Since the Unique Identification Authority of India embarked on its unique identification project (UIDAI) in 2010, an estimated 200 million people have voluntarily enrolled. As discussed in a previous blog, the UIDAI aims to administer some 1.2 billion unique identification numbers by the end of this decade. The 12-digit online number, also referred to as Aadhaar (“foundation” in Hindi), is issued upon completion of demographic and biometric information by the enrollees. The number will give millions of Indian residents, previously excluded from the formal economy, the opportunity to access a range of benefits and services, such as banking, mobile, education, and healthcare. The UIDAI specifically aims to extend social and financial services to the poor, remove corrupt practices plaguing existing welfare databases, eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and hold government officials accountable.
I believe that we can all agree that an accountability revolution is sweeping the world. More governments are facing pressure from citizens to be accountable and are being held accountable. All major institutions, including those in the private sector, face greater and greater scrutiny. Even major media organizations are being embarrassed and held accountable. If in doubt, just ask Rupert Murdoch.
Yet, what is perhaps the profoundest obstacle in the path of efforts to make governments (and major institutions) more responsive and accountable to citizens is the phenomenon sometimes known as the ‘deep state’.
Adaptive capacity is “the ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.” (The definition comes from the Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.)
Communication has a role in all levels of climate change adaptation efforts; from the dialogue that establishes multi-governmental agreements, the positive public opinion required to introduce national polices to implementing new practices at local levels. But building adaptive capacity at the local level seems the most complex and challenging. Whether at the community, household or individual levels, building local adaptive capacity requires shifting people away from the “old way” of doing things to introducing new processes. Adaptation efforts require communities to implement new practices and ideas, take risks, and experiment.
One of my favourite Oxfam projects is Chukua Hatua (CH) in Tanzania, which is using an evolutionary/venture capitalist theory of change to promote accountability in a couple of regions of the country. CH is now looking for a new coordinator, because the wonderful Jane Lonsdale is moving on – if you fancy taking over, check out the job ad (closing date 20 July).
Talk of ‘Evolutionary theories of change’ all sounds very abstract, so here are six specific examples of the kinds of change the project is bringing about.
I’ve been reading the set of papers Oxfam recently published on local governance and community action (see previous blog) and was struck by how central the issue of ‘implementation gaps’ is in our work.
An implementation gap is where a set of institutions (often created via decentralization), policies or budgets (or all three) exist on paper, but are absent on the ground. Such a situation provides a particularly good entry point for an INGO like Oxfam because it reduces political risk (you are supporting the implementation of what the state has already agreed) and the benefits are likely to be easier to achieve and can have a galvanizing effect – plucking low-hanging fruit is great for morale and motivation. In terms of power analysis, this is about making the most of ‘invited spaces’ rather than creating new ones.
Just in case you were tempted to think that the revolution in public scrutiny that more and more governments have to face these days can only be a good thing, Peter Aucoin pops up to say maybe this is problematic in ways we have not been focusing on. In an article in the April 2012 edition of Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, titled ‘New Political Governance in Westminster Systems: Impartial Public Administration and Management Performance at Risk’ Aucoin examines the impact on the tradition of the impartial civil service in Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, among others:
- Masses of media
- Transparency and openness
- Competition in the political marketplace
What is striking is that in all these developments that people like me celebrate he sees danger. You ask: what’s there not to like about these things? Plenty, he seems to reply.
"We live in an age of accountability. Standards of behaviour once deemed acceptable as long as they stayed out of sight are now beyond the pale."
Philip Stephens, as quoted in the Financial Times, February 17, 2012.
Can the sharing of technical mapping tools and datasets help to change longstanding political relations? This is exactly what’s happening between the World Bank and some of its longstanding advocacy CSO interlocutors. Several recent training sessions and technical workshops co-organized with CSOs on the Bank’s open data tools, are leading to increased collaboration around a common transparency and accountability agenda.
One example is a hands-on training workshop co-organized by the World Bank and the Bank Information Center (BIC) on the Bank’s Open Development Programs on March 7, 2012. Some 20 representatives of well known policy advocacy CSOs from the Washington area (see photo) participated in the two-hour session which featured presentations on a number of Bank data platforms and search tools: Projects and Operations, Open Data, Mapping for Results, and Open Finances. With individual computers stations and Internet access, participants were able to carry out individualized exercises and interactive tutorials. Building on the positive feedback received from this session, an extended 4-hour training session was held during the Spring Meetings on April 18. Some 25 CSO and Youth leaders from developing countries participated in this second session. (see Summary)
It’s environment week, kind of. Tuesday was World Environment Day and tomorrow is World Oceans Day. Both days were institutionalized through United Nations resolutions to draw attention to the environment and the threats it is exposed to. For communicators in development, climate change is one of the most relevant issues. Communication scholars also have thought a lot about how to effectively communicate climate change. I am not quite sure, however, whether the two sides are working together. Let me therefore discuss how framing can influence our understanding and acceptance of climate change.
Matthew Nisbet from American University has written an interesting article on “Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter for Public Engagement”. He argues that the enormous divide between the factual reality of climate change and citizens’ perception is partly due to the way interest groups have been framing the issue. He identifies a number of frames that are being used in the public discussion (p. 18):
When they first met in 2010, they hardly knew each other. This week, members of the World Bank’s International Corruption Hunters Alliance convened their second meeting and for many of them, the fight against corruption is no longer solo.
Once again, the World Bank welcomes more than 200 corruption fighters driving an agenda that is focused on international cooperation, technological tools and new approaches that can be incorporated in their anti-corruption mission. Since their meeting in 2010, a lot has happened. Corruption did not end but many of their collective actions had a profound impact in spreading a higher standard of accountability in public procurement and creating a broader range of enforcement powers. Cooperation between the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency and a number of national prosecution and investigative bodies has resulted in action against corrupt companies and officials. Examples are many. The point is, working as an Alliance is about sharing information and conducting parallel investigations, that is turning transnational crimes from a challenge to a success story.