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June 2014

Stretching the Frontiers on Fiscal Openness Initiatives

Massimo Mastruzzi's picture

The recent Open Government Partnership (OGP) regional events in  Bali and Dublin have provided a fertile opportunity for participating countries to showcase their performance in advancing open data reforms and for newer members to learn from their peers. The positive energy and participation at these events was a reminder of the strides achieved in recognizing the importance of open data as a precondition for better development outcomes. This was particularly relevant in the field of fiscal openness where an increasing number of countries demonstrated how they are taking actions towards improving transparency in financial matters.

The fiscal openness working group (FOWG) - a partnership between the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), the OGP Secretariat and the Governments of Brazil and Philippines - – provided a good opportunity to review the results achieved so far. It produced a background paper that reviewed the status of fiscal commitments. The following highlights stood out in helping us gauge the extent to which fiscal transparency principles are being operationalized in the OGP context:

Blog Post of the Month: Why are World Cup Fans so Crazy?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Each month, People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that earned the most clicks.  This month, "The Things We Do: Why are World Cup Fans so Crazy?" captured our attention. 

This is unsurprising considering how popular the World Cup is and how eager fans have been to consume information about it.  In the tournament's first week alone 459 million posts, likes and comments were created on Facebook concerning the World Cup.  On Twitter, the World Cup has also been popular, and the Cup's opening match, between host country Brazil and Croatia, inspired 12.2 million tweets.  This is remarkable, but makes sense because Brazil has the fifth-most Twitter users in the world, behind the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Already, there has been excitement, and the next few weeks promise to be filled with anger, anguish, joy, and triumph. Sports fans have always been deeply emotional and obsessed… but also incomprehensible to those who ‘don’t get it.’ Why do fans paint their faces, dye their hair, or engage in bizarre rituals for good luck? Why do we still cheer for our teams despite corruption or other misdeeds? 

Read the blog post and tell us what you think! Are you superstitious? Do you have interesting ways to show your pride?
 

Is Your Project a Focusing/Mobilizing Event?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
Normally, focusing events are crisis events. And in the literature on agenda-setting, scholars like R.S. Wood specify that focusing events have the following characteristics:
 
  1. They occur suddenly;
  2. They tend to be rare;
  3. They are often large in scale; and
  4. Both policy makers and the public find out about these events at the same time.

Recent examples are events like the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan or the Deep Water Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. What agenda-setting scholars claim, rightly I believe, is that focusing events promote broad discussion of policy: Why is this happening? What could we have done differently as a country? What should we do now?

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Without Stronger Transparency, More Financial Crises Loom
Committee to Protect Journalists
The social forces that can encourage euphoria among investors and then suddenly flip them into mass panic are not unlike those that generate crowd disasters such as the stampedes that have killed more than 2,500 pilgrims at Mecca since 1990. In such moments of herd-like behavior, the common element is a profound lack of information. If neither the individuals in an enthusiastic crowd nor those charged with policing it have a grasp on how it is behaving as a whole, the mob can grow too big for its surroundings. Equally, if those people are ill-informed about the extent of the risks they face when they discover something is wrong, they will assume the worst and rush for the exits, increasing the danger to all. This describes numerous crowd disasters. It also illustrates the financial crisis of 2008.

2014 Global Peace Index
Vision of Humanity
We are living in the most peaceful century in human history; however the 2014 Global Peace Index shows that the last seven years has shown a notable deterioration in levels of peace. The Global Peace Index measures peace in 162 countries according to 22 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence. This is the 8th year the index has been produced.

Campaign Art: Raising Her Voice

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Only 1 in 5 parliamentarians worldwide are female, and even fewer serve as Head of State or Head of Government.

In formulating and implementing government policy and development projects, the lack of female voices in decision-making processes can have unfortunate consequences. For example, an estimated 222 million women in the developing world would like to delay or prevent pregnancies but do not use contraception, resulting in 20 million unsafe abortions and 30million unplanned pregnancies.
 

Raising Her Voice, Oxfam's global programme to support female political participation and leadership through collective activism, has empowered women worldwide, creating avenues  to make their voices heard.  This ensures that political processes are accountable to them and that policies reflect their needs.  

The following video commissioned by Oxfam International illustrates why it's important for women to be a part of decision making, but also that it is possible.

