Syndicate content

December 2010

Waging War on Open Societies (in the Name of Openness!)

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In my nearly two-decades of living in the West, I have always been fascinated by the operatic displays of rage directed by some activists and campaigners at open societies and democracies. They do this in a world where sundry totalitarian and authoritarian regimes are getting stronger, stamping on ordinary citizens with gigantic boots, and shutting down nascent public spheres with total ruthlessness. Some of these regimes are now major players on the world stage, and the brave souls who fight for openness, transparency and citizen voice in these societies get very little support. They are mostly on their own.

Yet who are we supposed to see as a hero right now? Answer: a computer hacker whose philosophy ranges from naive libertarianism to anarchism. And what are the self-evident truths that we are supposed to line up behind?

Implications of the Giving Pledge: More Technocratic Solutions?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

This article on the cons of the "Giving Pledge" approach to philanthropy is thought-provoking, particularly for those interested in non-technocratic - or rather, not-solely-technocratic - approaches to governance and development issues. The author argues, among other things, that the current trend of billionaire philanthropy tends to emphasize technocratic fixes, derived partly from the business approach to problem-solving. "Thorny social problems require investments in civil society and social justice, not technocratic business-driven solutions," he writes.

Media Regulation: Who Needs Your Protection?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Freedom of expression and media freedom - most contentious issues not only in autocracies but, seemingly increasingly, also in democracies. It's a fine line between regulating the media and strangling it. Who should be protected by media regulation? The media? The public? Freedom of expression? The government? National security?

Let's start with the media. Does the media need protection? Surely - at least to some extend media systems need to be shielded from being overwhelmed by economic and political interests. If we assume that a free and balanced media is fundamental to a healthy balance between the state and its citizens there need to be safeguards that allow journalists to report without fear of repercussions.

The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action - Final Report

Antonio Lambino's picture

We have reported on this blog that the Communication for Governance  and Accountability Program (CommGAP) and the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice (WBIGV) jointly organized a two-day workshop entitled “The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action”.  Held in Washington, D.C. a few months ago, the workshop sought to explore the role that Political Economy Analysis (PEA) can play in supporting and informing real-world reform efforts.  The event brought together more than fifty participants from various sectors: representatives of donor organizations, senior journalists, private firms active in development policy and practice, academics and applied researchers, and World Bank senior operational staff. 

Pink Panties in the Mail

Sabina Panth's picture


The other day, I received a Facebook invitation to join a global network on ‘16-days of activism against gender-based violence’.  According to the description, the campaign has been helping to raise awareness about gender violence and its effect on women on a global-scale. The Facebook forum is intended for individuals and organizations championing the cause to share the achievements and challenges they have encountered toward building a global alliance.  The global alliance is intended to support the demands made to the states and institutions and the actions that are needed to pressure for better results.  Incidentally, I wrote my previous blog post on the increased use of social media in civilian-led activism and advocacy campaigns.  My membership to this new social networking site made me interested to learn more about how social media is helping to promote the cause of women’s issues worldwide.  Here are some of the examples I have collected, primarily from the Tactical Technology website.

'Celebvocates': Mere Noise Versus Impact

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Celebrities and the causes they champion seem to go together these days like burger and fries. It is becoming the norm: Make a name, acquire a cause.

And we shouldn't knock that. It is good that the world's famous, rich and often beautiful people are also trying to do some good. I must admit, however, that it is difficult to avoid some skepticism. As an African, for instance, I am not always comfortable with the number of celebrities who have 'adopted' and claim to speak for my continent. Sometimes, watching one of them speak about Africa as though they owned it, my reaction jumps from mild irritation to rage.  In fact, the article that prompted this blog post (a piece in the winter edition of  FTWealth Magazine titled 'With or without you') contains some acerbic views regarding 'celebvocates' and what they get up to. Apparently, the journalist Brendan O'Neill calls it 'celebrity colonialism". And the writer Paul Theroux supposedly railed in the New York Times that:

From the Global Public Sphere

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA):
By the People: The Rise of Citizen Journalism

"CIMA is pleased to release a new report, By the People: The Rise of Citizen Journalism, by Eugene Meyer, a veteran journalist. Citizen journalism is seen by some as an antidote to the widening gap in societies where traditional news media—print and broadcast—are in decline. Yet in societies that could benefit most from these developing forms of news reporting, repressive regimes are working to suppress freedom of the press, whether in the traditional mainstream media or in the brave new world of citizen journalism. This report examines both the challenges and opportunities facing citizen journalism around the world."

When Upside Down is Right Side Up: A New Narrative for the Governance Agenda

Antonio Lambino's picture

Prof. Mick Moore spoke at the World Bank a few weeks ago to share his views on, among other things, the future of the governance agenda.  He also talked about a publication entitled “An Upside Down View of Governance”, published earlier this year by the DfID-funded Centre for the Future State (CFS), which he heads at the Institute of Development Studies in the United Kingdom.  Prof. Moore made the case that the governance agenda requires a fresh narrative – one that revolves around public authority, the legitimacy of which derives from shared local ownership of change processes.

For external actors, such as members of the international donor community, cultivating legitimate and effective public authority means departing from state building projects based on normative models.  While these models may have worked elsewhere, they often have elements that are incongruent with realities of many local contexts.

The Perils of Biased Communication: Lessons From an Election Campaign

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

While we're advocating for the role of communication in governance it is important to sometimes point out when communication doesn't work, or doesn't work the way you want it to. Critical questions for campaigns in general are: Can communication change people's minds and the way they decide? Can communication have any adverse effects that would go against the objectives of the campaign?

