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Coalition-Building

Trying to See Like a Citizen

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

"The most effective citizens are the most versatile: the ones who can cross boundaries. They move between the local, the national and the global, employ a range of techniques, act as allies and adversaries of the state, and deploy their skill of protest and partnership at key moments and in different institutional entry points."
 
This quote and other interesting nuggets come via a new report on citizen engagement from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC) at the UK's Institute of Development Studies (IDS).  Thought-provoking and based on a decade of research spanning 150 case studies in nearly 30 countries, the new report contains a wealth of organized thought on both the changing role of citizens in development and the shifting sands of citizen-oriented development policy. In fact, I found myself highlighting so many different portions, I'm just going to split this post in two.

Defining Problems for Effective Coalition-Building

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Technical specialists like to name social problems using the language of their disciplines, and of whatever narrow policy community they belong to. What they often forget is that to secure broad support within the relevant political community how you define the problem that you are asking society to focus on and do something about matters. It matters a great deal. In fact, it can be the difference between getting the attention of legislators and broad publics or having your issue ignored.

For a live example consider the current efforts to implement health-care reform in the United States, something that presidents have been trying to do for about 50 years. Let's ask: What's wrong with America's health care system? What needs to be fixed? In other words what is the definition of the problem?

Why Uruguay?

Silvio Waisbord's picture

Again, Uruguay shows that when civil society intelligently promotes coalition-building and finds sympathetic allies in government, media reform is possible. On June 10, the Congress passed a bill to reform the Penal Code and the Press Law. The new law will abolish libel laws and subject national legislation on communication issues to criteria enforced by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. The bill is likely to be approved by the Executive.

This achievement is another landmark of recent efforts towards media democracy in Uruguay. During the past two years, legislation on community broadcasting, access to public information, and national archiving of information was approved. The passing of community broadcasting law in December 2007 represented a major success. The law assigns one-third of radio frequencies to community, non-profit stations. It defines community stations in terms of the nature of their goals (“social mission”) and ownership (“collective properties”) rather in terms of reach or geographical location. It stipulates the existence of the Consejo Honorario Asesor de Radiodifusión Comunitaria, a multi-sectoral committee with significant representation from civil society that oversees the bidding process and monitors the performance of stations to ensure that they meet social goals. The passing of the “freedom of information” law in October 2008, and the elimination of libel and contempt laws are other positive advances. This is encouraging if we consider that, like in the rest of the region, the dominant media system historically conformed with the norm of media policies in Latin America: state patrimonialism and collusion between governments and large business.