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political will

Realizing the Potential of Right to Information

Anupama Dokeniya's picture

Right to Information (RTI) laws can be a useful instrument for improving transparency – if the political will for implementation is sustained, and if the broader governance environment provides the enabling conditions for the exercise of the law. A research project that studied the implementation of RTI laws in a number of countries showed that implementation has been very uneven across countries. In some countries, RTI laws had been leveraged effectively for extracting information in a number of important areas, ranging from public expenditures, to performance and procurement, and exposing instances of corruption. In other countries, the existence of an RTI law had little impact in any of these areas, and oversight and capacity building mechanisms had either not been set up, or not functioned effectively.

The findings of the study are not surprising. The implementation gap between de jure and de facto reforms in countries faced with capacity constraints and political economy challenges is well-known. Yet, international agencies have pushed policy reforms without adequate attention to the constraints and challenges of implementation. The pressure to win support and legitimacy with international aid agencies has been an important driver of the adoption of RTI laws. The right has also been recognized in international human rights conventions, and more recently has gained increasing international attention (for instance, the existence of a law is one of the considerations for membership in the Open Government Partnership). Further, pressure from domestic constituencies has also propelled political actors to champion the law. But, once passed, capacity limitations, the erosion of political will, and active resistance have been important impediments to realizing the potential of RTI.

Nothing Ordinary about these Extraordinary Women

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In thinking about global advocacy and the journey of norms in development, a recent article in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company by Ellen McGirt caught my attention. The feature story is about a new kind of women’s movement entitled “The League of Extraordinary Women”.  This loose network of 60 influential women, mostly Americans, includes artists, academics, business executives, government officials, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists, who are committed to changing the lives of girls and women around the world.  The initiatives they have developed focus on specific issues, including education, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, microloans, women’s rights, and mentoring to develop future leaders and entrepreneurs. The list of 60 includes a few high-profile and famous women such as Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, and Oprah Winfrey

When Budget Disclosure is Not Enough

Darshana Patel's picture

Deliberations around public budgets can sometimes bring out the worst in parliamentarians but impassioned responses rarely come from citizens themselves. Perhaps it is because budgets come in the form of tomes, with tables upon tables of data and very little context. Even though those tables reflect social services and entitlements that impact us all, simply disclosing this information does not necessarily mean that these documents will be understood or the resources well spent.

The Budget Transparency Initiative (BTI), led by the World Bank’s Social Development Department and funded by the Governance Partnership Facility, has introduced a methodology to disclose, simplify, and analyze budgets at various levels to not only bring this information closer to citizens but also create enabling spaces for them to provide feedback.

#1: The Shift from eGov to WeGov

Aleem Walji's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on July 20, 2011

Last week, more than 59 governments and 100 civil society groups joined the Government of Brazil and the United States to announce the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Washington, DC. The initiative brings together nation states, civil society, and the private sector to address problems that Governments are unable to solve alone. Rather than seeing citizens and civil society groups as competitors, governments from the North and South asserted that private actors, commercial and non-profit, are essential partners in solving complex social problems. And this requires a new social contract, a shift from eGov to WeGov.

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.

Reinvigorating the Fight against Corruption

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

The 9th of December the UN celebrates the anti-corruption day. It is clear that this is a global issue and a cross-cutting one. It concerns virtually all countries, even if in different degrees, and it can be found in all sectors of the development arena; e.g. health, rural development, agriculture, sanitation and many more. Corruption is not an issue that concerns only the rich; on the contrary, the poor are those who suffer the most from corrupt practices, in a number of ways. First of all, corruption subtracts money from the tax revenues which are the main source of social programmes and services. Secondly, the money the rich pay to corrupt officials are usually passed back as increased costs to consumers, and the poorest ones are the ones that will pay the higher price. Finally, corruption affects not only multimillion deals but spread throughout the social realm like a cancer and I know of bribes asked (and paid) to obtain jobs with a salary of forty dollars a month.

Coalitions, Norms, and Extractive Industries

Johanna Martinsson's picture

My last blog post addressed progress made in the extractive industries, in terms of fighting corruption, and in particular the new U.S. law (the Dodd-Frank Act) that will impact some of the largest gas, oil and mining companies in the world when it goes into effect in 2011.  I also mentioned a few initiatives that have played an important role in advocating for this law and for a global norm on transparency.  Another important player in this field is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), as rightly pointed out by a reader and colleague.  Launched in 2002, EITI advocates for transparency in the extractive industries through the publishing of financial information and promoting a culture of transparency that involves dialogue, empowering civil society, and building trust among stakeholders.  A fundamental principle of the EITI is the development of multi-stakeholder initiatives to oversee the implementation and monitoring process, which is supported through a multi-donor trust fund, managed by the World Bank.

An American Lesson: Counter-Reform Can Shape Public Opinion

Sina Odugbemi's picture

What might be the generalizable lessons of the recent mid-term elections in the United States? There are several that this blog would be interested in. The one that I would like to draw attention to today is the fact that despite the huge reform bills that Democrats successfully passed - the biggest being the health care reform bill - it seems clear that they lost the battle for public opinion, and that losing that battle did not help them on election day, whatever else shaped voter preferences on that day.  Reformers everywhere need to reflect on that experience very carefully.

When reforms fail what is often blamed is 'lack of political will'; in other words, not enough leaders in leadership positions in the specific country context supported the proposed reform and it failed. Suppose you secure political will, as in this case, and the reform succeeds, is it game-over? Clearly not. To quote Robert  O. Varenik of the Open Society Justice Initiative (at the end of a  review of a series of pretrial detention reform experiences from around the world): "The acid test of reform should not be what can be attained but what can be sustained."

Publish and the Problem Will Go Away?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Transparency International’s (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index provides a rather bleak picture of the current state of corruption around the world. With more than half of the 178 indexed countries scoring below five on a 10 point scale (with 10 being “very clean”), corruption remains a major impediment to development.  Thus, TI is now advocating for stricter implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), a global legal framework that came into force in 2005 to help curb corruption. The Convention’s 140 signatories’ will be under review for the next three years for their efforts in fighting corruption.  TI further recommends that focus should be given to areas such as, “strengthening institutions; strengthening the rule of law; making decision-making transparent; educating youths and setting up better whistle-blower protection schemes.”  As a matter of fact, anti-corruption measures will be discussed at the G-20 summit taking place in Seoul next week.  However, Christiaan Poortman, TI’s Director of Global Programmes, is skeptical as to whether it will produce any major changes at the governance level. 

Important Lessons from the Landmine Campaign

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In reviewing effective strategies in global policy advocacy campaigns, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a prime example of an effective campaign.  The campaign’s efforts in creating and advocating for the norm of a complete ban on landmines led to the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, and the Nobel Peace Prize a few months later.  Don Hubert provides a thorough analysis of key factors that led up to the establishment of the Treaty, which reflects S. Neal MacFarlane’s argument that “the humanitarian imperative is best served not by avoiding the political process but by consciously engaging it” (p. 5).  The following are some of the factors Hubert, ICBL and MacFarlane identify as key to the campaign’s success:

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