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July 2010

Frank Talk About Social Accountability

Sabina Panth's picture

An important book has just been released by the World Bank: Demanding Good Governance: Lessons from Social Accountability Initiatives in Africa (edited by Mary McNeil and Carmen Malena). The book is important because the content is provided by practitioners in the field, who share real life examples from their firsthand knowledge and experiences.  This is likely to further South to South learning, and, therefore, a departure from the standard literature in the field.  
 

The book describes and analyzes the work of seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Benin, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The case studies were identified from multi-country social accountability stocktaking exercises commissioned by the World Bank Institute in view of representing a variety of approaches, strategies and objectives within a range of political, social, cultural and institutional context.  The analysis and descriptions of these seven initiatives are intended to serve as a resource for government and civil society representatives who are interested in exploring similar possibilities for their countries and for research communities and donors to promote and support enhanced social accountability and demand for good governance in Africa.  The following are some questions that the book attempts to answer:

Social Media for Good Governance: No Silver Bullet Yet

Tanya Gupta's picture

In my last blog, I wrote about the potential of social media in promoting good governance, specifically participatory governance.   The example I talked about – participatory processes used in President Obama’s “Race to the Top” - was in the context of a mature democracy, with enabling institutions, infrastructure and an engaged civil society, all of which contributed to the success of “Race to the Top”.  However, even in an environment where these elements are not present, social media can still contribute to improved governance, although in a different and perhaps more limited way.  Despite the lack of strong institutions, rampant poverty, limited infrastructure, and the ever-present threat of censorship, social media (often fuelled by mobile technology) has played a role in countries such as Bangladesh and Iran.  
 

Sanctioned Secrecy: EurekAlert!

Naniette Coleman's picture

Is secrecy the anti-thesis of transparency or an important tool in a reformist’s toolbox? In a world struggling for transparency is there a role for secrecy.  A number of reputable medical and science journals including the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA), the New England Journal of Medicine and Science magazine seem to think so. They have been practicing the fine art of secrecy since their inception. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, "Triple A-S" (AAAS), an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world and publisher of Science magazine, is even in on it. In fact, Triple A-S created a website to help further the cause of secrecy, more commonly called embargoed news. The site is EurekAlert! and it is currently available in both English and Chinese

 

Marguerite Sullivan on Independent Media, Persuading Policymakers, and Jailed Bloggers

Antonio Lambino's picture

CommGAP recently interviewed Marguerite H. Sullivan, Senior Director of the National Endowment for Democracy's Center for International Media Assistance (NED-CIMA).  She talked  about the need for a broader conception of independent media, how to persuade policymakers on Capitol Hill, and the alarming number of jailed bloggers around the world.  Here's a partial transcript:

CommGAP: What is your definition of “media development” or “media assistance”?

SULLIVAN: When we talk about the environment in which an independent media can flourish, it’s like a stool with a number of legs, which include the following: professional journalists; a strong legal enabling environment for journalists; and media literacy on the part of the public. This means that citizens should be enlightened consumers of the media. It also means good governance; that the government has an operative system that is responsive to media inquiries, and has in place efficient and effective mechanisms to get information of public interest out to the people.

What the Public Would Want If It Knew Better

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

We have often moaned about opinion polls and their limited value on this blog. You know, those things where people get asked about their favorite toothpaste and that gets sold as public opinion? The question, of course, is how to do it better. Public opinion is an intricate phenomenon. We don't really know how to define the public to begin with, let alone how to figure out their opinion.

There's been a great model around since the mid 90s: Deliberative Polling. Introduced by James Fishkin, Deliberative Polls are designed to "show what the public would think about the issues, if it thought more earnestly and had more information about them,” to provide a “glimpse of the hypothetical public” (Luskin, Fishkin, and Jowell, 2002). It works like this:

A Governance Reform Message from Barney Frank

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The landmark piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law yesterday - The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 2010 - was a massive lift for all concerned. Students of governance always say that a crisis is one of the best opportunities for reform, yet the fact of the global financial crisis has not made the reform of financial services an easy lift in any country. And we all know why: banks are rich and they can hire the best lobbyists either to block or water down the reform. So, the reform process has been tough, but now we have the historic legislation.

Last Thursday night, Charlie Rose interviewed Barney Frank, the Chair of the Financial Services Committee of the US House of Representatives. Frank, together with Senator Dodd, his opposite number in the Senate, shepherded the new law through Congress over many tough months. Towards the end of the interview, Rose asked him to reflect on the lessons of the reform process itself. What had he learned? You might be surprised by one of the things he said; but, then, if you have been reading this blog, you might not be.

