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The Civil Society Flashpoint: Why the Global Crackdown? What Can Be Done About It?

Duncan Green's picture
Carothers and Brechenmacher coverThis guest post comes from Thomas Carothers and Saskia Brechenmacher of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, drawing from their new report, Closing Space: Democracy and Human Rights Support Under Fire.

When the concept of civil society took the international aid community by storm in the 1990s, many aid providers reveled in the alluring idea of civil society as a post-ideological, even post-political arena, a virtuous domain of nonpartisan organizations advancing a loosely defined notion of the public good. Funding civil society appealed as a way for aid providers to help shape the sociopolitical life of other countries without directly involving themselves in politics with a capital “P.” Power holders in aid-receiving countries, uncertain what to make of this fuss over civil society, were initially inclined to see it as a marginal enterprise populated by small, basically feckless groups of idealistic do-gooders.

Those days are long gone. Whether in Egypt, Turkey, Venezuela, or quite vividly in Ukraine during the final months of Yanukovych’s rule, a growing number of governments now treat the concept of civil society as a code word for powerful political subversives, usually assumed to be doing the bidding of the West. Power holders often fear NGOs more than they do opposition parties, seeing the former as nimble, technologically-savvy actors capable of activating sudden outbursts of mass protest.
 

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.

Smartphones could provide weather data in poor nations
African Brains

“Smartphones can now be used to collect weather data such as air temperatures through WeatherSignal, a crowdsourcing app developed by UK start-up OpenSignal.

This helps crowd source real-time weather forecasts and could one day help collect climate data in areas without weather stations, its developers say.

Once installed, the app automatically collects data and periodically uploads them to a server.

The app’s ability to record air temperature is based upon the discovery that the temperature of a smartphone battery correlates closely to the surrounding air temperature, published in Geophysical Research Letters this month (13 August).” 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.

Mobile Media Toolkit
A Profound Media Shift in the Arab World

“A report from the Center for International Media Assistance analyzes the growth of digital media in the Arab region.

A new report from the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) highlights a profound media shift happening in the Arab world. Amidst continued repression and threats to free expression, both online and offline, this year saw tens of millions of individuals and news outlets using social and digital media tools to capture and share events. The full report is available here: Digital Media in the Arab World One Year After the Revolutions.”   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.

The Wall Street Journal
How To Calculate How Much The Bribe Was Worth

“In the murky world of international corruption, it’s frequently unclear who is paying who and how much they’re paying.

It’s even harder to figure out how much profit a businessman or a company may have derived from greasing the palms of a corrupt government official.

Despite this lack of clarity, ill-gotten gains are one of the primary metrics governments use to calculate penalties for bribe-payers — the thought being, proceeds can only be confiscated if they are calculated accurately.”  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.

Space for Transparency
Mobilising to Make Aid Transparent

"How much money are donors giving to Liberia, Peru and Sri Lanka?

It sounds like a simple question and one that should have a quick answer – but it does not.

Donors have pledged in international agreements to provide such information by making their aid more open and effective, but most have failed to fulfill these promises. Making aid more transparent allows citizens in countries giving and receiving aid to know what it is funding and where. It is information that is essential for ensuring aid has the most impact. It is critical to make sure aid is not wasted or lost to corruption."  READ MORE

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.

FreedomInfo.org
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 FreedomInfo.org.)

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

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."

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
The Dream Job of the Decade

“Data are becoming cheaper, more plentiful, and easier to access and use. What does that mean for transparency? What does it mean for development? And what does it mean for you?

According to Hal Varian, chief economist of Google, it means that you’re going to be in high demand if you have the complementary skill of making sense of large amounts of data. That’s one of the skills of data story-tellers, like Hans Rosling, and statisticians – the dream job of the decade!

A major source of the “data avalanche” has been the move to open government data. The World Bank launched its Open Data initiative on April 20 last year: Development data are now free, searchable and accessible, and the full range of data sets is listed in a catalog for bulk download and direct access.”

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.

Transparency International
No Impunity for Corrupt Dictators

“The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have demonstrated the power of citizens who won’t endure corrupt governments any longer. Their call for accountable and transparent leadership to ensure an equal distribution of public goods was heard around the world.

In France, the UK and Switzerland governments heeded calls to freeze and investigate the assets of ex-president of Tunisia Ben Ali and ex-president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak and their families. There should be no impunity for those who wield power for their own benefit and not for their people.”

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