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accountability

Civil Society Finds its Voice in Tahrir Square

John Garrison's picture

While it may take historians years to understand the historic conditions and political factors which triggered the democratic revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East, one thing seems to be certain.  The political actor which has gained the most prominence in these political uprisings has been ‘civil society’. This term encompasses the large sector within any given society which sits between governments and the for-profit or private sector.  As such it includes youth movements, workers unions, NGOs, political parties, and faith-based organizations among others.  It is a term still little understood, often derided by authoritarian governments, and rarely heard in the Middle East until now. The term in Arabic is “mojtama'a madani” and has the same broad meaning as in English.  It is said that when Egyptian ex-President Mubarak first heard the term he mockingly quipped, “So what’s wrong with military society?”

Show Me Your I.D., Please!

Johanna Martinsson's picture

If someone were to ask you to identify yourself, you would probably reach into your purse, or pocket, and pull out some form of identification.  Without it, one loses some of the basic benefits of living in a society. You cannot open a bank account, purchase a home, or vote, and so on.  Many countries, however, don’t have a functional identification system.  In India, for example, millions of citizens are unable to benefit from social and financial services because they don’t have proper identification.  Also, current welfare databases are plagued with fake names and duplications, entered by corrupt officials. Thus, the country has embarked on a massive identification project that will be one of the largest citizens’ databases of its kind.

Sotto Voce?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Recently I read yet another paper advancing the idea that governance reforms should take a back seat to economic development. To which, as I watch the ongoing footage from the Middle East, I must respond: really?
 
If there is nothing else that recent events in Egypt have taught us, it is that people, everywhere, demand a voice. Not all democracy templates are universally applicable. But citizens of any country surely desire the freedom to express themselves, and count themselves heard. It's not merely a human right; it's a human fact. 
 
Many development agencies have been caught off balance by recent developments in the Middle East, and are scrambling to adjust. Why? Because we, the collective development community, still have no real way to think about issues of voice, accountability, representation, politics, and power. Our assessment templates only marginally, if at all, take into account such crucial issues; operationally, we have no established methods of building such issues into our work. Even now, governance remains a road hesitantly trod, skirting the outside of the development mainstream. And yet I challenge anyone who has watched recent global events unfold to argue that governance and politics do not matter in people's everyday lives.

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.

By The People (America.gov)
Civil Society and Social Media

“The term “civil society” can seem almost as amorphous as the term “social media.”  Yet the two are becoming ever more powerfully linked to the promotion of democracy and human rights in the modern world.

Civil society can encompass any collection of nongovernmental activists, organizations, congregations, writers and/or reporters.  They bring a broad range of opinions to the marketplace of ideas and are considered critical to a vibrant, well-functioning democracy.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has described a free civil society as the third critical element to democracy – the other two being a representative government and a well-functioning market.”

Development 2.0: Three Things We Could be Doing Better

Tanya Gupta's picture

Recently I blogged about how development institutions are not making effective use of social media for development.  But what can be done about it?  In this blog I suggest three specific actions that development institutions can take to proactively include social media in their projects, and discuss some sectors where Web 2.0 could make a real difference. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the terms interchangeably, however for inquiring minds, Web 2.0 and social media have slightly different meanings.

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.

Full Disclosure: The Aid Transparency Blog (Devex)
Recipient Governments Must Boost Transparency, Too: The Case of India

“‘Watch out, aid wallahs’ and ‘Payback time for corrupt panchayats’ have become catchphrases for a new generation striving for development in India.

The Right to Information Act, originally intended to halt corruption and encourage transparency, has become a tool for poor communities to access and realise their right to development.

Parbati, a soap seller from Kalur in Tamil Nadu, had not received her pension for five years until her grandson heard about the law and they jointly requested information on the delay from their local officials. A week later, Parbati’s new pension book was in her hand.”

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.

OpenAid
This is how aid transparency could look like

"People who argue for more transparency in development cooperation are often eager to point out all the merits of transparency. Unfortunately, often we are not very sure whether our claims are well founded. Even worse, there are very few examples who can illustrate how exactly, "more transparency" could look like. The International Aid Transparency Initiative which will be implemented by the first donors in 2011 is a concrete example of governmental and multilateral donors representing a large percentage of global ODA making aid information available and accessible.

Also, in non-governmental development cooperations efforts are underway to increase accountability and transparency. The UK-based NGO OneWorldTrust even created a website to map over 300 NGO accountability initiatives around the world. But there are few concrete examples of making the information about work of more than one NGO transparent and easily accessible."

Publish and the Problem Will Go Away?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Transparency International’s (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index provides a rather bleak picture of the current state of corruption around the world. With more than half of the 178 indexed countries scoring below five on a 10 point scale (with 10 being “very clean”), corruption remains a major impediment to development.  Thus, TI is now advocating for stricter implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), a global legal framework that came into force in 2005 to help curb corruption. The Convention’s 140 signatories’ will be under review for the next three years for their efforts in fighting corruption.  TI further recommends that focus should be given to areas such as, “strengthening institutions; strengthening the rule of law; making decision-making transparent; educating youths and setting up better whistle-blower protection schemes.”  As a matter of fact, anti-corruption measures will be discussed at the G-20 summit taking place in Seoul next week.  However, Christiaan Poortman, TI’s Director of Global Programmes, is skeptical as to whether it will produce any major changes at the governance level. 

Participatory Video: A Tool for Good Governance?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

 

The use of relevant and credible evidence from the ground is crucial in strengthening arguments and incentives for reform.  The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, for example, was successful in part because of the evidence gathered and presented by experts with practical experience from conflict-torn societies.  Forging strong ties with local actors and ensuring inclusive representation in coalitions are crucial factors for successful campaigns.

To this point, Transparency International (TI), a global coalition to fight corruption, recently introduced Participatory Video (PV) as part of their program on Poverty and Corruption in Africa. The introduction of PV is a first for TI, and it is used as a tool to engage and partner with the poor in fighting corruption. In collaboration with InsightShare, a leading company in PV, TI’s African National Chapters have started training local communities on how to create their own films, capturing authentic stories about corruption and how it impacts their daily lives. Alfred Bridi discusses his experience about the training process in Uganda and has made a short film (see above) to illustrate the process and enthusiasm among the participants.

Technology and Transparency

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Say you're a civil society activist who uses online and mobile technology as a tool for greater accountability. Wouldn't you want to be able to call up a map of the world and easily find examples from other countries that might also be relevant for your work?
 
Turns out, you can. Recently, at the Internet at Liberty 2010 conference co-sponsored by Google and Central European University, I heard a presentation from the Technology and Transparency Network, which is an initiative of Global Voices and Rising Voices.  Click on the link, and you'll see that the Technology and Transparency Network's home page is a map of the world, where you can zoom in on individual projects in countries like Mexico, Sudan, Uganda, Cambodia and Hungary. 

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