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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.
 

Beyond Propaganda: How authoritarian regimes are learning to engineer human souls in the age of Facebook.
Foreign Policy
Pity the poor propagandist! Back in the 20th century, it was a lot easier to control an authoritarian country’s hearts and minds. All domestic media could be directed out of a government office. Foreign media could be jammed. Borders were sealed, and your population couldn’t witness the successes of a rival system. You had a clear narrative with at least a theoretically enticing vision of social justice or national superiority, one strong enough to fend off the seductions of liberal democracy and capitalism. Anyone who disagreed could be isolated, silenced, and suppressed.  Those were the halcyon days of what the Chinese call “thought work” — and Soviets called the “engineering of human souls.” And until recently, it seemed as if they were gone forever. Today’s smart phones and laptops mean any citizen can be their own little media center. Borders are more open.

Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective
International Monetary Fund
Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time. In advanced economies, the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest level in decades. Inequality trends have been more mixed in emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs), with some countries experiencing declining inequality, but pervasive inequities in access to education, health care, and finance remain. Not surprisingly then, the extent of inequality, its drivers, and what to do about it have become some of the most hotly debated issues by policymakers and researchers alike.

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 data revolution: finding the missing millions
ODI
For governments wanting to end poverty, steward sustainable environments and foster healthy, thriving populations with the opportunity to earn a decent living, many of the necessary pieces are now in place. They start from a good base. Millions of families have escaped poverty and many million more children are in schools than was the case 15 years ago. Much more is known about successful developmental pathways. And many of the world’s poorest countries are experiencing strong economic growth.  But, finance aside, there is still one key element the absence of which is impeding progress: data. Governments do not adequately know their own people.
 
Economic Coalition of the Willing
Foreign Affairs
or the past decade, a quiet experiment has been underway at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based body composed of the United States and other advanced market democracies. Although it is often dismissed as sleepy and technocratic, the OECD has found a way to remain relevant in a quickly shifting global landscape, and other multilateral organizations would be wise to pay attention.  The OECD, like numerous other international bodies, must adapt to changing geopolitical dynamics that have left new major global players outside its ranks. Its response is a so-called “key partner” initiative that allows it to engage—and seek to influence—pivotal nonmember states. This method strikes the right balance between maintaining the OECD’s symbolic role as the enforcer of Western norms and meeting its practical need to maintain a foothold on the global stage. 
 

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.
 

Watchdogs Under Watch: Media in the Age of Cyber Surveillance
Center for International Media Assistance
The report looks at the implications that electronic surveillance–of e-mail communications, telephone calls, visits to websites, online shopping, and even the physical whereabouts of individuals–presents for privacy and for freedom of expression and association on the one hand and for national security and law enforcement on the other. Striking the right balance between these fundamental human rights and the need for governments to protect their citizens poses a daunting challenge for policy makers, civil society, news media, and, in the end, just about everybody.

Measuring what policymakers want from academics
Washington Post
An increasing number of unsupported, but plausible, claims assert a widening gap between the policy and academic communities in international relations. Certainly both IR scholars and IR practitioners perceive a growing gap between the academic and policy communities. But how would we know if there were an actual gap and whether it was growing or shrinking? Scholars have addressed this question by drawing upon personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Joe Nye and Steve Walt have argued that academic research is increasingly irrelevant and inaccessible to policy practitioners. Others, such as Peter Feaver and Mike Horowitz, offer a more qualified take but provide no systematic evidence. So we still need to do what Kate Weaver has suggested: “mind — and measure — the gap” between what scholars are researching and what policymakers are demanding.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

States of Fragility 2015: A New Approach to Fragility Post-2015
OECD
States of Fragility 2015 is published at an important time for international development cooperation. In 2015, the world's government will agree on a successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  This framework will be more ambitious than ever, requiring in turn more urgent efforts to reduce the persistent poverty in fragile situations and strengthen the institutions that can deliver economic and social development. This 2015 OECD report on fragility contributes to the broader debate to define post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and argues that addressing fragility in the new framework will be crucial if strides in reducing poverty are to be made. 
 
How interactive radio is reshaping politics in Africa
SciDev.net
The powerful combination of interactive radio and mobile phones is a force for political change in East Africa, says researcher Sharath Srinivasan in this audio interview.  As director of the Centre of Governance & Human Rights at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Srinivasan leads a team that uses ethnographic research, behavioural data and audience surveys to analyse how people in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia use radio for political and social debate. He says that call-in shows are hugely popular in these countries, particularly in rural areas where radio remains the dominant form of media. The rise of these shows has compelled politicians to tune in and directly engage with the on-air debates, Srinivasan says, shifting the relationship between people and policymakers.  But challenges remain.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Focus on Migration: Rising migration is a myth
SciDevNet
Hardly a week goes by without media coverage of the fears, in developed nations, that immigrants from poorer countries are overwhelming them. A recent story in the British newspaper The Telegraph — describing how open borders, the “ravages of globalisation”, and a welfare economy have given rise to social resentment — is just one example. [1] Such narratives tap into the popular myth that globalisation has led to a one-way, free flow of migrants from poorer countries — making migration a political issue almost everywhere in the industrialised world.

Facebook is more important to news distribution than you think, and journalists are freaked out
Poynter
Facebook’s Liz Heron answered for a litany of perceived sins and slights last week during a conversation with The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal and attendees at the Online News Association conference in Chicago. Journalists are anxious about being left out of the loop about how Facebook works, and they want answers. Does Facebook play favorites in the News Feed Algorithm? Nope, according to Heron, the company’s head of news partnerships. In other words: If you want to be successful on Facebook, don’t get caught up in the nuts and bolts of what it favors or disfavors about posts (and it won’t tell you much about those nuts and bolts anyway, so that works out).

