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.
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.
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.
The One World Trust, with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), has created an interactive, online database of tools to help organisations conducting policy relevant research become more accountable.
Processes of innovation and research are fundamental to improvements in quality of life and to creating a better society. But to realise these benefits, the quality of research alone is not enough. Organisations engaged in policy-relevant research and innovation must continually take into account and balance the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders: from the intended research users, to their clients and donors, to the research community and the research participants. Responsiveness to all of these is crucial if they are to be legitimate and effective. In this, accountable processes are as important as high quality research products.
In my last blog, I wrote about the potential of social media in promoting good governance, specifically participatory governance. The example I talked about – participatory processes used in President Obama’s “Race to the Top” - was in the context of a mature democracy, with enabling institutions, infrastructure and an engaged civil society, all of which contributed to the success of “Race to the Top”. However, even in an environment where these elements are not present, social media can still contribute to improved governance, although in a different and perhaps more limited way. Despite the lack of strong institutions, rampant poverty, limited infrastructure, and the ever-present threat of censorship, social media (often fuelled by mobile technology) has played a role in countries such as Bangladesh and Iran.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Browsing bills, bill and veto jackets and state contracts is not exactly my idea of a good time but it has its use, just ask the people of the State of New York where SunlightNY.com is promoting access, reform and accountability in both English and Spanish. Created largely by the Office of the Attorney General and Blair Horner, a leading advocate for government transparency who was on loan to the office from the New York Public Interest Research Group, SunlightNY.com is an innovative approach to keeping the public engaged in government. An approach that’s seems to have no equal in the US.
- United States
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Transparancy & Accoutnability Project Minnesota
- Texas Transparency
- state contracts
- Project Sunlight
- NYS Attorney General
- New York State Public Interest Research Group
- elected officials
- digitial democracy
- developing world
- campaign finance
- Blair Horner
During a recent discussion on the issue of diplomacy in the information age, hosted by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, I got to mulling over the idea of the transnational public sphere. An interesting recent paper out of Europe by Jens Steffek focuses on the emergence of this transnational public sphere and its ability to successfully pressure public institutions for greater accountability and better governance. I believe new communication technologies have amplified this sphere's scope and scale.
But the question that then arises is this: does the very force that enables and empowers the transnational public sphere also degrade the quality of deliberation upon which it depends to function effectively? In a globally networked information environment, public opinion can coalesce in the blink of an eye, fed by multiple information sources both credible and non-credible. Can a transnational public sphere truly be an effective force for better governance if it is not backed by genuinely informed debate and deliberation? What separates a transnational public sphere from a transnational mob?
On May 2 this year, Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, the gigantic Wall Street bank, was interviewed on CNN by Fareed Zakaria (his show is Global Public Square). Towards the end of the interview, Blankfein set up a striking distinction between the two publics of Goldman Sachs, as he saw them, and the ethical standards relevant to each public. The exchange is worth quoting in full:
ZAKARIA: We're back with the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein. And finally, when George W. Bush tried to persuade Hank Paulson to become secretary of Treasury, as you know, he tried a couple of times and finally, he got Paulson to agree. It was a great coup to have gotten the chairman of Goldman Sachs, the most storied name in finance, to come to his administration and now, here you are with a very different reputation, particularly in the public's eyes. Do you think you can right, do you think that a few years from now, this will all have passed and Goldman Sachs will still be regarded with the same kind of awe and admiration it was or is that world over?
Two brilliant speakers visited the World Bank last Friday: Beth Noveck, the United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government and Head of President Obama's Open Government Initiative and Hans Rosling, Swedish Professor of International Health and famous for his bubble graphics of complex development statistics. They commented on the World Bank's recent Open Data initiative that brought 17 data sets with more than 2,000 indicators from World Bank data sources online and into the public domain.
At the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Santiago last week, I was able to gather a wealth of information and ideas regarding the use of ICT for accountability. In a session on this topic I had the chance to discuss with people who actually implement citizen media projects on the ground and shared their experience and insights. A number of very interesting and useful ideas came up:
Accountability needs "bottom-up transparency". Many governments in developing countries do not have the capacity for gathering data that they could then publish for citizens to hold them accountable. Supporting government capacity may not be the only and not even the most efficient solution: Several participants of the session introduced projects where it is the citizens themselves that provide information about public services.