

The peace process that produced the country’s first one-man one-vote elections in 1994 unleashed a wave of optimism that reverberated around the world.  It took with it the systemic divisions of the apartheid era but South Africa’s trajectory over the intervening years shows how difficult it is to put divisions and violence of the past behind and start over.

Transparency trickles down...Berlin

James Martone's picture

The Democratic Republic of the Congo was accepted as an EITI Candidate Country in 2008.

In April, I was sent to an EITI conference in Germany to question participants for an upcoming World Bank video.  I didn’t know much about EITI and its multi-donor trust fund which the World Bank manages, so I did a lot of reading on the plane from Washington, and was in place and ready the next day with cameraman Axel Goppelt outside the main doors of the conference hall in Berlin.

We interviewed EITI country members and representatives of countries supporting EITI, as well as NGO’s intent on securing social and environmental rights of people living in nations dependant on natural resources like minerals, gas, oil and timber.  We also interviewed private companies involved in extracting these resources.

The views were many, some conflicting, others not.  You will find those details in the upcoming video, so stay tuned to the EITI-MDTF website!!


Nigel Roberts's picture

Bamiyan, Afghanistan—December 12

    Nothing lasts forever, not even a good government. After more than three decades of conflict, violence, and extreme poverty, many Afghans hesitate to trust outsiders. Photos ©Ed Girardet.

The statues

The empty frames in the rock face greet you as you land in Bamiyan—home for 1500 years to two great carved Buddhas, until the Taliban pulverized them in 2001. Unlike the inhabitants of Bamiyan, the statues survived several major episodes of invasion and mayhem, most notably Genghis Khan’s 1221 rampage in which every person and every animal is said to have been slaughtered. A number of other invaders tried to obliterate them—in particular the Indian emperor Aurangzeb’s troops, who hacked their faces off in the 18th Century. The will was there, but the requisite technology wasn’t available until more recently.

Tragic as the dynamiting of the statues was, there is another way of looking at this episode of zealotry. In the words of the journalist Matthew Power, “High up in the empty alcove, I was struck by the absurdity of trying to kill the Buddha with tanks and rocket-propelled grenades. I recalled the Buddhist practice of contemplating emptiness, and realized how utterly the Taliban had been defeated.”