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

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

CORRUPTION: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security
Working Group on Corruption and Security, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Systemic corruption has an unrecognized bearing on international security. Policymakers and private companies often pay insufficient attention to corruption when deciding what foreign and defense policies to pursue or where to invest. Greater understanding of the nature of acute corruption and its impact on global security would contribute to a better assessment of costs and benefits and therefore to improved policy and practice.

The role of Africa's fourth generation
The Guardian
Post-colonial Africa is in its fourth generation. Over the past few decades, each generation has had a specific role to play: the first generation fought for, and gained, independence from their colonisers. The second generation, marked by greed and corruption, largely destroyed all that the first had fought for. The third was tasked with cleaning up the mess made by the second. So where does that leave us – Africa's fourth post-independence generation? It is up to us to build large-scale prosperity for Africa for the first time in its post-colonial history. Although much remains to be done, the second generation's mess has largely been cleaned up and Africa is the most stable it has been in decades. Inter- and intra-state conflict is declining and trade is booming. Africa's 5 % annual GDP growth is four times that of the EU, and between 2011 and 2015, African countries will account for seven of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world.
 

Aid Must Change in order to Tackle Inequality: The OECD Responds to Angus Deaton

Duncan Green's picture

Jon Lomoy OECD
Guest post from
Jon Lomøy, Director of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD)

Official development assistance – or aid – is under fire. In The Great Escape, Angus Deaton argues that, “far from being a prescription for eliminating poverty, the aid illusion is actually an obstacle to improving the lives of the poor.”

Yet used properly, “smart aid” can be very effective in improving lives and confronting the very issue that Deaton’s book focuses on, and which US President Obama has called the “defining challenge of our time”: rising inequalities.

As a recent UNDP report shows, more than three-quarters of the global population lives in countries where household income inequality has increased since the 1990s. In fact, today many countries face the highest inequality levels since the end of World War II.

There is clearly moral ground for arguing that it is unjust for the bottom half of the world’s population to own only as much as the world’s richest 85 people. Above and beyond this, however, academics, think tanks, and international organizations such as the OECD have found that rising inequalities threaten political stability, erode social cohesion and curb economic growth.

It is not surprising, then, that reduction of socio-economic inequality has moved to the centre of global discussions on the post-2015 goals. The OECD, responsible for monitoring official development assistance (ODA) and other financial flows for development, is complementing these discussions by exploring ways to better use existing financial resources – and mobilise additional ones – to promote inclusive and sustainable development. This includes redefining what we mean by ODA, as well as looking at the ways it can best be used to complement other forms of finance.

Reformers vs. Lobbyists: Where have We Got to on Tackling Corporate Tax Dodging?

Duncan Green's picture

The rhythm of NGO advocacy and campaigning sometimes makes it particularly hard to work on complicated issues, involving drawn-out negotiations where bad guys have more resources and staying power than we do. Campaigns on trade, climate change, debt relief etc often follow a similar trajectory – a big NGO splash as a new issue breaks, then activists realize they need to go back to school (I remember getting briefings on bond contracts during the 1998 Asia financial crisis) or employ new kinds of specialists who can talk the new talk. And then for a while we get geeky, entering into the detail of international negotiations, debating with lobbyists and academics. When it works (as in the debt campaign), we contribute to remarkable victories or to stopping bad stuff happening (which I would argue was a big civil society contribution at the WTO).
 

How to Fix Fragile States? The OECD Reckons it’s All Down to Tax Systems.

Duncan Green's picture

‘Over-generous tax exemptions awarded to multinational enterprises often deprive fragile states of potential revenues that could be used to fund their most pressing needs.’ Another broadside from rent-a-mob? Nope, it’s the ultra respectable OECD in its Fragile States 2014 report.

After years of growth, aid to fragile states started to fall in 2011, so the report centres around an urgent call for OECD member states to help their more fragile cousins find a post-aid arrangement that funds essential state functions and builds the ‘social contract’ with citizens.

The key is a shift from aid dependence to ‘domestic resource mobilization’ (taxes and natural resource royalties), currently averaging a feeble 14% of GDP across fragile states and far too dependent on royalties from oil, gas and mineral extraction. Foreign direct investment (factories, farms etc) is generally low in volume and volatile.

Are International Conferences Getting Any Better? A Bit - Thanks to Some Sparky New Tech

Duncan Green's picture

For a ‘club of rich countries’, the OECD spends a lot of time thinking about development. It’s Development Cooperation Directorate does the number crunching on aid; the OECD Development Centre publishes annual Economic Outlooks on Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, or Latin American revenue statistics.

Last week I spent a couple of chilly days at its Paris HQ at the 5th Global Forum on Development discussing the inevitable topic – post2015 and what comes after the MDGs (background papers here). I’m trying to resist the post2015 bandwagon, but it’s generating a hell of a slipstream.

But why did they even invite me? After all, my main reaction to the last OECD conference I attended was to write a post on the awfulness of such international events (a series of soporific panels in a lightless room), and whether they can be salvaged.

So was this one any better? Yes in a few important ways. OK, it was still 300 people in an underground bunker flicking through their emails and half-listening to panels that over-ran and ate up question time, but the organizers had added some nice IT spice to the mix.

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