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February 2012

When the Intellectual is a Thug

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As a rule, when intellectuals contribute to public debate on any issue of public concern in any country, it is an entirely wholesome development, and one deserving every encouragement. That is truer if the intellectuals involved know how to communicate even the most abstruse area of knowledge vividly, clearly, compellingly. For, when we say we desire ‘informed public opinion’, one of the best ways of bringing that about is by encouraging well-trained minds on any subject relevant to a public policy question of general concern to help their fellow-citizens by throwing a bright light on the subject. That is why news and current affairs editors everywhere try to maintain a roster of experts that can be called upon to comment on issues occasioning public controversy.

Citizens and the State: Working Across the Demand and Supply Dichotomy

Darshana Patel's picture

Citizens are assigned various roles in the development process (service users, project beneficiaries, and consulted stakeholders). But how can citizens move from being just users and choosers of social services to makers and shapers of policies and processes so that they can ultimately lead their own development?

“The most effective citizens are the most versatile: the ones who can cross boundaries. They move between the local, the national and the global, employ a range of techniques, act as allies and adversaries of the state, and deploy their skills of protest and partnership at key moments and in different institutional entry points.”  Blurring the Boundaries: Citizen Action Across States and Societies

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.

Open Society Foundations
Mapping Digital Media: Digital Media, Conflict and Diasporas in the Horn of Africa

“The Open Society Media Program has commissioned background papers on a range of topics that are important for understanding the effects of new technology on media and journalism. The papers accompany a series of reports, "Mapping Digital Media," on the impact of digitization on democracy in 60 countries around the world.

The Horn of Africa is one of the least connected regions in the world. Nevertheless, digital media play an important social and political role in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia (including South-Central Somalia and the northern self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland). This paper shows how the development of the internet, mobile phones, and other new communication technologies have been shaped by conflict and power struggles in these countries.”  READ MORE

The Art of War: Cultural Policies and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Are post-conflict societies that foster, promote, and develop their cultural industries providing important reconciliation benefits to their communities? If so, should governments make cultural policy a vital part of their post-conflict reconstruction plans?

After the traumatic experience of war, a number of policymakers may consider health, security, food, and shelter as the highest priorities without much consideration for culture. However, what many leaders in post-conflict zones often forget is that a conflicted, divided, and wounded population often compromises real prospects for peace and stability. Consequently, I argue that policies that encourage the development and growth of the cultural industries should be a critical part of post-conflict reconciliation efforts.

How Social Networks Improve Your Health

Maya Brahmam's picture

My neighbor, who is 44, just suffered a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery. His wife, with two young children, was understandably in a state of shock. We rallied around with home-cooked heart-healthy meals and helped with exercise. My family stepped up because we knew that our neighbors, without close relatives locally, could use our help and support.

So I felt a sense of connection when I read Mark Hyman’s recent article in the Huffington Post on how communities are often the best medicine for change.  He pointed out that the secret of an effective model for treating drug resistant TB and AIDS in Haiti lay not in new drugs or medical centers, but in the community. He notes, “Recruiting and training over 11,000 community health workers across the world…proved that the sickest, poorest patients with the most difficult to treat diseases in the world could be successfully treated. The community was the treatment…”

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 National Press Club
Freedom of the Press panel explores 'Arab Spring' aftermath

"The revolutions sweeping the Middle East and North Africa have brought the promise of more open and accountable governments and societies but that outlook has dimmed, as autocratic regimes in the region have responded to the so-called “Arab Spring” by clamping down hard on reporters and citizens communicating on the web, a panel of experts said a National Press Club Freedom of the Press event Feb. 14.

“Wait a few more years before you call it ‘spring,’” said a skeptical Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, one of the panelists.

As regimes have felt threatened by their own people’s demands, their security personnel have beaten, detained, spied on and even killed reporters. They have blocked communications via phone, satellite TV and the Internet. They have conducted surveillance of the computer activities of reporters and citizens alike."  READ MORE

The Future of Education: What Happens to Accreditation Under an Open Education Model?

Tanya Gupta's picture

In our last blog The Future of Education: Amazon or an eBay Model? "Anonymous" posted an excellent question:

"Very insightful, and I agree with most of the premises. The only one that stands out is the accreditation/social validation angle. IIT or Harvard graduate has a validation angle to employers, which will not go away for top institutions".

We had the exact same comment from a colleague on the blog recently and this blog summarizes some views on the subject:

How Should the World Bank Support Social Accountability: Share Your Views!

John Garrison's picture

This is a question many World Bank stakeholders – civil society, government, private sector representatives – have been debating in recent years.  The questions is even more timely now that the Bank is considering establishing a new global Partnership for Social Accountability geared to supporting civil society capacity to engage with governments to improve development effectiveness.  It comes in response to a speech Mr. Zoellick gave in April 2011 on the need to scale up relations with civil society in the wake of the Arab Spring and growth of civil society worldwide. 