Here is what he said: 

Public Engagement in Policy Making: the Kerala Way

Sabina Panth's picture


In my previous post I discussed the importance of harmonizing national/regional development goals and priorities with local needs and aspirations and mentioned the Indian State of Kerala that has utilized the decentralized platform to integrate social accountability measures into local governance planning.  In this blog, I will summarize the Kerala experience, drawing from the paper on the subject by S.M Vijayanand.

*Ke Nako: Celebration and Interrogation

Naniette Coleman's picture

Highway Africa

The cradle of humanity created technological innovation and, despite media depictions of rampant difficulties, there are numerous successes that can be attributed to both the African Continent and the African Diaspora.   One of these such success stories is “highwayAfrica.”

 

From July 5-7 attendees at the 14th annual “highwayAfrica: African Voices In The Global Media Space” conference gathered to “celebrate and interrogate” African journalism and media. “At the center of Africa’s debates on journalism, media and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the conference has, over the years, become the largest annual gathering of African journalists in the world.” 

Quote of the Week: Alastair Campbell

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"If you are in a senior position in politics or at the very top in business, it is probably as well to assume that life is on the record. When the organisers of any event you are speaking at tell you it is being held under “Chatham House rules”, and that everyone in the room is utterly discreet and trustworthy, it is best to nod and smile. Make a mental note that it is difficult for Chatham House rules to co-exist with Twitter, Facebook and the 24/7 media culture."

 

Alastair Campbell
in the Financial Times
from July 13, 2010

Donor Bureaucrats As Obstacles To Reform Initiatives

Sina Odugbemi's picture

For two days last month (June 21-22) CommGAP and the Governance Practice in the World Bank Institute organized a workshop on the theme: The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action. In attendance were practitioners and academics from around the world, including several leading donor agencies. While the insights from the very productive workshop are being organized - they will be made available as soon as they are ready - I want to share this report regarding an unanticipated leitmotif of the meeting.

Without prompting, several donor agency officials, and they were senior ones, turned their attention to the challenges posed to reform efforts by the behavior of donor bureaucrats. I have just been through the notes I took during the meeting, and what follows are some of the  comments that were made. The meeting took place under Chatham House rules, so no names will be mentioned here:

Creating a Platform For Media Dialogue

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

An announcement from our colleagues at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung:

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) launched a new publication series on media issues in Africa 

fesmedia Africa, the media project of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) on the African continent,  presented its new publication series earlier this year.

The research papers address students, media practitioners and the interested public. Written by experts in the respective field, they cover a wide range of structural and political issues, like self-regulation of the media, the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for public broadcasting, the role of media in the political process as well as cultural differences in the journalistic practice.

Civil Society and the State: Opponents or Partners?

Sabina Panth's picture

When the globalization agenda pushed for democratic reform and decentralized system of governance in the early nineties, aid agencies began investing in civil society organizations to demand and deliver development services that the centralized state was not deemed effective in providing.  Now, with over two decades of civil society hype and non-government organizations (NGOs) mushrooming all over the developing world, it is time to appraise how or whether the contributions of these organizations have been integrated into national development priorities and goals.  
 

Information is Power: CSOs Play Unprecedented Role in Shaping Bank's Access to Information Policy

John Garrison's picture

The Banks’ new Access to Information policy, which became effective on July 1, is ground breaking in several respects.  First, it represents a paradigm shift to a ‘presumption of disclosure’ in which the great majority of Bank documents will be accessible to the public and introduces an appeal mechanism for those that aren’t.  In this way, the Bank is setting a global standard for transparency and leading the way among other multilateral development Banks.  This policy is also remarkable due to the unprecedented role CSOs played in the consultation and implementation phases.

WikiLeaks: “The Intelligence Agency Of The People”

Naniette Coleman's picture

I am not sure if I stumbled upon a tool for fighting corruption or a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Either way, I will report and leave the judgments and interpretations to you, the reader. Before you begin reading this particular blog post, I would recommend that you close your door, pull down the shades and close all other browser windows; after all, you never know who could be watching.

