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November 2010

Arts and Minds

Caroline Jaine's picture

My last blog entry back in July was perhaps a sign of things to come.  In it I wrote how the “hearts” bit of so-called “hearts and minds” initiatives was often missing.  I argued that the policy makers viewed arts and culture as a fluffy luxury and often missed their power as a key driver for change.  I was at the time a self-critical policy-maker.
 
So, after 15 years as a diplomat and communications strategist, I have given it all up and embarked on Masters of Fine Arts study in Cambridge, England.  At first it felt indeed like a fluffy luxury, at best a mid-life crisis, but once I entered into what I can only describe as a sublime learning curve, I quickly understood that my art making can easily and effectively incorporate my passions for positive societal discourse, transforming conflict and even diplomacy.  Furthermore my art practice can incorporate a genuinely moving participatory element.

International Corruption Hunters Alliance

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Joining Forces Towards Development Effectiveness Through a Global Alliance to Combat Corruption

The World Bank has established regional networks of anticorruption enforcement personnel. The network has been given a name suggesting vigor and ruthlessness: International Corruption Hunters Alliance. On December 6 - 8 in Washington, the members of the alliance will gather to reflect on their work. Joining them will be authorities from member countries that have prosecuted bribe payers, as well as representatives from the private sector, civil society and international organizations. It is hoped that by the end of the meeting a truly global enforcement alliance will have been born.

To prepare for the meeting, a series of virtual conversations has been launched. The series addresses four key themes. We invite you to join the conversation via the links below. More updates will follow.

It’s Our Money

Sabina Panth's picture

It has been argued that corruption cases are focused mostly on the offenders and retribution is calculated on material value. This leaves out the victims of corruption and the collective damage done to the society at large, especially when the malfeasance involves the misappropriation of public money.  The concept of ‘social damage’ is an emerging concept in the anti-corruption movement, which seeks to identify, quantify, and repair the impact and consequences of corruption on ordinary citizens.  It posits that citizens, as taxpayers, are entitled to a legal claim on public money and how it is spent because “every dollar lost in corruption is a dollar stolen from spending in education, social services, poverty reduction and job creation (Its Our Money)”.

Beware the Context - Deliberation for Development II

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Earlier this month, CommGAP hosted a conference on "Deliberation for Development: New Directions." The meeting was headed by the World Bank's Vijayendra Rao and Patrick Heller from Brown University and provided a vast and rich overview over the issue of deliberation as it concerns our work on the ground. Here's a little summary of the day, which by no means captures even a fraction of the wealth of information and knowledge that was presented, but may be an appetizer for our forthcoming book gathering all those contributions.

The first speaker, Arjun Appadurai of New York University, spoke about the importance of context: success of deliberation depends on factors outside the deliberative frame, mostly social and political power structures. Individual deliberation events may fail more often than not, especially if it's about allocating resources for the poor. However, while isolated deliberative occasions may be a failure in their own narrow context, in aggregation over time even those failures can alter those very contexts that made them fail at the outset.

Five Key Networks You Will Find Everywhere

Antonio Lambino's picture

 

The video posted above is the second in a series we are featuring on this blog.  The interview was conducted last June, during a learning event jointly organized by the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice and CommGAP entitled “The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action.” The event’s primary objective was to bring together relevant expertise and take stock of experiences from around the world on the ways in which political economy analyses have been and can be made more operationally relevant.  Featured in the video is Rakesh Rajani, head and founder of Twaweza (“we can make it happen” in Swahili), a “citizen-centered initiative, focusing on large-scale change in East Africa.”  From years of experience working in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, Rajani describes five local networks that he has found exist everywhere in these countries:

They are organic.  They are powerful.  They go to scale.  They matter to people’s lives.  People invest in those networks.  And they would be there even if every aid dollar dried up tomorrow… And you’ll notice that those five are typically not the organizations or the institutions that development actors work with.

French Civil Society Celebrates Legal Victory

Sabina Panth's picture


Last week, civil society in France celebrated a legal victory in its fight against corruption.  The French Supreme Court upheld judicial investigation on complaints lodged by civil society organizations (Transparency International France and SHERPA) against three African Presidents and their relatives (Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo; Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea; and Omar Bongo of Gabon) on their acquisition of property and luxury goods in France that are worth far more than their official earnings. 

