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October 2010

Introducing 'Governance for Development' and The Governance and Anti-Corruption Portal

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Although the World Bank Group adopted the Governance and Anti-corruption (GAC)  Strategy in March 2007, it has not done as much as it could have to let relevant global publics know what it is doing on governance, what it is learning and what it is achieving. Thankfully, all that is now about to change.

First, beginning this week is a new blog: Governance for Development. According to Brian Levy, editor of the new blog, the goal is 'to provide a forum among World Bank Group staff engaged in the GAC-mainstreaming endeavor and the wider development community for sharing, reflection and discussion as to the implications of GAC mainstreaming for development work'. The new blog is a collective effort, and it promises to be a fascinating forum for, hopefully, robust exchanges and sharing in the months and years ahead. I will be contributing to the new blog from time to time. Do check it out.

Measuring Afghan Media

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

A newly released assessment of the Afghan media, conducted by Altai Consulting with funding from USAID, is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, its findings shed valuable light on the current state of Afghanistan's media, as well as Afghans' perceptions of the media. One of the more interesting findings is that many Afghans praise state-run network RTA, despite its government bias, partly because the privately run stations are considered too "uncontrolled." The study highlights the importance people accord to respect for local culture, as well as their distaste for divisive politics. Ultimately, though, the roles many Afghans want their media to play - watchdog, agenda-setter, and provider of relevant information (such as on national reconstruction) - coincide with the "ideal" roles of the media enumerated in the recent CommGAP-published edited volume Public Sentinel. An interesting case of academia and the real world meshing, ever so slightly.

Are CSOs Welcome at the World Bank?

John Garrison's picture

This question may have been hard to respond in the affirmative some years back, as Civil Society Organization representatives were still a rare sight at the Bank. It may be hard to believe today, but 20 years ago visiting CSOs had to be physically escorted throughout the buildings, and it was not uncommon for some CSOs to be refused entry.  Today, CSOs are actively welcomed and some even have long-term building passes to facilitate their daily meetings at the Bank.  As a matter of fact, the recently concluded Annual Meetings represented a milestone for CSO presence at the Bank.  Not only was it the largest gathering of CSOs in a Washington-based AMs, but CSO leaders were invited, for the first time, to participate in the official Opening Plenary.

Something for Nothing?

Sabina Panth's picture

My blog posts have been highlighting the significance of empowered citizens and active civil society in driving development efforts.  But in doing so, have I been focusing solely on the voluntary spirit and good-will of the ordinary citizens? If so, is it practical to expect that the momentum will persist long enough to give the continuity and dedication required to realize the undertaking?   There is also a reoccurring theme in my blog posts about aid dependency and the project-based ethos of civil society organizations. Given the scenario, it is difficult to assess the strength and spirit of ‘naturally grown’ vs. ‘project instigated’ community activism.  As it is, community members are hard pressed to make ends meet and can barely afford to partake in community activities. And even when they do, their voluntary contribution is often directly proportional to their incentives. 

Elephants on the Autobahn?

Tanya Gupta's picture

When it comes to use of social media in development, development institutions remind me of lumbering elephants walking down the autobahn.  In any other sphere, development organizations would not be at such a disadvantage.  We have been building roads for ever.  There has not been any fundamental change in the technology of building roads.  Development organizations learnt slowly but well about development challenges in various sectors and are now legitimate experts in these areas.  All the same the title of “knowledge institutions” is a bit hard to swallow.  The reason, probably somewhat unfair, is that knowledge today, for most people is intimately tied to technology, social media too is viewed as a medium for knowledge, much like the network of roads and highways are a medium for commerce.  
 

“Missions Suspended”: Does The Bank Need to Worry about ‘Political Risks’ - and What Does That Mean?

Verena Fritz's picture

For World Bank staff, it’s the announcement on the intranet: at a rate of about once a month, missions are being suspended to some country. All upcoming trips to the concerned country are being cancelled. Sometimes, the events – a disputed presidential election, riots against rising food prices, an increase in bus fares or the price of electricity, or a sudden clash between different ethnicities who previously seemed to live together peacefully – makes international news. At other times, the country concerned is too obscure and the instability is either too short-lived or too recurrent and there is barely a mentioning in the media.

Impending Tragedy of the Digital Commons?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Earlier this month, the Financial Times published a piece by Misha Glenny entitled “Who Controls the internet?”  The article tells the story of USCybercom, the military command in charge of securing vital U.S. interests from attacks on the web.  Last week, it was widely reported that U.S. Legislators asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for more information on the revelation that third-party applications running on the ubiquitous social network he founded were transmitting personally identifiable data to private companies.  It may not be immediately apparent, but these two stories and others like them are inextricably related.  These developments run counter to the realization of a global digital commons, one envisioned to enable an unprecedented number of people around the world to freely express themselves and come into contact with the ideas and opinions of others.

Quote of the Week: Jonathan Bernstein

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"If pressed, I’d probably say: get the politics right, and you’ll get the policy right. But I’m sure of one thing: get the politics wrong, and it doesn’t matter what policy you want, because it ain’t gonna happen anyway. Probably not now, and certainly not in the long run."


-- Jonathan Bernstein, Get the Politics Right, October 21, 2010

The Revolution Will Not Be Donor-Harmonized

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

It's hard not to be inspired by Nick Kristof's article on "The D.I.Y. Foreign Aid Revolution" in the New York Times. His detail-rich story of energetic, socially conscious people routing around the bureaucracy of large aid organizations to tangibly and directly improve people's lives in the developing world is both important and thought-provoking. And it helps reframe the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of development assistance from one of "nothing works" to "there are so many ways to make this work."