Quote of the Week: Clay Shirky

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Disciplined and coordinated groups, whether businesses or governments, have always had an advantage over undisciplined ones: they have an easier time engaging in collective action because they have an orderly way of directing the action of their members. Social media can compensate for the disadvantages of undisciplined groups by reducing the costs of coordination."

Clay Shirky

Associate Arts Professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and Distinguished Writer in Residence in the Journalism Department, New York University

Quoted in Foreign Affairs article, The Political Power of Social Media, Jan/Feb 2011

Citizens Love Transparency

Maya Brahmam's picture

Governments? Not so much…When Francis Maude spoke at the World Bank recently on the topic of open data and open government, he said, “The truth is governments have generally collected and hoarded information about their countries and their people…”

Today, however, the context has changed. Citizens are demanding more accountability and openness, and new technologies are making it easier to share data and information more freely. There are also sound reasons for doing this as experience indicates that having a more informed citizenry improves services, and open data has the potential to generate a host of new services and businesses.

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.

OECD Observer
Don’t forget corruption

“The crisis should not divert attention from the fight against corruption.  Mark Pieth, Chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, talks to Lyndon Thompson about the need to keep the ball rolling.

Mark Pieth is the affable, soft-spoken chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. He has held the post for more than 20 years, during which time he also served on the committee charged with investigating the Iraq Oil-for- Food Programme and the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, headquartered at the OECD in Paris, and most recently as an advisor on the Integrity Board of the World Bank.”  READ MORE

Watching People As They Walk

Sina Odugbemi's picture

If you have ever spent time on any major campus, you will be familiar with what I am about to describe. The architects of the campus will usually have laid out paved walkways for pedestrians to use as they move from one building to the other. These prescribed walkways are designed to protect the carefully maintained lawns that major campuses also tend to have, urging pedestrians to refrain from walking on the often gorgeously manicured lawns. If you are familiar with campuses, you also know that people tend to ignore the prescribed walkways. They move around the campus in ways that makes sense to them, even if that means carving ugly footpaths through carefully gardened lawns. The controllers of the environment try to forbid the use of footpaths, but they usually give up after a while. Hence, part of the story of a well-used campus is the network of footpaths, distinct from paved walkways, that sprouts over the years…and remains well-trodden with a stubborn, almost riotous, insistence.

The Future of Education: Amazon or an eBay Model?

Tanya Gupta's picture

In a Washington Post article that Dr. Qasem and I wrote entitled “The Arab Spring of Higher Education,” we spoke of the Amazon model and the eBay model of higher education. Here we elaborate on these two models and talk about what education will look like in the future.

First, let’s look at some US trends in higher education:

  1. Tuition costs are becoming increasingly unaffordable for college students.  President Obama in his Michigan address asked colleges to think of ways to make education cheaper and more accessible.  Large capital investments and fixed costs make it difficult for colleges to cut their expenses drastically
  2. College degrees are unaffordable for many and even so, do not guarantee a job.  There is a demand for many prospective students is to learn materials and skills that would help them get a job
  3. Free availability of multimedia tools, broadband access, differentiated student base, demand for flexibility and modularized education, and technologically empowered end-users has created an environment where a demand for 24/7 education can be fulfilled by individuals or groups of individuals

Quote of the Week: Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

“The social order we seek is not a utopia. It is a world where political life is understood in terms of active participation by the governors and the governed in the realization of the common good.”

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel

1980 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Excerpt from Nobel Peace Prize Speech

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.

One
The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance – you better take it seriously!

“In three weeks, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance will enter into force. The Charter was adopted by the African Union (AU) five years ago. Now that fifteen member states have ratified it, the Charter becomes legally binding and operational. Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Cameroon were the 13th, 14thand 15th countries to ratify the Charter. Why should we bother about this document? A Charter that was ratified in majority by countries that don’t lead by example in terms of good governance; a Charter that might be just another paper tiger without any teeths; one of a range of legal documents that don’t change anything about the real lives of African citizens?

Not quite.

The African Charter actually doesn’t contain many new elements. But, much more important, it summarizes and reconfirms existing African engagements on good governance that the continent’s leaders have taken over the last thirty years or so. And the Charter takes them a step further, in operationalizing their implementation. So instead of adding to the pile, it tries to rationalize the African good governance architecture and improve its translation into reality.” READ MORE

Is Media Freedom at the Heart of Media Development?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

What’s media assistance about anyway? Actually, there’s not really a straightforward answer to this question. I realized that when I listened to Daniel Kaufmann of the Brookings Institute earlier this week at an event hosted by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and Internews. Kaufmann’s answer was that media assistance is about media freedom. A free media is a necessary, although not a sufficient condition for successful media development.