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January 2012

The New Advocates

Maya Brahmam's picture

Today, or so the conventional wisdom goes, if you have a compelling issue and a laptop, you can influence people and win hearts and minds in the process. Hence the rise of online advocates, such as Change.org, who run campaigns for groups like Amnesty International for a fee. See the related article in the Washington Post. In Change.org’s case, the general public can create online petitions for free and get help and visibility for their campaigns.

Change.org was originally conceived as a nonprofit, but now it and other companies with a social purpose, e.g., Patagonia Inc., are part of a new and emerging group of “benefit corporations.” What are these corporations and how will they affect us in the future?

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.

Freedom House
Freedom in the World 2012: The Arab Uprisings and Their Global Repercussions

"The political uprisings that have swept the Arab world over the past year represent the most significant challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism, according to Freedom in the World 2012, the latest edition of Freedom House’s annual global survey of political rights and civil liberties. Yet even as the Arab Spring triggered unprecedented progress in some countries, it also provoked a harsh and sometimes murderous reaction, with many leaders scrambling to suppress real or potential threats to their rule. The repercussions of this backlash have been felt across the Middle East, as well as in China, Eurasia, and Africa.

A total of 26 countries registered net declines in 2011, and only 12 showed overall improvement, marking the sixth consecutive year in which countries with declines outnumbered those with improvements. While the Middle East and North Africa experienced the most significant gains—concentrated largely in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya—it also suffered the most declines, with a list of worsening countries that includes Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Syria and Saudi Arabia, two countries at the forefront of the violent reaction to the Arab Spring, fell from already low positions to the survey’s worst-possible ratings." READ MORE

Morocco: When Governance, Transparency, Integrity, Accountability, & Public Procurement Entered the Constitution

Laurence Folliot Lalliot's picture

This post originally appeared on Voices & Views: Middle East & North Africa

Although many events from the Middle East and North Africa region have enjoyed large press coverage and headlines, one has remained, to date, a rather well-kept secret: the inclusion of governance and a dedicated provision on Public Procurement in the new Moroccan Constitution, adopted by referendum on July 1, 2011. In doing so, Morocco has joined the very small list of countries (i.e., South Africa and the Philippines) to grant a constitutional status to this rather technical field, the impact of which will be progressively felt in the world (even outside the small world of procurement lawyers), as it affects how government money is converted into goods and works like roads, schools, vaccines, etc.

We Are All Copycats (and that includes you)

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In theory, we admire and aspire to originality. We claim to be different, in fact, singular in every way. Yet, according to the authors of an important new book on social behavior, we are far less original than we think. We don’t like to acknowledge it, but we borrow ideas and practices promiscuously and we imitate others with feverish abandon.

The book is titled I’ll Have What She’s Having: Mapping Social Behavior, and the authors are two leading anthropologists plus a marketing and communication consultant: Alex Bentley and Michael J. O’Brien are the anthropologists and Mark Earls the consultant on marketing and communication.

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.

The Guardian
Why eliminating corruption is crucial to sustainability

“Ethical business practices are a critical aspect of sustainability, yet progress towards eliminating bribery and corruption appears to be elusive in the face of persistent headlines such as the recent forced resignation of Avon CEO Andrea Jung, the IKEA incident in Russia and the conviction of former French president Jacques Chirac.

Corruption continues to have a dire effect on the global economy. In fact, The World Bank and the World Economic Forum estimate that corruption costs more than 5% of global GDP ($2.6tn) annually, and estimate that more than $1tn is paid in bribes annually. These organisations suggest that corruption adds 10% to the total cost of doing business globally, and a staggering 25% to the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries.”  READ MORE

Let Me Entertain You

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

When we talk about how mass communication can be used to foster development effectiveness, what kind of communication are we talking about? Well, I would say that we often talk about information-centered mass communication – be it in political media or through other channels. Communication centered on facts and bits of information is certainly a wide-spread approach in development, but let’s think about communication that does not so much focus on facts, but on emotions and context.

How Can Development NGOs Go Urban?

Duncan Green's picture

Just spent a fascinating week in Nairobi, taking part in a review of our three-year- old urban programme there. Like many large development NGOs, Oxfam is deeply rural – goats, irrigation, drought, that kind of thing - but the world has gone urban, and so in a few countries, we are dipping our organizational toes in the water. Some impressions on the challenges of urban work:

Perhaps most striking are the multiple centres of power and association compared to the rural world. Tier upon tier of government, dense networks of clubs, traditional and tribal structures and militia, social and community organizations, churches, ‘merry-go-round’ savings and loans groups, youth groups, sports clubs, cultural groups – the list is endless. Power is dispersed and often hard to map or even detect. How to chart a way through the forest of organizations and identify potential partners and targets for influence?

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.

International Development Research Centre
Local Governance and ICTs in Africa

"With governance high on the agenda in Africa, many governments are using information and communications technologies (ICTs) to develop ways in which they deliver services to citizens. E-governance has the potential to enable local governments to engage citizens in greater participation, leading to socioeconomic developments at local and national levels. But this potential remains largely unexploited and, until now, there has been a lack of evidence on information technology in local governance in Africa.

This book addresses that gap. It offers studies from nine African countries that explore how ICTs can transform service delivery, tax, financial management, land management, education, local economic development, citizen registration, and political inclusion." READ MORE

Nothing New Under the Sun? Social Media, the Arab Spring, and the Reformation Era

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

A few weeks ago, the Economist provided an interesting take on social media, the Arab Spring, and the Reformation era. The article, How Luther Went Viral, claims that centuries before Facebook and the Arab Spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation era.  Led by Martin Luther, the Reformation was a period of religious revolt that led to the division of Western Christianity and the start of Protestantism. The developments of this period were propelled by the advent of the printing press, which the article describes in rich detail. But it begins by making an interesting claim about how Luther and his allies promoted the message of religious reform with the social media of their day—pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts. So basically, the central argument of the piece states that what happened in the Arab Spring is what happened in the Reformation era: a new form of media provided the opponents of an authoritarian regime an opportunity to voice their concerns, affirm their discontent, and mobilize their actions.

The Thunder of Multitudes

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Perhaps it should not have been surprising that given the rolling thunder of multitudes that the world witnessed throughout 2011, the global news media would end the year with reflections on the fact that citizens massed, marched and yelled at the powerful.  If you are English-speaking, you would have noticed that TIME Magazine’s person of the year was The Protester.  Kurt Andersen’s cover story is beautifully written; so too are the photographs and illustrations that accompany the piece. If you have not read it, try to do so.

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.

ICT Works
Avoiding the Digital Divide Hype in Using Mobile Phones for Development

"To all of you digital divide warriors out there – nice work. With over 483 million mobile phone subscriptions in low-income countries - an estimated 44.9% penetration rate, few will deny the success of your efforts to expand mobile technology in the developing world.

Rapid mobile growth rates further exhibit success in dissemination, and stats such as, “There are more mobile phones than toilets in India,“ and “There are more mobile phones than light bulbs in Uganda,” make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside."  READ MORE

#1: The Shift from eGov to WeGov

Aleem Walji's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on July 20, 2011

Last week, more than 59 governments and 100 civil society groups joined the Government of Brazil and the United States to announce the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Washington, DC. The initiative brings together nation states, civil society, and the private sector to address problems that Governments are unable to solve alone. Rather than seeing citizens and civil society groups as competitors, governments from the North and South asserted that private actors, commercial and non-profit, are essential partners in solving complex social problems. And this requires a new social contract, a shift from eGov to WeGov.