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2014: The Graveyard of Fevered Hopes?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The year that is ending in two weeks has exhibited two sobering characteristics. First, it has been marked by apocalyptic violence (the massacre of school children in Peshawar, Pakistan being the latest outrage). Second, it has been marked by pressures on communication freedom, and the relentless squeezing of civic spaces. The violence we all know about; for it seems to be kicking off everywhere. But the causes are legion; the politics in each case is bewilderingly complex. So, we’ll leave these alone and hope for the best. But we might usefully reflect, as the year closes, on what is happening with national public spheres and the emerging global public sphere.

There is a narrative of hope and freedom about the global communication context. That narrative celebrates the mobile wave and the astounding spread of information and communication technologies. It talks about how wonderful all this is for voice, for enlightenment, for freedom. Look, we are told, see all those cool young kids with their fancy gadgets, social media skills, and their ability to launch collective action eruptions, even revolutions! See how admirable and hopeful all this is, we are told. And, yes, events have often backed up the fevered hopes and dreams, even this year. Yet, as the year ends, the overwhelming sense one gets is that dark and powerful forces are counterattacking. They are certainly not on the ropes. Let’s look at the particulars:

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Illicit financial flows growing faster than global economy, reveals new report
The Guardian
$991.2bn was funneled out of developing and emerging economies through crime, corruption and tax evasion in 2012 alone, according to the latest report by the Washington-based group, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), published on Monday.  The report finds that, despite growing awareness, developing countries lose more money through illicit financial flows (IFF) than they gain through aid and foreign direct investment. And IFFs are continuing to grow at an alarming rate – 9.4% a year. That’s twice as fast as global GDP growth over the same period. Though China tops the list of affected countries in terms of the total sum of money lost, as a percentage of the economy, sub-Saharan Africa was the worst affected region as illicit outflows there average 5.5% of GDP.
 
Development’s New Best Friend: the Global Security Complex
International Relations and Security Network
The United Nations’ blueprints for the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reveal an interesting trend. Whereas the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused exclusively on development initiatives, the SDGs look set to interweave security into what was once solely a development sphere with the inclusion of objectives that seek to secure supply chains, end poaching and protect infrastructure. This shift reflects lessons learned from 15 years of implementing the MDGs and, even more so, broader global trends to integrate security and development initiatives.

People Power: What Do We Know About Empowered Citizens and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live)

Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by citizens.

Much of the standard work on empowerment focuses on institutions and the world of formal power – can people vote, express dissent, organise, find decent jobs, get access to information and justice?

These are all crucial questions, but there is an earlier stage; power ‘within’. The very first step of empowerment takes place in the hearts and minds of the individuals who ask: ‘Do I have rights? Am I a fit person to express a view? Why should anyone listen to me? Am I willing and able to speak up, and what will happen if I do?’

Asking, (and answering) such questions is the first step in exercising citizenship, the process by which men and women engage with each other, and with decision-makers; coming together to seek improvements in their lives. Such engagement can be peaceful (the daily exercise of the social contract between citizen and state), but it may also involve disagreement and conflict, particularly when power must be surrendered by the powerful, to empower those ‘beneath’ them.

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile Technology Leads New Digital Economy

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Throughout 2014, People, Spaces, Deliberation has focused attention on the rising importance of mobile phones, cloud computing, data and business intelligence, and social media. These megatrends have dominated the technology and communications landscapes and promise to do so in the future as well.

Executives— in both the public and private spheres— are taking note of these megatrends. When asked, “Which do you believe will have the greatest positive impact on your business over the next five years?” survey respondents of a global report, Digital Megatrends 2015, from Oxford Economics gave the following answers. 



Civil Society Engagement Crucial in World Bank Group’s Development Efforts, Global Opinion Leaders Say

Jing Guo's picture

Ending extreme poverty is achievable, but the World Bank Group cannot do it alone. It needs strategic and meaningful collaboration with governments, the private sector, and civil society partners that have local expertise, experience, and connections. 

The Bank Group currently engages with hundreds of civil society organizations (CSOs) every day in various stages and areas of its development activities. How is its engagement efforts perceived by civil society and other stakeholders? Is citizen/civil society engagement a vital ingredient for successful reforms? How can the institution engage more effectively? 

Recent data from the annual World Bank Group Country Opinion Survey, with input from over 9,000 stakeholders around the world, shed light on these important questions. 

