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Judith Tendler and learning from ‘good government’

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

On 24th July 2016, Judith Tendler, former Professor at the Department of Urban studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, passed away. She was 77. A Ph.D holder from Columbia University, Judith Tendler spent several years at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) before a long career as a Professor in MIT. A significant share of Prof. Tendler’s work focused on the Americas, but she also studied South Asia and parts of Africa over her long career.

Prof Tendler’s book: ‘Good Government in the Tropics’ (1997) is one of the most influential books in the field of international development — an essential reading for students of governance and public policy studies. In the book, Prof Tendler and her research associates studied four cases of successful government in Ceara, a relatively poor state in north-eastern Brazil. In each of the cases, the government at different levels played an effective role, facilitating and brokering relationships, and submitting itself to mechanisms which could be used to hold themselves accountable. Those were rare, but rich, examples of ‘good government’.

These cases highlighting the achievements of ‘good governments’ challenged the dominant pessimistic thinking about governance in the so-called ‘third world’. Prof Tendler argued that much of the advice from international development agencies to developing countries was based on an analysis of poor performance of the public sector and governments. This resulted in a tendency to ‘import’ good practices from the successful developed countries, as well as a resistance to looking deeply into poor countries to identify variations in performance. In many ways Prof Tendler consistently challenged the pre-suppositions that development agencies and policy advisors nurtured and which, as a result, shaped the advice they dispensed into narrow straitjackets often unfit for the context in which they were to be applied.

Can the middle class really guarantee good governance?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
When social scientists and historians look back on the transformation in the quality of governance that took place in, first, Great Britain and, later, much of Europe in the course of the long 19th century, one explanatory factor often stands out: the rise of a large enough middle class.  What is large enough is, of course, a question of fact, and varies depending on the particular country context. This explanation is often contested, but it has stuck. People refer, for instance, to the revolts against monarchies that occurred across Europe around 1848 as the middle class revolutions. The sense that this explanation makes sense is so strong that when you attend seminars on improving governance in developing countries at some point or the other someone is bound to say: “Let’s be patient folks. Once these countries have a large enough middle class the pressure for improved governance will be unstoppable.”

I write about this now because I have just read an essay by Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development that restates the view with some sophistication. Please see: “Middle –Class Heroes: The Best Guarantee of Good Governance.” The essay is worth reading in full. I am going to focus only on her core case. Key quote:
Having a large middle class is also critical for fostering good governance. Middle-class citizens want the stability and predictability that come from a political system that promotes fair competition, in which the very rich cannot rely on insider privileges to accumulate unearned wealth. Middle-class people are less vulnerable than the poor to pressure to pay into patronage networks and are more likely to support governments that protect private property and encourage private investment. When the middle class reaches a certain size – perhaps 30 percent of the population is enough – its members can start to identify with one another and to use their collective power to demand that the state spend their taxes to finance public services, security, and other critical public goods. Finally, members of a prospering middle class are unlikely to be drawn into the kinds of ethnic and religious rivalries that spur political instability. (Italics mine.)
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Global Anticorruption blog
International summits come and go, and all too often the promises made at these summits are quickly forgotten, lost in an online catacomb or otherwise hard to track. We at Transparency International are determined that the commitments made by government representatives at last May’s London Anticorruption Summit (648 total commitments by 41 of the 43 participating governments) must not slide into oblivion in this way. That’s why, as Matthew announced in a post earlier this month, we’ve gone through every single country statement and compiled all commitments into one central database, sortable by country, theme, and region. Our goal is for this database to be used by anticorruption advocates and activists to monitor what their countries have committed to, and whether and where they are making progress.
 
Wall Street Journal
The ubiquity of cellphones could allow a rapid expansion of financial services throughout the developing world, with major implications for growth and credit accessibility, a McKinsey & Co. report concludes. “With the technology that’s available today you could provide billions of people and millions of businesses opportunities that don’t exist to them today,” Susan Lund, co-author of the McKinsey Global Institute report on digital finance, said in an interview. The report found that with coordinated action by financial firms, telecommunications companies and developing-country governments, some 1.6 billion people could gain access to financial services by 2025, all without major new expenditures on physical infrastructure.
 

