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August 2011

Local Media Hype

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Imagine there is a hurricane sweeping through a region. Imagine that the weather forecasts say that it will be a sizable storm affecting a large part of the country, and that there will be considerable risk to life and property of citizens. Reasonably, the media, especially local television, plan to report on nothing else for a few days in advance and at least a week to come. What should the media do if the hurricane is weaker than expected? In particular, what should the local media do, whose job it is to keep their audience informed of locally relevant developments?

Bringing Good Governance into Focus

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

I recently attended a very interesting conference on democratization in East and Southeast Asia, sponsored by the University of Louisville's Center for Asian Democracy, during which there was some discussion of the differentiation between the terms we use to identify varying governance systems and governance-related phenomena. At times we use the terms "democratization," "political liberalization", "political opening," and "good governance" almost interchangeably, when in fact they of course can refer to very different things depending on the perspective and intent of the speaker. In particular, I got to thinking a bit more about the distinction between the field of democratization studies and the field of good governance studies. With respect to the former, there is a longstanding and well-referenced theoretical literature pertaining to political transitions, and a good number of competing "theories of change," each with its own backers, detractors, and robust line of argumentation.

Quote of the Week: Sami, Libya

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Sami, a 42-year-old engineer in Tripoli, has lived all his life under Col Gaddafi. He told BBC World Service that it would be hard for many Libyans to adjust. 'I was brought up in this system, I was educated in this system, you get used to his environment,' he said. 'We have lived this, we understand it - we know the barriers, and we know the rules. It's part of our lives. To change to something unknown is very difficult.'"

-- As quoted in BBC News, Libya fighting: as it happened.

A Country for My Daughter

Sabina Panth's picture

As in any other sectors, laws governing gender-based violence may well be in place in a country but the problem, as always, lies in the implementation and enforcement of these laws.  Various factors, mainly cultural attitude, social norms and institutional weaknesses, often impede victims of violence from exercising their rights and protecting themselves.  A 2010 video documentary entitled A Country for My Daughter examines these aspects in South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

Global Voices
India: Anti-Corruption Campaign Fires a Country’s Imagination

“In April this year Global Voices reported how social media was being used in India to power civil society's push for a proposed anti-corruption bill (popularly known as the Jan Lokpal Bill). There was, at the time, a lot of debate about the sustainability of the fledgling movement, which was being led from the front by a Gandhian social activist Sri Anna Hazare.

A lot has happened since then but what has been undeniable is that the anti-corruption movement, after having proved the nay-saying pundits wrong, has gradually managed to capture the imagination of a large section of the Indian public.” READ MORE

Watching the News on a Deck-Chair

Caroline Jaine's picture

In July I wrote a piece about Simulated Realities, Manipulated Perceptions.  In it I queried our apparent pre-occupation with the gruesomeness of war, as seen through a media lens.  I took Pakistan as a case study for our obsession with disaster and attempted to apply a Baudrillardian theory to new coverage of terrorism in the country.  The irony is, that this article was picked up by an editor for one of the biggest Pakistani news agencies, and ever since I have been writing a weekly column for them.

Having spent years watching and commenting on the media, I have crossed sides, and although I remain a “blogger” not a “writer”, I feel as if I am on the periphery of the very beast I have long deplored.  My short, but intense time at Dawn has been a real challenge, as I have sought to write in a way that I have advocated journalists to and continue to challenge the mainstream media perceptions from within.

Of Legitimacy and Flash Mobs

Sumir Lal's picture

For those of us committed to democracy and interested in matters of governance and citizen accountability, the theatrics in India involving the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare pose a neat little dilemma. For, we love freely-elected governments and positively swoon over articulate civil society advocates, and here we have a situation where the two are in a head-on collision. So who’s the good guy? Whose side should we be on?

Hazare is pushing an anti-corruption bill that would give immense (possibly corruption-inducing and governance-disrupting) powers to an unelected ombudsman. The government is countering with a version that would keep key functionaries out of the ombudsman’s purview, arguably defeating the very purpose. Take your pick.

Quote of the Week: Ahmet Davutoglu

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“There are three types of leader in this region. Those who see change as a must and want to lead and manage it;  those who accept the need for change but who are following rather than leading in the hope of gaining time; and those who are resisting change. The third category will disappear, the second can get by for a time, but only the first category will survive.”

-- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.  As quoted in Financial Times, “Turkey’s newly faltering foreign adventures”, by David Gardner, August 16, 2011.