Raising Her Voice

The Need to Improve Administrative Data

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture
While we debate poverty estimates and methodologies, the humble administrative data continues to be ignored
 
A key aspect of good governance is the generation and use of data—good quality data, produced through reliable means that can inform policy-making and implementation. The importance of official data need not be underlined—state and national-level poverty statistics are fodder for academic as well as political debates. We know that this is mainly because the headline figures reflect the achievements of the governments in power.

However, in the same universe, administrative data is often ignored. Administrative data is the data collected primarily for (or as part of) implementation of specific interventions or functions. Within the government, this may refer to data as varied as that of birth and death registries; cooking gas cylinders issued; teachers’ attendance or mid-day meals served. It is easy to see how such administrative data can be used in monitoring implementation—better data can help identify and plug leakages; ensure better targeting and delivery; and maintain a high quality of service delivery, among others. In fact, the quality of data is both a contributing factor as well as outcome of the quality of governance. Better data, made public in easily digestible formats can also enable citizens to hold governments to account.

Managing Risk for Development – Through a New World Bank MOOC

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

In the past two decades while the world has experienced global integration, technological innovation, and economic reforms, there has also been financial turbulence and continuing environmental damage. As the world changes, a host of opportunities are constantly arising, and with them, appear risks both new and familiar.  These risks range from the possibility of job loss and disease, to the potential for social unrest and natural disasters. This is the topic of a new World Bank Group MOOC illustrating how risk management can be used as a tool for development by helping to minimize crises but also unlocking important opportunities.

Quote of the Week: Rachid al-Ghannouchi

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"The cure for a failed democracy is more democracy [...] dictatorship disguised in religion is the worst kind of dictatorship."

 -Rachid al-Ghannouchi, founder and chairman of Tunisia's moderate Islamist party, Ennahda. Since the 2011 Tunisian revolution, the party has become the largest and most well-organized in Tunisia.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Please Do Not Teach This Woman to Fish
Foreign Policy
Is there anyone out there who doesn't think small business is the lifeblood of any economy? From Washington to Warsaw, politicians and pundits just can't speak highly enough of plucky entrepreneurs. Even in poor countries, entrepreneurship is one of the most important forces underpinning economic growth, but the best way to raise living standards and reduce poverty is not necessarily to make everyone an entrepreneur. So why do so many costly development programs apparently ignore this fact? Once upon a time, people who wanted to fight poverty believed in direct approaches that solved identifiable problems one by one. If you wanted to make farmers more productive, you gave them fertilizer. If you wanted to boost manufacturing, you set up factories. To help both of these sectors grow and export goods, you built roads and ports. These kinds of investments quelled hunger and raised incomes in many countries. But recently, an indirect approach arose with promises of still greater benefits.

Where Next for Aid? The Post-2015 Opportunity
ODI/UNDP
This joint ODI-UNDP paper looks at whether development aid will remain important in the post-2015 era, and asks how the old aid model should change in response to a dramatically new world and new sustainable development challenges. The paper suggests that the label “international public finance for sustainable development” – or IPF4SD – is a more accurate description of the types of interventions that need to be funded in the post-2015 era. This finance will also be needed over the long-term. The authors suggest ways in which these funds could reliably be raised over the long-term, as well as how the architecture which mediates IPF4SD could be improved.

Development Challenges for Participatory Public Delivery of Underground Water in Rural India

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

India’s rapidly industrializing economy and urbanizing society pose a daunting challenge towards augmenting the limited supply of water resources.  No wonder that conflicts over competing uses and users of water, especially in rural areas, are growing by the day. Agriculture, that uses eighty percent of the water resources with low efficiency, is a case in point. Falling water table due to deep drilling and groundwater contamination through discharge of untreated effluents is a serious problem. Therefore, in context of the climate change effects that continue to upset weather patterns, efficient underground water management is extremely critical for 200 million hectares of rainfed areas. This, infact, constitutes 62% of the geographical area of the country with the largest concentration of rural poverty spanning several agro ecological regions.

Since groundwater, as a common pool resource, also accounts for nearly two- thirds of India’s irrigation water needs, there is a dire need for a participatory approach to make its sustainable management more effective. It is interesting to highlight that while groundwater resources are perceived as a part of specific geographic and administrative formations- watersheds, landscapes, river basins, villages, blocks, districts and states, they are seldom placed in the context of aquifers- rock formations that are capable of storing and transmitting the same.

Media (R)evolutions: A Facebook Minute

Roxanne Bauer's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

A lot can happen in a minute-- and on Facebook that truism is well-proven.
 