WikiLeaks says they have a “history of breaking major stories in every major media outlet and robustly protecting sources and press freedoms.” They claim that “no source has ever been exposed and no material has ever been censored since their formation in 2007.”  WikiLeaks claims they have been “victorious over every legal (and illegal) attack, including those from the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former president of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Church, the largest Swiss private bank, and Russian companies.” And, as if that is not enough of a soap box on which to stand, WikiLeaks claims to have “released more classified intelligence documents than the rest of the world press combined.” If you do not believe WikiLeaks, perhaps you might trust another source, Time Magazine who suggests that WikiLeaks “...could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

Quote of the Week: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Antonio Lambino's picture

"... I have travelled widely and met many leaders, ambassadors and statesmen from around the world. I address you today as Queen of sixteen United Nations Member States and as Head of the Commonwealth of 54 countries.

I have also witnessed great change, much of it for the better, particularly in science and technology, and in social attitudes. Remarkably, many of these sweeping advances have come about not because of governments, committee resolutions, or central directives - although all these have played a part - but instead because millions of people around the world have wanted them."

- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the United Nations, July, 2010

Public Budgeting, American Style

Taeku Lee's picture

On Saturday, June 26th, nearly 4,000 Americans from all walks of life participated in an all-day country-wide deliberation on the nation's fiscal future.  Town hall meetings held in 19 sites occupied the main stage for the day, with smaller scale discussions in more than 40 additional communities across the country and online venues for participatory input as well.  The event, organized by AmericaSpeaks had all the markers of political deliberation, American-style: electronic keypads and networked computers that lent a technologically updated verisimilitude to George Gallup's idea of palpating the "pulse of democracy" and, of course, lots of political contestation (more on this below).

Those Dreaded Red Cards

Antonio Lambino's picture

As the World Cup semifinals rage on in South Africa, I noticed that a number of those dreaded red cards have been issued both on and off the football field.  They are of particular interest because, while they communicate formal authority and official sanction against the most grievous offences on the football field, they have also become symbols of various good governance and anti-corruption initiatives in the broader public arena. 

The innovation was first introduced more than 4 decades ago by legendary British referee Ken Aston and, since then, has diffused into the global public sphere.  A Google search utilizing the phrase “red card campaign” resulted in around 283,000 results.  Some recent examples include the campaign against human trafficking in Africa, the Khulumani campaign for human rights in the DRC, and the UNAIDS campaign against HIV in South Africa.  The International Labour Organization and UNICEF have both run red card campaigns for children’s rights, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and USAID have used them in anti-corruption efforts, and a number of controversial campaigns have been launched against high-level politicians in several countries.

Putting Your Heart Into It

Caroline Jaine's picture

As I write this I realise that my favourite reference book on “Hearts & Minds” was stolen some months back.   I will persevere nevertheless.  As usual, I have something on my mind and having one foot in academic reference could distract me from an eloquent rant.

I am almost as tired of the misuse of the term “hearts and minds” as I am about the generic tossing of the words “strat-com” around the media centre - without applying its meaning.  We are told of its importance in communications (particularly when policies begin to fail), but few think deeply or employ it properly.  Perhaps because no-one has articulated what hearts and minds means (or strat-com for that matter). Google tells me:

Congress Shall Make No Law

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Quick: can you list all the freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment?

If not, you're not alone. Apparently sparked by the fact that only one in twenty-five Americans can name all five freedoms listed in the First Amendment, the 1ForAll initiative aims to build support and awareness of the First Amendment among American youth. Its website notes that it intends to provide educational materials for teachers, hold events and engage the public through a variety of media.

What’s the Link Between Social Development Practice and Communication? Some Techniques and Approaches

Sabina Panth's picture

In development practices, the process of information gathering and dissemination has remained in the domain of social development.  While the process itself contributes to social development through knowledge transmission and critical consciousness (topic for another blog post), the tools and techniques required for effective use and dissemination of information comes from the communication school.  Yet, rarely do we find social development experts with communication training and vice-versa.   My recent exposure to CommGAP’s work and my decade long experience as a social development professional have impelled me to examine areas where communication and social development are intertwined and where they complement one another.  In this blog post, I wish to sketch an outline of a research work that I wish to undertake on the subject for feedback and suggestions from readers and practitioners in the field.

Project Sunlight: Access, Reform, Accountability

Naniette Coleman's picture

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

James Madison

 

Browsing bills, bill and veto jackets and state contracts is not exactly my idea of a good time but it has its use, just ask the people of the State of New York where SunlightNY.com is promoting access, reform and accountability in both English and Spanish.  Created largely by the Office of the Attorney General and Blair Horner, a leading advocate for government transparency who was on loan to the office from the New York Public Interest Research Group, SunlightNY.com is an innovative approach to keeping the public engaged in government. An approach that’s seems to have no equal in the US.