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Governance

Whither Côte d’Ivoire?

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

    Don't assume anything.   Photo source FP.

The stand-off between Messrs Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara in Côte D’Ivoire highlights the new role of regional organizations in dealing with the challenges of irresponsible leadership in their own backyards.

In microeconomics we assume perfect information in the same way we often assume responsible leadership in fragile states. While the former is a convenient analytical artifice, the latter can be downright misleading.  

 

It is important to recognize this because our prescriptions for building public confidence and conflict-resistant institutions are predicated on a view of national leadership that may be the exception rather than the rule.

 

Leaders in violence-prone places are not necessarily thinking of some higher good when they choose a particular course of action. Many see their responsibility in narrow terms; an obligation that goes no further than serving their own self-interest and looking out for their friends.

 

These kinds of behaviors are hard to influence where politics is played as a zero sum game. To change them, the United Nations, the World Bank, and some bilateral agencies have supported programs to foster cooperative leadership and build coalitions. This takes a long time to show results and, of course, there’s no guarantee such a soft approach will work in a high stakes environment.   

 

Another way is to spell out the consequences of things turning sour. The diplomatic and development community tried this in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s by underlining the growing gap in social and economic outcomes between Zimbabwe and its neighbors.

 

Media freedom and violence prevention

Nicholas van Praag's picture
© Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Corbis
  
True believers in press freedom. 
© Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Corbis

How often it’s happened. Standing at the podium, almost finished with the press conference, when the question which I would love to ignore is shouted out from the gaggle of reporters.  As a communications professional, I wholeheartedly believe in press freedoms, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that there were times I wanted to muzzle an aggressive journalist with his "gotcha" question, or the reporter who quotes me out of context or misrepresents an issue I hold dear.   

In those moments, I can see how a politician or government official, with the ability to clamp-down on the media, might succumb to the urge.  The reality is that freedom of the press is a messy business.  But like Winston Churchill once said of democracy, it's the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.

The current debate over press freedom in South Africa, with the government considering legislation that would allow the state to keep secret any information, if it decided that disclosure would harm the “national interest”, has drawn fresh attention to the role of the media as societal watchdog.

Some people question whether media freedoms are appropriate or even relevant in fragile states where, they argue, the delicate political and social balance may be upset if people are allowed to write or broadcast exactly what they think about their government or their fellow citizens.

Haiti Video: Six months after the earthquake

Natalia Cieslik's picture

We often forget that before we thought of Haiti as a place recovering from a devastating earthquake, it was a country struggling with conflict, limited services, and extreme poverty.

Haiti was on a slow road to recovery when the quake hit and more then 250,000 people died. For many Haitians their nation's double tragedy is far from over. Although there are signs of hope and improvement.

 

Haiti: Education for All from WDR Video on Vimeo.

Do you have a big idea that can help address Conflict and Fragility?

Natalia Cieslik's picture

 

Call for Proposals - Feb. 15 – March 2

Soliciting Innovative Approaches and Research to be presented during the Conflict and Fragility Week in Cape Town, South Africa, April 12-15, 2010

Necessity is the mother of invention. Many times, people living and working under the most difficult and challenging conditions, with minimal tools and capacity, have come up with creative and even innovative solutions to the enormous challenges they face. Organizations and researchers around the world have been equally creative working with communities living in situations of fragility and conflict to find solutions to ensure delivery of basic services, improve governance and create jobs.

Innovation Fair: Moving beyond Conflict
This Innovation Fair, organized by the World Bank Group, is seeking to identify such high-impact approaches to working in fragile and conflict-affected states in order to share and, if possible, scale them up. The Fair will convene international experts on conflict and fragility, development researchers and practitioners, software developers, donors and private sector to exchange experience, establish new collaboration, and forge longer-term partnerships.