The Annenberg Public Policy Center and their initiative FactCheck.org organized an event last week, which had US interest groups discussing their campaign advertising in this year's US midterm election. A recent Supreme Court decision allows unlimited corporate funding for independent political broadcasts in candidate elections. This was first enacted in the 2010 election campaign and led to a wave of political advertising by groups other than parties and candidates. This created a veritable cacophony of voices from all sides of the political spectrum and made one wonder about the usefulness of it all.

Control over State-Owned Media Equals Control over the State?

Hannah Bowen's picture

Demonstrations this week in Cote d’Ivoire prompt a number of troubling questions, including what it means to be a “state broadcaster” when who heads the state is in dispute. The influence of state-run broadcasters may be diminishing across much of sub-Saharan Africa, but their potential impact on fragile democratic institutions has been highlighted this week in west Africa. Who controls the airwaves may turn out to be instrumental in who shapes public perceptions, and through them, political reality – the protestors in Cote d’Ivoire know this, choosing of all institutions as the focus of their protest, the state-run television station.   

Why You Need to Become 'Mediactive'

Johanna Martinsson's picture

“We're in an age of information overload, and too much of what we watch, hear and read is mistaken, deceitful or even dangerous. Yet you and I can take control and make media serve us --all of us--by being active consumers and participants.”

This statement appears on the cover of Dan Gillmor’s newly launched publication, Mediactive.  In the book, Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, provides tips and tools for how citizens can (and need to) become active consumers and producers of information.

Training with the Enemy: How CSOs Are Improving Bank Staff’s Ability to Engage with Civil Society

John Garrison's picture

While some staff of the World Bank and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) may have considered each other ‘enemy combatants’ on the proverbial policy battlefield some years back, today many are collaborating in joint training efforts geared to improving relations.  In a reversal of roles, a number of policy advocacy CSOs are helping to train the very same Bank staff whom they often advocated against in the past.  A good example is the participation of well known CSOs who monitor transparency issues in the extractive industries – Global Witness, Oxfam, and Revenue Watch – in a training session with staff from the Bank’s Oil, Gas, and Mining Department in April 2010.  The session was geared to improving the Bank staff’s knowledge and skills to engage civil society, and the CSOs were asked to both diagnose the nature of Bank - CSO tensions and suggest ways to improve these relations. While CSOs highlighted the difficulty they often face to get information or set up meetings with Bank staff, they also noted how the Bank’s presence can actually guarantee the safety of local CSOs.  Bank staff, in turn, shared the difficulty they have in identifying the appropriate CSOs to engage with at the country level, and expressed frustration with some of the critique the Bank receives despite their efforts to reach out.  They also welcomed greater civil society involvement in Bank-financed extractive industry projects.

Reinvigorating the Fight against Corruption

The 9th of December the UN celebrates the anti-corruption day. It is clear that this is a global issue and a cross-cutting one. It concerns virtually all countries, even if in different degrees, and it can be found in all sectors of the development arena; e.g. health, rural development, agriculture, sanitation and many more. Corruption is not an issue that concerns only the rich; on the contrary, the poor are those who suffer the most from corrupt practices, in a number of ways. First of all, corruption subtracts money from the tax revenues which are the main source of social programmes and services. Secondly, the money the rich pay to corrupt officials are usually passed back as increased costs to consumers, and the poorest ones are the ones that will pay the higher price. Finally, corruption affects not only multimillion deals but spread throughout the social realm like a cancer and I know of bribes asked (and paid) to obtain jobs with a salary of forty dollars a month.

Corruption Hunters Leave the Washington Meeting with Renewed Energy and Vigor for Action

Dina Elnaggar's picture

The energy that members of the International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA) brought to their first meeting is beyond words.  “Stealing is bad enough, ripping off the poor is disgusting.” With those words, the World Bank President kicked off a 2-day momentum for the Corruption Hunters to “draw strength, learn from one another and create their global alliance.” And rightly so, they did.  A “marketplace” showcasing select country experiences offered some space for some delegates to speak firsthand of their challenges and lessons of success and failure. 

Deliberation - What?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The practice of deliberation has had its place in participatory governance, in development and other areas, for some time. What do you think of when you hear "deliberation"? Porto Alegre's participatory budgeting? India's Gram Sabhas? Parliament? America Speaks? It's all that - and so much more.

In the most common understanding, deliberation is some form of interpersonal discussion about an issue of public concern. This can range from everyday talk about political issues at, say, the kitchen table, to formalized group discussions that aim at solving a common problem. One definition comes from Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs*, who state that deliberation is "the process through which deliberative democracy occurs," a "specific, important, and idealized category within the broader notion of what we call 'discursive participation'." The category is ideal because, à la Habermas, it requires a range of ideal characteristics to be truly deliberative, first and foremost openness and equality of discourse.

Supporting Innovation by Connecting Local Actors: Reporting Tax Research in Kenya

Antonio Lambino's picture

Findings from the study of the social diffusion of ideas, products, and practices, suggest that innovation can be cultivated by building bridges that link previously disconnected networks and communities of practice.  CommGAP supported a project in Kenya which could very well be undergirded by this idea.  Implemented by the Panos Network's Relay Programme, the project has been documented in a recently published case study entitled “Reporting tax research: Connecting researchers and journalists for improved media coverage and debate in Kenya”.

Subduing the Media for Dummies

Naniette Coleman's picture

“Propaganda must be centralized, planned, and executed by a single authority.

To get attention, propaganda is best distributed through an entertaining communication medium.

Propaganda must be carefully timed for maximum effect.

Propaganda is a tool of social control, designed to comfort the public in times of stress."

--Goebbel's Principles of Propaganda--