As part of ongoing efforts to better understand the needs of global stakeholders and partners, the Bank Group undertook Country Opinion Surveys in 42 developing countries from July 2013 to June 2014 (as part of an annual program that conducts surveys with opinion leaders in all client countries every three years). 9,255 opinion leaders from government, bilateral/multilateral agencies, civil society, academia, media, and the private sector participated in the survey and shared their views regarding the Bank Group’s work and relationships on the ground.

The Things We Do: What Obamacare Teaches Us About Consumer Behavior

Roxanne Bauer's picture

How bad would the customer service at your bank have to be for you to switch to another?  How long would you have to sit in a waiting area, reading bad magazines, before you would look for a new doctor?  How about switching health insurance plans?

At the foundation of economics is the premise that people make rational choices, based on the information they have. This may be true, but as a decision becomes more complex, so does our desire to avoid it. According to the literature on economic behavior, this phenomenon is known as consumer inertia.

As Stigler and Becker (1977) state: “the making of decisions is costly, and not simply because it is an activity which some people find unpleasant. In order to make a decision one requires information, and the information must be analyzed. The costs of searching for information and of applying the information to a new situation may be such that habit is often a more efficient way to deal with moderate or temporary changes in the environment than would be a full, apparently utility–maximizing decision” (pg. 82).

How Communication can Help Break the Chain of Corruption in the Private Sector

Roxanne Bauer's picture

When one thinks of corruption in the private-sector, grand scenes of executives paying bribes, bidders lying to win contracts, and senior accountants setting up secret bank accounts are likely to come to mind. In reality, though, the most common form of corruption is small-scale bribery involving people at every step of a company ladder. 

Small-scale bribery can take many forms, including non-disclosure of conflicts of interest, setting up deals that benefit particular people, or paying a little extra money to speed up a normally slow process. You might not think the everyday payments people make to building inspectors, customs officials, their friends across the street, or to themselves matter, but they can create a culture of corruption and set an expectation for future payments.

This was one of the main points of a panel discussion, “The Role of Integrity Compliance and Collective Action in Making the Private Sector a Partner in the Fight Against Corruption” at the International Corruption Hunters Alliance conference held at The World Bank Group December 8-10, 2014. The panelists were Dr. Andreas Pohlmann, Billy Jacobson, and Cecilia Müller Torbrand. Galina Mikhlin-Oliver of the Integrity Vice Presidency of The World Bank was the moderator.

Quote of the Week: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Many of my colleagues say, ‘Well, you know, music is above or beyond politics.’ I have the opposite view. I would very much like to be in the centre of the political debate. And I think one of the problems of classical music, or whatever you call it, is that we have been marginalised as part of the uppermost crust of society.  We play our Mozarts and our Beethovens, and it’s quite pretty and it doesn’t annoy anybody.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen, a Finnish orchestral conductor and composer. Salonen is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Mobilizing Social Media to Fight Corruption

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Social media and anti-corruption efforts may sound like strange bedfellows, but as communication technology continues to evolve and as mobile devices are increasingly dominant platforms for accessing information, social media is ever more connected to attempts to thwart corruption.

“Voice of Corruption Hunters in Social Media”, a panel discussion at the International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA) Conference hosted by The World Bank Group, provided a nice summary of the importance of social media for communicating on anti-corruption. Jeremy Hillman, Christine Montgomery, Jessica Tillipman, Matthew Stephenson, and Julie Dimauro filled out the panel and provided an interesting break-down of the role of social media and some stories to back up their claims.

Social media, in field of the anti-corruption, serves two distinct purposes according to the panel:
 
  1. Analysis, commentary and advocacy
  2. Investigation and crowd-sourcing

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
Tightening the Net: Governments Expand Online Controls
Freedom House
Internet freedom around the world has declined for the fourth consecutive year, with a growing number of countries introducing online censorship and monitoring practices that are simultaneously more aggressive and more sophisticated in their targeting of individual users. In a departure from the past, when most governments preferred a behind-the-scenes approach to internet control, countries are rapidly adopting new laws that legitimize existing repression and effectively criminalize online dissent.

Is vote-buying always bad for development?
International Growth Center
Elections in the developing world suffer from considerable problems such as ballot fraud, low voter education. electoral violence, and clientelism. If developing world elections do not revolve mainly around policy accountability, there could be important consequences for economic development

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