Is Rhetorical Restraint for Wimps?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

I am so fed up with public affairs broadcast media in the US right now that I avoid them as one would avoid a madman howling in the marketplace. The noise level is so high it deafens. Almost every public affairs broadcast is overrun by sundry shouters and ranters. They are called 'bloviators'. There is no middle ground on any issue, no penumbras. Everything is either black or white. The intensity is so great you are always hoping that the next election will lead to a lessening of the noise level. But, no, the intensity continues unabated. What is worse, leading broadcasters and political figures have given themselves permission to say anything...just about anything. To escape the vehemence of it all, I find myself retreating into the embrace of the BBC, France 24 and such outlets because (1) they cover the rest of the world as though it mattered, which it does, and (2) they don't threaten my equanimity with profligate intensity and verbal incontinence.

Coalitions, Norms, and Extractive Industries

Johanna Martinsson's picture

My last blog post addressed progress made in the extractive industries, in terms of fighting corruption, and in particular the new U.S. law (the Dodd-Frank Act) that will impact some of the largest gas, oil and mining companies in the world when it goes into effect in 2011.  I also mentioned a few initiatives that have played an important role in advocating for this law and for a global norm on transparency.  Another important player in this field is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), as rightly pointed out by a reader and colleague.  Launched in 2002, EITI advocates for transparency in the extractive industries through the publishing of financial information and promoting a culture of transparency that involves dialogue, empowering civil society, and building trust among stakeholders.  A fundamental principle of the EITI is the development of multi-stakeholder initiatives to oversee the implementation and monitoring process, which is supported through a multi-donor trust fund, managed by the World Bank.

Political vs. Technical: A False Dichotomy

Antonio Lambino's picture

 

The interview posted above was conducted last June, during a learning event jointly organized by the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice and CommGAP entitled “The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action.”  The event’s primary objective was to bring together relevant expertise and take stock of experiences from around the world on the ways in which political economy analyses have been and can be made more operationally relevant.  In the interview, Claudia Melim-McLeod of the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre starts off with highlighting a critical issue in supporting change agents on the ground:

Technical assistance, although important, is not enough… we have to be politically savvy to be able to deliver results not only in terms of development effectiveness, but also in terms of what our partners expect us to do.

An American Lesson: Counter-Reform Can Shape Public Opinion

Sina Odugbemi's picture

What might be the generalizable lessons of the recent mid-term elections in the United States? There are several that this blog would be interested in. The one that I would like to draw attention to today is the fact that despite the huge reform bills that Democrats successfully passed - the biggest being the health care reform bill - it seems clear that they lost the battle for public opinion, and that losing that battle did not help them on election day, whatever else shaped voter preferences on that day.  Reformers everywhere need to reflect on that experience very carefully.

When reforms fail what is often blamed is 'lack of political will'; in other words, not enough leaders in leadership positions in the specific country context supported the proposed reform and it failed. Suppose you secure political will, as in this case, and the reform succeeds, is it game-over? Clearly not. To quote Robert  O. Varenik of the Open Society Justice Initiative (at the end of a  review of a series of pretrial detention reform experiences from around the world): "The acid test of reform should not be what can be attained but what can be sustained."

Media Literacy in the Digital Age

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

A new report out from the Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy makes the case for emphasis on media literacy in the digital age. Entitled Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, the report by Renee Hobbs focuses on media literacy in the U.S., but some of its points struck me as potentially applicable in other parts of the world as well. Hobbs isolates several digital and media literacy skills that are necessary to take part in civic life in an information-saturated society (all of these are taken directly from her report):

Deliberation for Development

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP and the World Bank Development Research Group Poverty & Inequality are hosting a conference on "Deliberation for Development: New Directions" on Friday this week. We have a number of high profile speakers and commentators lined up, who have done cutting-edge research on deliberation and how it can increase development effectiveness. The conference will be convened by the Wold Bank's Vijayendra Rao and Patrick Heller from Brown University. Arjun Appadurai (New York University) will talk about "Success and Failure in the Deliberative Democracy," Ann Swidler (Berkeley) and Susan Watkins (University if California) will discuss "Practices of Deliberation in Rural Malawi." JP Singh of Georgetown University will compare the participatory character of the WTO and UNESCO, while the World Bank's Michael Woolcock will examine the link between deliberation and the rule of law. Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Brown University) will talk about "The Global Translations of Participatory Budgeting” and Gerry Mackie (University of California) will address the educational effects of public deliberation.