Media (R)evolutions: New Publications on Media Development around the World

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Twice a year, CAMECO, a consultancy specializing in media and communications, publishes a list of selected publications on media and communications in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This rich resource includes 250 titles, covering recent media developments and project experiences in about 150 countries worldwide. Many of the titles can be downloaded directly.
 
The following topics are covered in the January – June 2016 edition:
 

> Audience Research & Media Use
> Children & Media, Youth & Media, Media Literacy
> Christian & Religious Communication
> Cinema & Media Entertainment
> Community Media & Citizen Journalism
> Conflicts, Media & Peacebuilding
> Democracy, Governance & Media, Political Communication
> Development Communication, Environmental Communication, Health Communication
> Disaster & Humanitarian Crisis Communication
> Economics & Management of Media
> Freedom of the Press, Media Policies, Media Legislation
> Gender & Media
> International Communication, Foreign News, Public Diplomacy
> Journalism & Journalism Training
> Media Assistance
> Media Landscapes, Media & Communication General, Media & Society

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Gasoline, Guns, and Giveaways: Is the End of Three-Quarters of Global Poverty Closer than You Think?
Center for Global Development

Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that a nation’s people died not because of a food shortage but because some people lacked entitlements to that food. In a new CGD working paper with Chris Hoy, we ask if a similar situation is now the case for global poverty: are national resources available but not being used to end poverty?  The short answer is yes (but don’t stop reading…). We find that approximately three-quarters of global poverty, at the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day, if not higher poverty lines, could now be eliminated—in principle—via redistribution of nationally available resources.

People-Powered Media Innovation in West Africa
Omidyar

As media ecosystems in West Africa are increasingly diversifying and opening up after decades of state control, innovative and independent journalism is advancing government transparency and accountability. New opportunities for funders are opening in tandem, with potential for both social and economic impact. This report explores several of these opportunities, surfaced through in-depth research on Nigeria and Ghana. While both countries lead the region in terms of both economic and media development, they operate under many of the same dynamics and constraints that exist across West Africa, and show how other markets may evolve, politically and commercially.
 

The “voice of the people” is a fearsome thing

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The form of rule known as liberal constitutional democracy – the high achievement of the Enlightenment – is under attack almost everywhere these days by people claiming to represent that most fearsome of things: the voice of the people. This claim is made in a self-justificatory, there-is-no-arguing-with-that manner. All that opponents have to do is bow to the force, the power, and the majesty of, you guessed it, the voice of the people.

This is no ideological divide here. Populists on the right are making the claim as they push for the unchallenged sway of the genuine interests but also the grievances and prejudices of a portion of “the people” which they claim is “all the people”. Spot the slick rhetorical move. Populists on the left make the same claim as they agitate for the genuine interests but also the grievances and prejudices of another (but sometimes overlapping) portion of “the people” which they too claim is “all the people”. The same slick rhetorical move. What is left unsaid is a blunt claim: “The people I represent are the only ones that matter in this political community, and what they want takes priority over all else.”

There is a second rhetorical move that these populist leaders make, especially if, as often happens, they have acquired charismatic authority. It is the elegant dance from the “we” to the “I”. When these populist movements erupt the leaders say “we” a lot, but after a while they become the embodiment (or so they claim) of the “will of the people” and to oppose them is, they suggest, to oppose “the people”. The leaders of nationalist movements make this move easily. Once the “we” becomes the “I” these leaders become truly powerful and dangerous. If you oppose them they can unleash a mob on you, even if the mob is only online. And if they win power, to oppose them is treason. Mere criticism of the leader can land you in jail, and this is happening in some contexts as we speak.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Foreign aid is a shambles in almost every way
The Economist
NOT long ago Malawi was a donor darling. Being dirt poor and ravaged by AIDS, it was needy; with just 17m inhabitants, a dollop of aid might visibly improve it. Better still, it was more-or-less democratic and its leader, Joyce Banda, was welcome at Westminster and the White House. In 2012 Western countries showered $1.17 billion on it, and foreign aid accounted for 28% of gross national income. The following year corrupt officials, businessmen and politicians pinched at least $30m from the Malawian treasury in just six months. A bureaucrat investigating the thefts was shot three times (he survived, somehow). Germany said it would help pay for an investigation; later, burglars raided the home of a German official and stole documents relating to the scandal. Malawi is no longer a donor darling.