This infographic by SumoCoupon shows what happens on Facebook each minute, as a billion-plus users navigate the social media site.  Turns out, they share 3.2 million posts, upload 243,000 photos and send 150,000 messages.

The Things We Do: Why are World Cup Fans so Crazy?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

The World Cup started in Brazil on June 12. This means that the next few weeks will be filled with anger, anguish, joy, and triumph.  Sports fans have always been deeply emotional and obsessed… but also incomprehensible to those who ‘don’t get it.’  Why do fans paint their faces, dye their hair, or engage in bizarre rituals for good luck? Why do we still cheer for our teams despite corruption or other misdeeds? 

Edward Hirt, a psychology professor at Indiana University in the US, has researched sports psychology, and he says, "As human beings, we have this desire to feel a sense of belonging or a sense of social connectedness with others, and being a part of different groups (gives) us identities."  Scientists have shown that fans who feel personally invested in a team or who attend games and cheer with their fellow fans reap mental health benefits that come from feeling social connected.
 

The Importance of Learning and Climate Change

Maya Brahmam's picture

While at the Carbon Expo in Cologne at the end of May, there was a great deal of interest in the climate change learning programs that we shared with attendees. The sense I got as I spoke with participants from a range of sectors (engineering, risk management, energy consulting) is that people are realizing that knowledge needs to be converted to learning to become practice, especially on a topic as complex as climate change. This was one of the drivers behind the development of our recent Massive Open Online Course on climate change.

Are We Measuring the Right Things? The Latest Multidimensional Poverty Index is Launched Today – What do You Think?

Duncan Green's picture

I’m definitely not a stats geek, but every now and then, I get caught up in some of the nerdy excitement generated by measuring the state of the world. Take today’s launch (in London, but webstreamed) of a new ‘Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014’ for example – it’s fascinating.

This is the fourth MPI (the first came out in 2010), and is again produced by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), led by Sabina Alkire, a definite uber-geek on all things poverty related. The MPI brings together 10 indicators, with equal weighting for education, health and living standards (see table). If you tick a third or more of the boxes, you are counted as poor.

Quote of the Week: Brendan Nyhan

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Journalists have strong incentives to inflate the likelihood of worst-case scenarios for whoever is losing the current news cycle, which produces a lot of phony “game changers”. After so much hype and so many failed predictions, who can blame citizens for tuning these stories out?"
 

Brendan Nyhan, an American political scientist, liberal to moderate political blogger, author, and assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College.
 

“I contain multitudes": Is Logical Consistency an Illusory Ideal?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
-Walt Whitman
 

The possibility of rational debate and discussion in human affairs remains a stubborn and persistent ideal. This is, I suspect, mainly because we have a lot riding on it. Without the possibility of rational debate and discussion, it would be close to impossible to work in groups, and for the groups to be productive, to get stuff done. Deliberative processes would also be unworkable; and would in fact not exist.  Parliaments and similar legislative assemblies – allegedly the great deliberative forums of liberal constitutional democracy – would not function without some attempt to promote rational debate and discussion. Democracy itself celebrates the ideal. The whole idea of  a public sphere rests on the notion that citizens can meet in the virtual public square-- constituted today by the mass media system in each country– and exchange views on the great public issues of the day, from which process-informed public opinion might emerge, and so on.

Yet, the ideal of rational debate and discussion requires (a) certain personal disciplines, and these disciplines are not easy to practice; and (b) personality traits that are not evenly distributed within any population.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Show Them the Money, Why Giving Cash Helps Alleviate Poverty
Foreign Affairs
Every year, wealthy countries spend billions of dollars to help the world’s poor, paying for cows, goats, seeds, beans, textbooks, business training, microloans, and much more. Such aid is designed to give poor people things they can’t afford or the tools and skills to earn more. Much of this aid undoubtedly works. But even when assistance programs accomplish things, they often do so in a tremendously expensive and inefficient way. Part of this is due to overhead, but overhead costs get far more attention than they deserve. More worrisome is the actual price of procuring and giving away goats, textbooks, sacks of beans, and the like. Most development agencies either fail to track their costs precisely or keep their accounting books confidential, but a number of candid organizations have opened themselves up to scrutiny. Their experiences suggest that delivering stuff to the poor is a lot more expensive than one might expect.

