A few weeks ago, I delivered the convocation lecture at the Federal University for Technology in Owerri on the theme,“Nigeria’s youth: Turning challenge into opportunity”. While preparing for the lecture, I pulled up some numbers. Some of them really startled me.
I'm spending a few months based in South Africa – so it's been principally through the lens of that country's vibrant newspapers that I have been viewing the Arab spring, watching as a seemingly frozen authoritarian political order undergoes a thaw.
We like to think of doctors and teachers as knights in shining armor, focused purely on our well-being, without regard for profit or other personal interests. The reality, we know, is more complicated. Doctors, teachers, and even World Bankers, are motivated by a range of internal and external factors, from altruism through to self-interest.
The technocratic (and ideological) ‘best practice’ approach to development intervention is indeed bankrupt. The world badly needs more imaginative and effective ways of engaging with the stubborn realities of governance in poor developing countries. As Brian Levy has argued, ‘working with the grain in a way that takes institutions and politics into account’ is the right approach. And a typology of realistic governance reform approaches is a good place to start.
When discussing a report last year on devolution and accountability in Vietnam , we faced the challenge of distinguishing accountability from responsibility since they are so similar when translated into Vietnamese. Similarly, Bank documents often find it necessary to explain the difference between (bad) governance and corruption. Clearly, we think these differences are important or we wouldn’t bother explaining them.
I spent four years co-directing a grassroots legal empowerment organization in Sierra Leone called Timap for Justice (“Timap” means “stand up” in Sierra Leonean Krio). One of our clients was a cigarette seller and sometime sex worker from the east end of Freetown—I’ll call her Kadiautu. A drunk off-duty police officer brutally beat Kadiatu after an argument one night, not far from the station.