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accountability

India's Fight for the Right to Education

Duncan Green's picture

Education is fine example of the strengths and weaknesses of judicial activism in India. The Right to Education (RTE) Act was passed in 2009, arising out of constitutional amendment in 1999 that redefined the right to life as including education (!). Private schools challenged the act, especially its requirement that they reserve 25% of places for lower castes, but the Supreme Court upheld it.

To see what all this means on the ground, I duck out of my boring conference and head for Madanpur,  a colony for slum dwellers ‘rehabilitated’ in 2000 – i.e. their previous homes were steamrollered and they were shunted to the margins of Delhi. Its current population of 145,000 earns income from construction, domestic work etc – almost entirely in the informal economy.

Oxfam India’s partner, the slightly ungrammatical EFRAH (Empowerment for Rehabilitation, Academic and Health) is an RTE activist NGO working with schools to implement the Act – part support, part watchdog (‘they like us, and they are afraid of us’). There is plenty to work on, as the gap between the Act and reality is great: it mandates school management committees with equal teacher/parent representation, but there are none to be seen in Madanpur.

Accountability is Based on Relationships, but Data Helps Too

Fletcher Tembo's picture

"Imagine this: A health care worker or parent in a village, with a laptop or mobile device, can access development knowledge in real time through geocoding and geomapping. She can see which schools have feeding programs and which go without, and what is happening to local health... She can upload her own data, throw light on the likely effect of new interventions and mobilise the community to demand better or more targeted health programs." Robert Zoellick, Former President of the World Bank

I found this quote while attending a World Bank facilitated discussion on open data and development at the World Bank/ IMF Annual Meetings in Tokyo, Japan, a few weeks ago. There, and elsewhere, increased interest in the potential of open data is spreading from high level ‘open’ initiatives, such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), to tools for enabling local accountability and service provision. These projects aim to introduce greater availability of the most needed ingredient for citizen engagement with their governments: access to public information.

The common assumption in all these initiatives is that ordinary citizen, armed with copious information, can mobilise others and generate resolve to demand better public services. Implicit behind this assumed ‘demand’ is that information will be put to work in an ‘us versus them’ process of holding government to account (us being the mobilised, informed community, and ‘them’ being the holders or monopolisers of public information, often governments).

Quotes of the Week: On India's Media Boom

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“For the Indian media, it is unquestionably the best of times and it is also, unfortunately, the worst of times.”

--TN Ninan, chairman and editorial director of BSL group

“Given its size, India presents the greatest challenge to the view that diverse and often critical media will hold power to account.”

-- John Lloyd , FT contributing editor and director of journalism at the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute


As quoted in the Financial Times, October 19, 2012. A week inside India's media boom, by John Lloyd

The Saakashvili Example: Too Bad We Can’t Design Such Projects

Sina Odugbemi's picture

To make governments truly accountable to their citizens, by far the best basis is to have credible elections. When citizens can actually throw out governments they no longer approve of then you have a fundamental framework for transforming accountability relationships. This is true even when you concede that elections are not perfect instruments of accountability. More needs to be done in the period between elections; citizen vigilance must not wane. But free and fair elections are incredible accountability devices.

That is why for new or young democracies, the first time a sitting government concedes defeat in an election is a milestone. It does not follow that the new democracy is going to make it but you know immediately that the basis is being created for constitutional democracy. Hopes begin to rise that maybe, just maybe, another new democracy is becoming viable. So, while staying out of the intricacies of the politics of Georgia and its passions, please join me in saluting the fact that President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia conceded that his party lost the recent elections in that country and promised to work with the new government for the remainder of his own term.  That singular act of statesmanship has now set the stage, as CNN reports, ‘for the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transition through election since the breakup of the Soviet Union’.  And as the political scientist Joshua Tucker, writing in The Monkey Cage, points out, ‘this is a further step of the incremental growth of Georgian pluralism. But it is not a final step.’ Here’s hoping Georgia continues to take these steps to pluralism.

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.