2015: The year there will be more cellular connections than people
GIGAOM
At the end of March, there were 6.8 billion mobile connections around the globe, meaning there were more than 9.3 cellular links for every 10 people living on the planet, according to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report. That puts the world on pace to reach 100 percent mobile penetration in 2015, meaning the number of mobile connections will surpass the population. That doesn’t mean we’ll see every man, woman in child in the world’s estimated population of 7.2 billion using a mobile phone. Mobile penetration is definitely increasing in developing markets – Africa and India led the way in new connections in Q1 – but the concentration of mobile devices is still centered on developed markets. Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America have already exceeded the 100 percent penetration mark.

How Storytelling Can Help Turn the Tide on Climate Change

Roxanne Bauer's picture

There is no shortage of discussion on climate change; it seems almost pervasive these days. The media report extreme weather events, animal extinction (think polar bears floating off to sea), health problems, and the political push and pull around the issue.  The problem is also prevalent in popular culture, with magazines running special issues, movies showing the end of our days, and video games that presenting post-apocalyptic scenarios.  Yet, we have very little consensus about how to deal with it.

Robert Redford recently wrote a blog post calling for more storytelling on “complicated, politically charged issues like our environment and the need for swift action to combat climate change.”

Campaign Art: The Seatbelt Crew

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
 
India loses around 380 lives every day in road crashes. The World Health Organization Global status report on road safety 2013 also notes that fatalities in road accidents in India are on the rise, increasing from 8 deaths per 100,000 people to nearly 12 in 2010. This means that every four minutes a life is lost in a road accident in India. Another 5 million have been left seriously injured or permanently disabled. 

Simple adjustments though, including stricter enforcement of seatbelt and helmet wearing, can help reduce these distressing statistics. That's where the Seatbelt Crew comes in.
 

A group of special, transgender Indian women use their sacred position in Indian culture to urge motorists to use their seatbelts.  The following video shows the Seatbelt Crew as they direct motorists and passengers at traffic stops to use their safety devices.

The Seatbelt Crew

The Governance of Service Delivery 10 Years On: Are we Really Learning the Lessons?

Simon O'Meally's picture
The blogs and events on service delivery ‘ten years on’ are timely and critical. There is now a wide consensus on the fundamental importance of service delivery for furthering poverty reduction.  As we try to forge a so-called ‘post-MDG consensus’, we would be wise to take stock of the past before lurching forward.
 
So I thought I would chip in to the debate on lessons learned. In my role supporting service delivery in South Asia, I have actually been asked, ‘what have we learnt?’  So I have been trying, but still failing, to come up with a satisfactory summary – not least because what constitutes a ‘lesson’ depends on the ‘evidence’ you value.  Here is my (subjective) work in progress:

Quote of the Week: Mary Midgley

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There is this increasing faith that physical science is the answer to all our terrible questions. I want to fight against the whole idea that it is where you go to for enlightenment.”

- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.

Bits and Atoms: ICTs in Areas of Limited Statehood

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Imagine that you’re a citizen of a country that has just experienced one of the worst earthquakes in history. You, your neighbors, and fellow country-men are immediately thrown into danger, chaos, and destitution. As one of the fortunate survivors, you wait for authorities to provide medical care, shelter, food, and other immediate needs, but you receive little or no help. Yet, to your surprise, a large group of ordinary citizens begin organizing a massive disaster response by using blogs, twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks. Their efforts have provided you with life-saving resources. And all of a sudden, within days, digital technologies have facilitated an entire social movement around this earthquake. These are the types of stories that Steven Livingston and Gregor Walter-Drop examine in their new edited series, Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood.
 
If you are interested in digital media and politics, there is a plethora of literature on the role of ICTs in powerful political systems in the industrialized world. However, there has been very little focus on the role of digital technology in weak states with inadequate governance systems. Bits and Atoms is a comprehensive volume that examines the extent to which ICTs can help fill governance voids in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, Sub-Sahara Africa, and the Middle East. A distinguished group of scholars attempt to answer some important questions like, “Can ICTs help fill the gap between pressing human needs and weak states’ ability to meet them? Can communities use ICTs to meet challenges such as indiscriminate violence, disease, drought, famine, crime, and other problems arising from deficient and non-responsive state institutions? How does ICT affect the legitimacy of the state?”

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Two-Thirds of Obese People Now Live in Developing Countries
The Atlantic
We tend to think of obesity as a rich-country problem, but for several years now evidence has been building that the public-health hazard is assailing low- and middle-income countries as well, even as these same countries struggle with high rates of malnutrition. In perhaps the most comprehensive snapshot yet of this phenomenon, a study published in The Lancet on Thursday found that one-third of the world's population is now overweight or obese, and 62 percent of these individuals live in developing countries.

