Syndicate content


Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Reasons Advanced for Lack of African FOI Laws

"Why does Africa have comparatively few freedom of information laws?

The reasons were explored in a number of papers presented at The First Global Conference on Transparency Research held May 19-20 at Rutgers University-Newark, N.J. (See overall report in

One reason is that the western, liberal concept of access to information conflicts with different traditions of citizenship and governance in Africa, said Colin Darch, of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. “Indeed, the fact that the African campaigns for legislation per se have either lasted for decades or failed to get off the ground at all may be evidence that the wrong tree is being barked up.”" READ MORE

CommGAP Launches "Accountability Through Public Opinion"

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP is delighted to announce the publication of its third edited volume, "Accountability Through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action." The book is edited by CommGAP's Program Head Sina Odugbemi and Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Authors from development practice and academia discuss in 28 chapters how citizens can hold their governments accountable, and how genuine demand for accountability can be created.

The idea for the book was born at a CommGAP workshop in 2007 in Paris on "Generating Genuine Demand with Social Accountability Mechanisms." A few years later, we proudly present a compilation of essays that are relevant for current events in the Middle East and in North Africa as much as for any efforts to strengthen citizen's agency vis a vis their governments.

New Frontiers, New Barriers . . .and the Start of New Conversations?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated today and throughout this week with events around the world. Here in Washington, a veritable who’s who of journalists, free speech advocates, government officials and NGOs have gathered to network and learn from each other at the World Press Freedom Day 2011 conference, hosted at the Newseum by UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State.

This year’s theme is “Twenty-First Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.” Listening to some of the speeches, you can hear a distillation of several points that many of us who support voice and accountability repeatedly stress: the Internet and digital platforms, as well as traditional journalism, have tremendous potential to contribute to freedom of expression, democratic governance, and sustainable development. At the same time, that potential is prevented from its full realization by a host of factors, including governmental and other forms of censorship, surveillance, intimidation, and other means.

A New Social Contract with Civil Society?

John Garrison's picture

The recent democratic uprisings in the Middle East served as the backdrop for a major speech given by Bank President Robert Zoellick on the emerging role of civil society.  The speech, The Middle East and North Africa: A New Social Contract for Development given at Washington’s Peterson Institute on April 6, may well mark a watershed in Bank – civil society relations.  He stated that “now it may be time to invest in the private, not-for-profit sector – civil society -- to help strengthen the capacity of organizations working on transparency, accountability, and service delivery.”  Mr. Zoellick further said that “in one way or the other, a modernized multilateralism needs to recognize that investments in civil society and social accountability will be as important to development in the Middle East and beyond as investments in infrastructure, firms, factories, or farms.” 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

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

Kenya: Citizen Watchdogs Go Online

"Holding government officials accountable is the goal of a new project that solicits citizen reports via mobile phone. Through this Web-based public forum the government’s performance will be scrutinized – and, the hope is – improved."
Kenya - "In a new forum here for citizen complaints, one recent report complains about inadequate medical care: “No medicine, no nurse at Nyamira Hospital. I am tired of this.” Launched a month ago in test phase, the Web-based forum allows ordinary Kenyans to comment on the government’s success in performing basic functions. Using a mobile phone or computer, citizens can post comments which are then published on a public website. Called Huduma (which means “service” in Swahili), the platform solicits reports about government services in five areas: health, education, water, governance and infrastructure." READ MORE 

Trying to See Like a Citizen

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

"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 skill of protest and partnership at key moments and in different institutional entry points."
This quote and other interesting nuggets come via a new report on citizen engagement from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC) at the UK's Institute of Development Studies (IDS).  Thought-provoking and based on a decade of research spanning 150 case studies in nearly 30 countries, the new report contains a wealth of organized thought on both the changing role of citizens in development and the shifting sands of citizen-oriented development policy. In fact, I found myself highlighting so many different portions, I'm just going to split this post in two.

Shared Societies: The Link Between Inclusion and Economic Growth

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada and Member of the Club de Madrid, presented an argument in favor of fostering "shared societies" at the World Bank today - providing, unintentionally, CommGAP with a systematic case why inclusive communication and accountability promotes economic growth. The "Shared Societies Project" of the Club de Madrid operates on the assumption that inclusive societies are more peaceful and economically more successful. A shared society, in this organization's understanding, is a society "where people hold an equal capacity to participate in and benefit from economic, political and social opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, language, gender or other attributes and where, as a consequence, relations between groups a peaceful."

“Attacks on the Press: A Hurdle for Accountable Governance?”

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In recent months, it’s become more evident that journalism is a dangerous business.  Yet, good journalism is crucial for good governance and for an informed citizenry.  During the uprisings in North Africa and in the Middle East, journalists, professional and citizens alike, have been beaten, imprisoned, or gone missing for reporting (or trying to report) facts and stories from the ground.  The sad truth is that the number of attacks on the press around the world is increasing. In fact, there has been a dramatic increase in the last decade.

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
The future of development: Goodbye aid and MDGs, hello global goods and well being

"The future of development. What a title. It's fraught with hostages to fortune, bear traps and day dreams.
I pick 2030 as "the future". Partly because, 15 years after the first set of millennium development goal (MDG) targets I expect poverty (percent and numbers) in Asia to be much lower, and in Africa I expect the decline to be strong too. But partly because it is far enough away to think a bit more freely." India’s Technology Transition From Software Giant to Fighting Corruption

Tanya Gupta's picture

When India first started using technology for national development, it used technology to build a huge software industry which helped the economy grow in the 1990s. In the decades that followed, with a much improved economy, civic minded Indians set their sights on a much loftier goal – tackling corruption.

In July 2008 The Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, "including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder". The criminalization of politics causes a huge drain of public resources and the resulting loss of credibility for politicians dissuades civic minded citizens from stepping forward. Unfortunately the average voter often has little to no idea of the criminal background of some of these Parliament members and hence public opinion cannot be used to throw them out of power. The media, too, does not have capacity to focus on all the corruption cases and usually focuses on the most egregious violations.