CIMA
Making Media Development More Effective

"CIMA is pleased to release a special report, Making Media Development More Effective, by Tara Susman-Peña, a media development and communications consultant. She was the director of research for Internews’s Media Map Project, which informed this paper. A wealth of research demonstrates that a healthy media sector is consistently paired with better development outcomes and can contribute to better development. However, media development–donor support for strengthening the quality, independence, and sustainability of the news media–has comprised only about 0.5 percent of overall aid to developing countries. Should media development’s track record earn it a more central place in international development? A strong evidence base of original research conducted for the Media Map Project, a collaborative effort between Internews and the World Bank Institute, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides the opportunity to analyze the extent to which donor support to media has helped the media sector fulfill its promise to strengthen development. This report points out that donors to media development have a number of blind spots that prevent their interventions from being more effective and that media development stakeholders could improve their efforts by applying aid effectiveness principles to their practice." READ MORE

DFID Research for Development
Emerging Implications of Open and Linked Data for Knowledge Sharing in Development

"Movements towards open data involve the publication of datasets (from metadata on publications, to research, to operational project statistics) online in standard formats and without restrictions on reuse. A number of open datasets are published as linked data, creating a web of connected datasets. Governments, companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the world are increasingly exploring how the publication and use of open and linked data can have impacts on governance, economic growth and the delivery of services. This article outlines the historical, social and technical trajectories that have led to current interest in, and practices around, open data. Drawing on three example cases of working with open and linked data it takes a critical look at issues that development sector knowledge intermediaries may need to engage with to ensure the socio-technical innovations of open and linked data work in the interests of greater diversity and better development practice."READ MORE

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.

TechCrunch
Meet The $35 Tablet That Could Connect The World

“TechCrunch just got its hands on the new Aakash UbiSlate 7Ci, the super-cheap tablet that will attempt to connect every student in India to the Internet. Educators have long hoped that cheap computing devices could bridge the global information divide, but previous attempts have been dogged by disappointing performance, lack of Internet access, and financial barriers. The latest version of India’s $35 tablet comes equipped with WiFi and has an optional upgrade ($64) of a cellular Internet package of $2/month for 2 GB of data (roughly 25 emails, 25 websites, 2 minutes of streaming video, and 15 minutes of voice chat a day). More importantly, it is expected to launch this month in India with the government’s commitment to connect even the most remote areas to the Internet. The impact of a successful rollout is difficult to overestimate: rural schools that have been connected to the Internet show immediate and tremendous gains.”  READ MORE

Building Active Citizenship and Accountability in Asia: Case Studies from Vietnam and India

Duncan Green's picture

Last week I attended a seminar in Bangkok on ‘active citizenship’ in Asia, part of an ‘Asia Development Dialogue’ organized by Oxfam, Chulalongkorn University and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. It brought together a diverse group of local mayors, human rights activists and academics, and discussed a series of case studies. Two in particular caught my eye.

In India, Samadhan, an internet-based platform for citizens to directly demand and track their service entitlements under national and state government schemes, is being piloted in two districts in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The pilot is supported by the UN Millennium Campaign and implemented by the VSO India Trust. Here’s the blurb from the case study:

12 Recommendations for Building Media and Information Literate Knowledge Societies

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Last week, the international literacy day was celebrated around the world.  The theme this year, Literacy and Peace, was based on the premise that “literacy contributes to peace as it brings people closer to attaining individual freedoms and better understanding the world, as well as preventing or resolving conflict.”  Today, basic reading and writing skills are not sufficient to effectively succeed in a knowledge-based society. The fast speed and wide spread of information have generated an array of new literacies. The following literacies are referred to as crucial to surviving in the 21st century: basic literacy skills, computer literacy, media literacy, distance education and e-learning, cultural literacy, and information literacy.

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.

Trust Law
Corruption in water sector increases hunger risk – experts

“Stamping out corruption in the water sector is crucial to boosting global food production as world population growth increases pressure on water supplies, according to experts meeting at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Corruption in the water sector is already a major problem for farmers and it’s likely to get worse as competition for water increases, a joint statement released by the Water Integrity Network (WIN), Transparency Internationaland the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Water Governance Facility at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said.

Governments, businesses and civil society must work together to improve transparency in the water sector, and introduce better checks and balances to counter corruption and nepotism, the statement said.”  READ MORE 

What Can We Learn from Eight Successful Campaigns on Budget Transparency and Accountability?

Duncan Green's picture

Over the last couple of years, the International Budget Partnership has published a set of fascinating case studies of campaigns on issues of government accountability, budget transparency and access to information. I finally sat down and read them all recently (the summer lull is a wonderful thing). What conclusions do they draw (see end of post for links to the case studies)?

As always, good case studies endorse some of your thinking, but also add some new ideas and insights (at least for me). The common ground is that multi-pronged approaches and alliances have more impact. Successful campaigns often work across multiple layers of government (village, district, state, federal), using multiple strategies (research and insider advocacy, street protest, media). The most effective alliances often bring together unusual suspects (eg radical grassroots CSOs and nerdy thinktanks in the Mexico subsidies campaign).

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