The Fisherman and the Royal Engineer

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

At the "Reinventing Governance" conference in Boulder, Colorado, earlier this month I learned about a participatory method that made a lot of sense to me: community-based research. In principle, this is a partnership between experts in some technical area and members of the community in which some project is supposed to be carried out. Boyd Fuller and Ora-orn Poocharoen from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy reported how members of the Phrak Nam Daeng community in Thailand took on dam building engineers and public water management and in a series of public meetings with community members, experts, and authorities found a solution for a watergate on the local river that would benefit the communities in the area while at the same time maintaining high technical standards.

Is Your Leader Still in Fashion?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

When we think about 'fashion' we mostly think about clothes, like what the pace-setters in Milan and Paris tell the susceptible is currently fashionable, or what is, to use the lingo. 'so last season'. (I tend to think that , in the words of the old Hugo Boss slogan: True Style is Never Out of Fashion.)  But what is increasingly clear is that political leaders, given one of the peculiar dynamics of public opinion, can be in and out of fashion too. So, as you read this, wherever you are in the world, think about your political leader. Is your leader still in fashion?

Quote of the Week: Chris Patten

Antonio Lambino's picture

"The media tends to move like market sentiment.  One moment, the public square is full of bulls; the next you’re being clawed by bears…

Nevertheless, I think we have suffered too much from politics by simplistic slogans.  Making a coherent, well-argued case is surely the best way in the long term of trying to mobilize consent for any course of action.  It dignifies an argument – and those to whom it is addressed – to set it out thoughtfully.”

      - Chris Patten, Chancellor, University of Oxford

It Is Indeed a Good Thing That Google Is Not Evil*

Naniette Coleman's picture

I am often amazed with how Google reads my mind when I am typing, giving me numerous options from which to click.  Apparently, though, some words do not produce instant results.  "The Hacker publication 2600 decided to compile a list of words that are restricted by Google Instant." Although many of the words are not surprising (think off-color biological terms), some others might leave you thinking really, this made it to the list (ex. the word butt), but others might educate you on topics (off-color) that you had no consideration or imagination for.  Giggles aside, and yes I did some giggling when I reviewed the list, there is a bit of danger in the idea of a search engine censoring terms.  Based on whose morals, based on whose values and who makes the final censorship decision? These questions worry me.   

Skeptics and Idealists in Demand

Sabina Panth's picture

Two types of reaction are common when talking about civil society engagement in public sector reform: 1. Skeptical.  2. Idealistic.  This leaves very little room for a realistic view to genuinely reflect on the actual impact and contributions of civil society in good governance work. 

Participatory Video: A Tool for Good Governance?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

 

The use of relevant and credible evidence from the ground is crucial in strengthening arguments and incentives for reform.  The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, for example, was successful in part because of the evidence gathered and presented by experts with practical experience from conflict-torn societies.  Forging strong ties with local actors and ensuring inclusive representation in coalitions are crucial factors for successful campaigns.

To this point, Transparency International (TI), a global coalition to fight corruption, recently introduced Participatory Video (PV) as part of their program on Poverty and Corruption in Africa. The introduction of PV is a first for TI, and it is used as a tool to engage and partner with the poor in fighting corruption. In collaboration with InsightShare, a leading company in PV, TI’s African National Chapters have started training local communities on how to create their own films, capturing authentic stories about corruption and how it impacts their daily lives. Alfred Bridi discusses his experience about the training process in Uganda and has made a short film (see above) to illustrate the process and enthusiasm among the participants.

Sanumaya’s Tale: Policy Response

Sabina Panth's picture


In my previous post, I narrated Sanumaya’s tale in the context of how development that looks good from the above can be problematic when viewed at the local level, particularly for socially and economically marginalized populations.  The village was building a road that connected to the highway.  Everyone was excited at the prospect of economic prosperity.  Except, it came at the cost of dislodging the poor and vulnerable, like Sanumaya, whose poverty, illiteracy and social status became her entrapment. 

Long Live Television?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Suppose you want to run an awareness campaign for, say, methods that prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in a sub-Saharan country. Suppose you want to reach the widest possible audience because most adults are concerned by this issue. Suppose you have a well thought-out campaign message. Which medium do you go for?

Divide and Conquer Never Goes Out of Style

Naniette Coleman's picture

Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in The New Yorker, "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," stayed with me long after I put the carefully folded pages scribbled with my musings into the read pile on my floor. The piece deserves greater attention, meditation, rumination, which I intend to do in future blogs but for today’s blog, I want to explore his take on divide and conquer. Gladwell explores the difference between strong and weak ties in organizing and it is something that should be of the upmost importance to our readers. Decisions on organization, process, and the tools reformers engage to reach their ends are critical. "The medium, after all, is the message" - Marshall McLuhanBut it could also be that the medium signals something about the thoughtfulness of organizers and the level of commitment of participants.

Technology and Transparency

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Say you're a civil society activist who uses online and mobile technology as a tool for greater accountability. Wouldn't you want to be able to call up a map of the world and easily find examples from other countries that might also be relevant for your work?
 
Turns out, you can. Recently, at the Internet at Liberty 2010 conference co-sponsored by Google and Central European University, I heard a presentation from the Technology and Transparency Network, which is an initiative of Global Voices and Rising Voices.  Click on the link, and you'll see that the Technology and Transparency Network's home page is a map of the world, where you can zoom in on individual projects in countries like Mexico, Sudan, Uganda, Cambodia and Hungary.