Quote of the Week: Jürgen Habermas

Antonio Lambino's picture

"Does participation in democratic procedures have only the functional meaning of silencing a defeated minority, or does it have the deliberative meaning of including the arguments of citizens in the democratic process of opinion- and will-formation? ... Democracy depends on the belief of the people that there is some scope left for collectively shaping a challenging future."

                    -- Jürgen Habermas
                        Leadership and Leitkultur
                        The New York Times, October 29, 2010

 

Rallying 'Round Their Own Flags: Bella Mody and Biases in Foreign News Coverage

Antonio Lambino's picture

While traveling abroad, watching or reading news stories about one’s home country can be an eye opening and, at times, disturbing experience.  Unless you come from one of the world’s most powerful countries or an up and coming economic titan, one would quickly get the sense that foreign coverage of the homestead, if any, tends to revolve around natural disasters, major scandals, changes in national leadership, and manmade crises.  I suppose it’s hard to expect otherwise, but there’s more to it than that.  In addition to selective framing and coverage driven by such “news values” as immediacy, recency, and conflict, there’s also national bias.  A recently published book by Prof. Bella Mody, entitled Geopolitics of Representation in Foreign News: Explaining Darfur, argues that the construction of foreign news coverage is determined by several factors, including history and context, on one hand, and national interest, on the other.

Publish and the Problem Will Go Away?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Transparency International’s (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index provides a rather bleak picture of the current state of corruption around the world. With more than half of the 178 indexed countries scoring below five on a 10 point scale (with 10 being “very clean”), corruption remains a major impediment to development.  Thus, TI is now advocating for stricter implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), a global legal framework that came into force in 2005 to help curb corruption. The Convention’s 140 signatories’ will be under review for the next three years for their efforts in fighting corruption.  TI further recommends that focus should be given to areas such as, “strengthening institutions; strengthening the rule of law; making decision-making transparent; educating youths and setting up better whistle-blower protection schemes.”  As a matter of fact, anti-corruption measures will be discussed at the G-20 summit taking place in Seoul next week.  However, Christiaan Poortman, TI’s Director of Global Programmes, is skeptical as to whether it will produce any major changes at the governance level. 

Bantay Kurapsyon

Sabina Panth's picture

“Research on political participation has identified a number of deep-seated norms and values that are positively associated with the amount and quality of democratic engagement,” explains Delli Carpini, in the Handbook of Political Communication Research.  “One of the most central of these,” as Carpini points out, “is political efficacy, or the sense that one’s participation can actually make a difference (internal efficacy) and that the political system would be responsive to this participation (external efficacy).”  As I read this quote, I am reminded of a case in point that perfectly illustrates this theoretical concept.  

Fifty Million Twelve-Year-Old Solutions

Naniette Coleman's picture

“We have a situation on our hands and the clock is ticking. We have fifty million twelve-year-old girls in poverty,” the opening video proclaimed. The solution is simple and profound, the Girl Effect, “an effect that starts with a 12-year-old girl and impacts the world.” Despite the catchy rhyme, I was skeptical. Can you blame me? It seems that we women have been getting the shaft since that damn snake in Eden. 

The list of superwomen who addressed the over capacity crowd at the “Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI): An Alliance for Economic Empowerment” event on October 6th read like the World Bank, White House, Hollywood, Philanthropy, Business and the Catwalk list of Who’s Who. The crowd craned their necks from the hallway to catch a glimpse of World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and World Bank Director of Gender and Development Mayra Buvinic; White House Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett; Actor, Anne Hathaway; President of the Nike Foundation, Maria Eitel, and Supermodel Christy Turlington

The Back-Handed Compliment

Sina Odugbemi's picture

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 37 journalists have been killed so far in 2010, killed by those who want to silence them. 838 have been killed since 1992. The media are being hounded by authoritarian regimes in many countries still, including some of the most prominent countries in the world today.  And as my colleague, Tony Lambino, pointed out only last week, even the internet - once hoped to be the ultimate domain of free speech - is increasingly being mastered by illiberal regimes. They are finding the technological means to muzzle free speech even here. Some are employing thousands of police men and women dedicated to the task.

Quote of the Week: Barack Obama

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Given how much stuff was coming at us...we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration - and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top - that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular. And I think anybody who’s occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.”

-- U.S. President Barack Obama, as quoted in Education of a President, New York Times, October 12, 2010