The capabilities of finance ministries
ODI
All countries have a finance ministry. If one organizational feature defines what makes a state a state, it is a central unit that handles income and expenditure – or aspires to. This remains remarkably consistent irrespective of the huge variations in the purpose and institutional shape of government. Finance ministries are also at the centre of many current policy discussions, whether on how to respond to the 2008 financial crisis, how best to fund global development goals, or how an emerging economy should go about establishing a welfare state. Virtually every policy decision that involves the raising and spending of public money involves a finance ministry at some stage. Yet despite their almost self-evident importance, very few studies focused on finance ministries as objects of study.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

The World Press Freedom Index
Reporters Without Borders
Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. The Index is a point of reference that is quoted by media throughout the world and is used by diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank. The Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country.

Non-Western Ideas for Democratic Renewal
Carnegie’s Rising Democracies Network
It is commonly asserted that Western liberal democracy is losing credibility and that the international community must be more open to tolerating, and even encouraging, non-Western political models in developing and rising powers. Calls for non-Western forms of democracy have been around for many years but are now becoming louder and more ubiquitous. This trend can be expected to deepen as an integral element of the emerging post-Western world order.  The desire of people outside the West to contribute new ideas to democratic regeneration and to feel stronger local ownership over democracy is healthy. More needs to be done to nurture a wider variation of democratic processes and practices. 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 

Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action
OECD
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the question of how to finance, implement and monitor these goals moves to the centre of the debate. Today, international development co-operation takes place in an increasingly complex environment, with an ever growing number of actors, policies and instruments involved. This complexity raises the stakes for achieving the goals, but also opens up new opportunities. Although governments will remain the key actors in the implementation of the new post-2015 goals, the role of non-state actors such as civil society, foundations and business is growing. Their association through effective partnerships will be key to the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. The Development Co-operation Report 2015 explores the potential of networks and partnerships to create incentives for responsible action, as well as innovative, fit-for-purpose ways of co-ordinating the activities of diverse stakeholders.

Women and power: overcoming barriers to leadership and influence
ODI
Around the world, women now have more power than ever before. Men still dominate decision-making -- but the number of women is on the rise in parliaments and cabinets, judiciary and police forces, formal employment and education. Increasing the number of women in political and public positions is important, but does not mean that they real power. Women in public life are often subject to sexism and prejudice. Women are less represented in the sectors and positions with the most power. This two-year research project on women's voice and leadership in decision-making, funded by DFID, set out to understand the factors that help and hinder women's access to and substantive influence in decision-making processes in politics and society in developing countries. The project also considered whether, as is often assumed, women's leadership advances gender equality and the wellbeing of women more broadly.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Technology for Transparency: Cases from Sub-Saharan Africa
Harvard Political Review
Over the last decade, Africa has experienced previously unseen levels of economic growth and market vibrancy. Developing countries can only achieve equitable growth and reduce poverty rates, however, if they are able to make the most of their available resources. To do this, they must maximize the impact of aid from donor governments and NGOs and ensure that domestic markets continue to diversify, add jobs, and generate tax revenues. Yet, in most developing countries, there is a dearth of information available about industry profits, government spending, and policy outcomes that prevents efficient action.

Popular Uprising against Democratically Elected Leaders. What Makes it Legitimate?
Huffington Post
In the last five years, democratically elected governments in countries as diverse as Guatemala, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Ukraine, Thailand, Macedonia, South Africa, Spain, Iceland, Hungary and presently governments in Moldova, Brazil and Poland were all challenged and some of them forced to step down by mass-based popular uprisings. If it had not been for the strategic weakness of the Occupy movement, the United States might have also seen toppling of its own democratically elected leaders closely tied to business elites. This might still happen. If Donald Trump wins the presidential election and attempts to implement some of his most outrageous campaign promises popular uprising may be in the making sooner than we think.  When is people rising against their own government legitimate? A number of Western philosophical treaties, historical practice and agreements, including declarations of people’s self-determination rights stressed the moral and legal permissibility, and even necessity, to rise up against abusive regimes.

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