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Citizen Voice

Is It Time for a New Paradigm for "Citizen Engagement"? The Role of Context and What the Evidence Tells Us

Simon O'Meally's picture

The meteoric rise of "citizen engagement"

Almost all development agencies promote some form of citizen engagement and accountability, often framed as 'voice', 'demand-side governance', 'demand for good governance' or 'social accountability'.   The current World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, recently put it that, "citizen voice can be pivotal in providing the demand-side pressure on government, service providers, and organizations such as the World Bank that is needed to encourage full and swift response to citizen needs".  There has, in turn, been a mushrooming of useful operational guidance on different "tools" for social accountability - i.e. steps, inputs and methodologies - that guide discrete interventions, ranging from citizen score cards to participatory expenditure tracking.

One might, however, be forgiven for thinking that some of the debates on citizen engagement need an injection of realism; especially as contextual factors can make or break a "tool's" implementation.  A review of experience to date would be one good place to start.

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.

Stockholm International Water Institute
Policy Brief: Preventing Corruption in the Water Sector

“The WGF policy brief, Preventing Corruption in the Water Sector, provides policy makers with concise analysis on how to identify corruption risks in the water sector and offers key recommendations to that can secure political commitments to promote water integrity, transparency and good governance.”  READ MORE

Can the Bank and CSOs Bridge the Trust Gap?

John Garrison's picture

This was a question asked by numerous participants during a consultation meeting held in Washington on February 29 on the Bank’s proposed Global Partnership for Enhanced Social Accountability (GPESA).  They noted that this lack of trust comes from a longstanding view that the Bank tends to favor governments in detriment of the broader society in many developing countries.  Others noted that the lack of trust comes from the perception that the Bank is not accessible and does not effectively engage civil society in some countries. This contrasts with the view, expressed by several participants, that the Bank has made important strides in opening up and reaching out to civil society at headquarters over the past decade and that this positive momentum should guide GPESA implementation.

How Should the World Bank Support Social Accountability: Share Your Views!

John Garrison's picture

This is a question many World Bank stakeholders – civil society, government, private sector representatives – have been debating in recent years.  The questions is even more timely now that the Bank is considering establishing a new global Partnership for Social Accountability geared to supporting civil society capacity to engage with governments to improve development effectiveness.  It comes in response to a speech Mr. Zoellick gave in April 2011 on the need to scale up relations with civil society in the wake of the Arab Spring and growth of civil society worldwide. 

#8: Media and Policy Makers Need to Connect to Online "Influentials"

Susan Moeller's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on September 6, 2011

Most of those who have been riveted to the breaking news in North Africa and the Middle East during the so-called “Arab Spring” and the recent grimmer months this summer have been focused on predicting the actions of the various heads of state—of Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad.  But many academics have been trying to figure out who have been the prime movers of the grassroots unrest sweeping the region. 

Learning from the Last Five Years: CommGAP and Good Governance

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

As CommGAP draws to a close, I've been reflecting a bit on what I've learned from the program over the last five years and the many interesting research, practice and policy questions still left to be explored.


For me, CommGAP was one of the first programs to take a critical look at the phenomenon we call "good governance" by drawing linkages between the related but conceptually distinct strands of accountability, transparency, access to information, citizen voice and mobilization, civil society capacity building, media development, public opinion formation, democratic deliberation, and state capacity/ resilience/ legitimacy. I still remember a conversation I had with Sina at a conference many years ago, asking him how he envisioned the "connective tissue" between all these concepts. The CommGAP program, in a sense, was Sina's answer, and I've been lucky to be able to help articulate some of this work.

Bringing Good Governance into Focus

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

I recently attended a very interesting conference on democratization in East and Southeast Asia, sponsored by the University of Louisville's Center for Asian Democracy, during which there was some discussion of the differentiation between the terms we use to identify varying governance systems and governance-related phenomena. At times we use the terms "democratization," "political liberalization", "political opening," and "good governance" almost interchangeably, when in fact they of course can refer to very different things depending on the perspective and intent of the speaker. In particular, I got to thinking a bit more about the distinction between the field of democratization studies and the field of good governance studies. With respect to the former, there is a longstanding and well-referenced theoretical literature pertaining to political transitions, and a good number of competing "theories of change," each with its own backers, detractors, and robust line of argumentation.

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.

Center for International Private Enterprise Development Blog
Strengthening Local Voices for Development: CIPE's 2010 Annual Report

 "CIPE’s 2010 Annual Report features the impact of partnerships around the world that strengthen the citizens’ voices for market-oriented and democratic governance. Whether CIPE partners work to establish youth entrepreneurship education in Afghanistan, strengthen the voice of the private sector in Ukraine, or reinforce transportation route security in Nigeria to reduce the cost of doing business, the 2010 Annual Report emphasizes the high quality and impact that results from programs designed to keep democratic and economic reforms at the forefront of global issues." READ MORE

Charlie Beckett
Social media and democratic governance: the next decade (Wilton Park paper)

"These are the notes for a presentation I gave as part of the Wilton Park conference on ‘media, social media and democratic governance’.

This has been an extraordinary period for news and also for the way that news is created and consumed. I think that we see some substantial trends emerging are more than passing fads or exceptional circumstances. I want to step back a little from the immediate detail of what is happening and try and put it in a conceptual framework that I think will help us frame policy ideas." READ MORE

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?”

The People versus the Leviathan

Sina Odugbemi's picture

 "Only fools, pure theorists, or apprentices fail to take public opinion into account."

Jacques Necker (1792) finance minister to King Louis XVI of France.
 

Recent events confirm, once again, that public opinion is the basis of power, and the very definition of legitimacy. If it comes to pass that the preponderance of the citizens of a country come to despise or hate their rulers...an event that occurs over a period of time and is the outcome of  experiences, debate and discussion ... that crystallization of public opinion is a serious development, one capable of leading to momentous consequences. The regime in question becomes a hollow leviathan. One can only hope that autocratic leaders as well as the cynical technocrats who advise them are paying attention to the lessons of both recent and ongoing struggles between citizens and a variety of autocracies. 

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