Why Humanitarians Should Pay Attention to Cybersecurity
Brookings
Most international staff I know who are working in the humanitarian field aren’t paying any attention to cybersecurity. Why is that? For starters, it’s an issue rooted in the security community which humanitarians have traditionally tried to maintain at arm’s length. But also humanitarians see themselves as the good guys; "we’re delivering food and water to needy people," the argument goes, "who would want to launch a cyberattack against us?" While this argument has been undermined by the fact that even well-meaning humanitarians are targeted by armed actors using traditional weapons, there’s still a reluctance to pay attention to cybersecurity. And humanitarian actors are under pressure to keep their overheads low so that they can distribute most of their funds to people in need – not to beefing up their IT departments. Inspired by my colleague Peter Singer’s new book, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know,” I humbly suggest four reasons why humanitarians should pay attention to this field.

Assessments: The Art of Measurement of Performance: Lessons from the Medical Profession

Tanya Gupta's picture
In our last blog we talked about why measuring competency and performance is vital for development professionals.  In this blog, we talk about some take-aways from the medical profession on the measurement of competencies and performance.
 

The medical profession, by necessity, has hard requirements  (inflexible and critical requirements) for measuring competencies and performance. In fact, such measurement is mission critical. While the development profession does not have “hard” requirements, we can learn from their rigorous approach. Here are a few principles and rules that we could borrow:

Media (R)evolutions: Asia Pacific's Pay-TV Boom

Roxanne Bauer's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

When people talk about innovation in media, digital devices and social media are most likely to come to mind.  Yet, at the end of the day, we all like to watch TV.  

Global pay TV revenues, calculated as a total of subscription fees and on-demand movies and TV episode, will reach $209 billion in 2020, an increase from $193 billion in 2013, according to a new report from Digital TV Research.   While revenues are expected to decrease in North America by 9.2% (around $9 billion) between 2013 and 2020 and in Western Europe by 1.6%, these declines will be more than offset by revenue growth of nearly $15 billion (up by 47%) in the Asia Pacific region. Revenues will also more than double in Sub-Saharan Africa to $5 billion.


The Things We Do: Will Money Make You Mean?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
In a TEDTalk published Dec 20, 2013, social psychologist Paul Piff shares the results of several research studies on how people behave when they feel wealthy. He concludes that while inequality is a complex and formidable challenge, there are bright spots, too. 
 
In the first study, two participants are asked to play Monopoly, but one player is given more money than the other.  Throughout the course of the game, the 'rich' player moved around the board louder, made sounds of dominance and non-verbal displays of power, and became ruder and less sympathetic to the 'poor' player.  After the game ended and the rich player won, the rich player talked about what he/she did and bought during the game to explain the outcome- they did not mention the unfair advantage they were given at the start of the game.

Piff believes that Monopoly can be used as a metaphor for many contemporary societies in which some people are born with more access to resources, money and power. 
 
TED Talks, Paul Piff

Breaking Down the Silos: Reflection on the “Invisible Wounds” Meeting

Mike Wessells's picture

Speaking as a psychosocial practitioner-researcher, the World Bank's recent “Invisible Wounds” conference, which enabled a rich dialogue between psychologists and the Bank's economically-oriented staff, was a breath of fresh air. In most war zones, humanitarian efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial support and economic aid to vulnerable people have frequently been conducted in separate silos. Unfortunately, this division does not fit with the interacting psychosocial and economic needs seen in war zones, and it misses important opportunities for strengthening supports for vulnerable people.
 
A case in point comes from my work (together with Susan McKay, Angela Veale, and Miranda Worthen) on the reintegration of formerly recruited girl mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda. These girls had been powerfully impacted by their war experiences, which included displacement, capture, sexual violence, exposure to killing and deaths, and mothering, among others. After the ceasefire, they were badly stigmatized as “rebel girls” and were distressed over their inability to meet basic needs and to be good mothers. The provision of economic aid alone would likely have had limited effects since the girls believed that they were not fit for economic activity (many saw themselves as spiritually contaminated and as having “unsteady minds”), and they were so stigmatized that people would not do business with them. Similarly, the provision of psychosocial assistance alone likely would have had limited effects because the girls desperately needed livelihoods in order to reduce their economic distress and be good mothers.