"Voices 2.0" - Revolutionizing Participation within Development Cooperation

Patrick Kalas's picture

“……..I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” (Invictus by William Ernest Henley)

The genie is out of the bottle. Scanning the news reveals that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones, Internet, Satellite television and social media are having an effect on events in the so-called Arab Spring. The “Facebook Revolution” is becoming a buzzword. Not sure how and why, click here. Does this have any practical significance for our operational activities in projects or programs aiming to increase participation in socio, economic and political change processes? The answer suggested here is Yes. Traditional participation approaches referred to here as “Voices 1.0” are being directly influenced by the witnessed proliferation of ICTs rendering them more interactive “Voices 2.0”. This complimentary shift has direct implications for operational work throughout the project cycle.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

Kiwanja
Putting data integrity on the map

"To kick off the discussion around the new guide, we hosted a panel discussion at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, where FrontlineSMS’ Sean McDonald joined Jon Gosier of metaLayer, Development Seed’s Paul Goodman, and Internews Vice President for New Media Kathleen Reen, who moderated the event. This research effort, based on FrontlineSMS user input and research by Kristina Lugo and Carol Waters, focused not on mobile system security, a critical issue better addressed by others, but more on the ways that contextualized program design and implementation can improve data quality and reduce user risk. Above all, we learned through the process, context is key. Understanding the needs and norms of the target population, and the goals of the project itself, is vital in determining the proper tools and approach to designing a FrontlineSMS workflow that can achieve those goals." READ MORE

Is Open Data Really the Solution?

Sabina Panth's picture

Proponents of governments opening data to the public in order to increase transparency and better governance have been cheering recent developments, debates and discussions.  While I have used this blog to highlight many of the advantages of Open Data in instigating demand-led governance, I recently stumbled upon an article by Tom Slee which has a different take on the digital solution. Below I summarize a few points from Slee’s article which I feel are worthy of contemplation.

Community Leaders as Social Change Spearheaders

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Another interesting response to Paolo's post The Role of Social Norms in Achieving Behaviour Change:

"Being a development communication practitioner, I firmly believe that one has to tackle the shackles of harmful social norms from inside. That is, be part of the society, community where it exists, find the root cause, find the positive deviant, work with the deviant to understand what triggered the deviation and then generate discussions around it. This way the community trust is won and communication is free and open. It is the voices of authority (leaders, promoters, healers) from within the community who have to be mobilized and convinced to spearhead the movement of breaking a harmful social norm. It is human tendency to trust your own. The social pressure that this would generate actually results in shifting social norms. Plus, coming from within it also ensures maintenance of the new behavior.

Post-Conflict Lessons: Reconstruction, Stabilization, Governance . . . and Gryffindor?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

For those who haven't yet seen, this Foreign Policy piece presents a detailed, highly nuanced plan for stabilization, reconstruction and post-conflict reconciliation and good governance - as applied to the world of Harry Potter after the (er, spoiler alert, I guess) defeat of Voldemort at the end of the last book.

I appreciate the section on good governance and the nod to public sphere issues in particular - media diversification (the Daily Prophet really could use some serious competition), involvement of new media, etc. Could use a bit more emphasis on the role of civil society in the wizarding world, both in holding the new Ministry of Magic leaders to account as well as in helping create a post-conflict consensus around the legitimacy of the transitional government. But, overall, it's a decent plan - and a nice refresher on some major post-conflict issues. 

The Role of Social Norms in Fighting Corruption

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's response to Paolo's blog post The Role of Social Norms in Achieving Behaviour Change:

"Every individual is fashioned by the social norms of his/her community. This means that if there is any practice that is anti-developmental, the easiest way to tackle it is to enter from the behavioural angle. This is because habits once acquired die hard! As Paolo rightly said, it is not easy to achieve behavioural change because, the norms sustaining particular behaviours were allowed to become established due to the fact that they serve the interest of the establishment. If the practice of say, female genital  mutilation became an established tradition, it is because, the political authorities of those communities be them male or female drew certain advantages from the practice.

My observation on the "talk against corruption" in most African countries points to the fact that the regimes in place allowed corruption to germinate and become institutionalized because of its benefits. Having made corruption the norm and integrity the exception, it now becomes very difficult to effect behavioural change, especially amongst adults. In my own country, genuine anticorruption fighters are seen as abnormal persons because, the normal citizens ought to take advantage of the new culture where corruption is the norm.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Just Published: Guide for African Mobile News Business

“The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the African Media Initiative (AMI) have just published "Mobile Media Services At Sub-Saharan African Newspapers: A Guide To Implementing Mobile News And Mobile Business", aimed at helping African newspapers harness this important platform in the region.

The handbook includes case studies gathered through interviews with newspapers in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa, including the Observer and Daily Monitor in Uganda, the Standard and the Daily Nation in Kenya, and Grocott’s Mail, the Mail and Guardian, the Sunday Times and the Sowetan in South Africa, as well as News24.com – South Africa’s biggest online news provider.”  READ MORE

Modes of Punditry, Modes of Influence

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As the global system endures another round of crisis, leaders and policy makers in many countries are under pressure. The tip of the spear ---barring riots and protests -- tends to take the form of inflamed punditry: on air, on line, and on newspaper op-ed pages. Since we live in an age of volubility, or what someone calls the paradox of plenty in the global media, punditry is everywhere these days and yet most of it is of dubious quality. The outlets for punditry grow exponentially every week. The question, though, is this: how do we assess the quality of the massed punditry that we are being bombarded with these days?

I see at least two categories of influential pundits:

Strategic Communication vs. Communication

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

As we reported on this blog, CommGAP organized an Executive Course in Communication for Governance earlier this month. The communication part of the course was characterized as "strategic communication" - which made me wonder what, exactly, strategic communication is, how it is relevant for our work, and whether it's different from "communication" per se. A faculty member from the course pointed us to an article by Hallahan et al., titled "Defining Strategic Communication," which states that "strategic communication" is "the purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission." The purposeful use of communication makes it "strategic." The authors elaborate that : "Six relevant disciplines are involved in the development, implementation, and assessment of communications by organizations: management, marketing, public relations, technical communication, political communication, and information/social marketing campaigns." Although the authors see strategic communication as "an emerging paradigm," this clarification defines strategic communication as a set of tools, not as a discipline. Marketing, public relations etc. themselves are no disciplines, but approaches drawn from broader fields, such as economics and communication.

Quote of the Week: Tony Blair

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"News is rarely news unless it generates heat as much as or more than light. Second, attacking motive is far more potent than attacking judgement. It is not enough for someone to make an error. It has to be venal. Conspiratorial. Watergate was a great piece of journalism but there is a PhD thesis all on its own to examine the consequences for journalism of standing one conspiracy up. What creates cynicism is not mistakes; it is allegations of misconduct. But misconduct is what has impact. Third, the fear of missing out means today's media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack. In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits."

--Tony Blair, Blair's speech on politics and media, The Telegraph, June 12, 2007

Answering the Right Questions

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

In good governance circles, we love to champion accountability tools: citizen score cards, civil society-local government linkages, participatory budgeting, etc. They sound wonderful on paper, and frequently work well off paper, but one can sometimes detect a certain weariness on the part of the supposed recipients/beneficiaries of these tools. These initiatives may be effective at times, but they simply don't address the underlying power structure, development practitioners often hear. What is one supposed to do about the shadowy but real network of frequently unaccountable elite, particularly in the context of a developing country that features a culture of impunity and lacks deeply rooted institutions of accountability?

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

Voices from Eurasia
Social media for anticorruption? Exploring experiences in the former Soviet block

"Spurred by events in the Arab world and high profile examples like the Indian Ipaidabribe.com, the role of social media to fight corruption and, more broadly, improve governance has been in the spotlight recently (see e.g. the Accountability 2.0 blog). Perhaps the most comprehensive reports we have come across in this area are from the Transparency and Accountability Initiative. Their global mapping report on technology for transparency and the latest piece on the state of the art in transparency, accountability and citizen participation are particularly informative. Ditto for the online tracking tool on technologies for civic engagement.

A recent post from Aleem Walji on the World Bank’s CommGap site, “From egov to wegov” provides a good summary of the key issues at stake:

As Tim O’Reilly famously said, the days of ‘vending machine government’ where citizens pay their taxes and governments solve their problems are gone."
READ MORE

Wit and Consultant-Speak from an Executive Course

Sina Odugbemi's picture

During our recent Executive Course in Communication and Governance Reform (Washington, DC, July 18-27) I mostly listened and took notes as the expert faculty and the participants interacted. Reading through my notes later, I noticed that I jotted down some of the substantive insights but I also noted  utterances that amused me. Here is a sample of the latter in no specific order and without attribution. Warning: each one needs a pause for reflection.