"It's a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead - and find no one there."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, The 32nd President of the United States (1933 - 1945)
“When talking with young leaders in Brazil and elsewhere, I like to tell them this: Even when you are discouraged with everything and everyone, don’t give up on politics. Participate! If you do not find in others the politician you seek, you may find him or her in yourself.”
- Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. A Brazilian politican who served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2011.
I recently began an interesting conversation with our new campaigns and policy czar, Ben Phillips, who then asked me to pick the FP2P collective brain-hive for further ideas. Here goes.
The issue is ‘cold’ v ‘hot’ campaigning. Over the next couple of years, we will be doing a lot of campaigning on climate change and inequality. Inequality is flavour of the month, with an avalanche of policy papers, shifting institutional positions at the IMF etc highlighting its negative impacts on growth, wellbeing, poverty reduction, and just about everything else. That makes for a ‘hot campaign’, pushing on (slightly more) open doors on tax, social protection etc.
In contrast, climate change is (paradoxically) a pretty cold campaign. Emissions continue to rise, as do global temperatures and the unpredictability of the weather, but you wouldn’t think so in terms of political agendas or press coverage (see graph). The UN process, focus of huge attention over the last 15 years, is becalmed. Politicians make occasional reference to ‘green growth’, but that is becoming as vacuous as its predecessor ‘sustainable development.’
The distinction is not so clear cut, of course. Hot campaigns can suddenly go cold and vice versa (politicians and officials are able to go from saying ‘no, don’t be ridiculous’ to ‘we’ve always supported this’ with bewildering ease, when the moment is right). You could argue that the Arms Trade Treaty campaign was one of those. But a campaign needs to get seriously hot if it involves a major redistribution of power and influence (like taxation/inequality or climate change, but not, I would argue, the Arms Trade Treaty).
So the essay question is: do you campaign differently on hot v cold campaigns, and if so, how? Here are some initial thoughts:
There is much to be discouraged by in Transparency International’s recently-released 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, the biennial global survey that gauges popular perceptions about the extent of corruption in public life. More than half of 114,000 people in 107 countries polled for the 2013 survey believe that corruption has increased over the last couple of years. And 27 per cent of the respondents reported having paid a bribe when accessing public services and institutions, an increase from the 10 per cent that reported similar incidents in the 2009, 2007, and 2005 surveys.
The intransigence of the challenge might not be news to international agencies, but it is certainly a cause for introspection. For a few decades now, aid agencies (including the Bank following the 1997 Cancer of Corruption speech by then President Wolfensohn), have aimed to help stem corruption through regulatory tools such as codes of conduct, access to information laws, standards for procurement and public financial management, conflict of interest and asset disclosure regulations, and by establishing oversight institutions such as anti-corruption agencies, audit institutions, and parliamentary oversight committees. More recently, in response to a recognition that such technical fixes are only half a solution, the “demand side” of governance has received much attention, and there are several examples of successful programs, as chronicled, for instance, by retired Bank staffer, Pierre Landell-Mills, in a recent compendium.
I’ve often wondered if Oxfam or other large INGOs could include the option of sponsoring an activist, either as something to accompany the goats, toilets, chickens etc that people now routinely buy each other for Christmas, or instead of sponsoring a child. I had vague ideas about people signing up to sponsor an activist in Egypt or South Africa, and in return getting regular tweets or Facebook updates. Alas, I’ve never managed to persuade our fundraisers to give it a go.
Now it’s come a bit closer to home. My son, who is a community organizer for the wonderful London Citizens, is currently looking to raise funds to work with a bunch of institutions in Peckham, South London. I couldn’t help him much as I’m rubbish at fundraising, (sure I’m a huge disappointment to him) but it did start me wondering whether there is an activist equivalent to the kind of crowdsourcing sites that are all the rage for small businesses (Kiva, Kickstarter etc). So, inspired by the feedback to my Monty Python bleg, I tweeted a request for sites.
What emerged was a (for me) previously invisible ecosystem of crowdfunding options for radicals. Here’s the list of the links people sent it:
A few weeks ago I attended the twice yearly gathering of Oxfam GB’s big cheeses – the regional directors, Oxford bosses and a smattering of more exotic cheeses from other Oxfam affiliates (Australia and US this time). We started off with a tour of the regions – what’s on their minds? 3 common themes emerged: political upheaval (disenchantment with elected governments, protest, the threat of civil war); religious conflict (fundamentalism) and rising inequality.
The topic of this meeting was a classic new fuzzword – ‘leverage’. And like all good fuzzwords, it was frustrating and helpful in equal measure. Frustrating in its hard-to-define slipperiness, helpful because it establishes a fuzzy-boundaried arena of conversation that allowed us to have an interesting exchange.
The overriding purpose of leverage is another bit of management jargon: ‘going to scale’. How to influence bigger players to reach many times more people than you would do by acting alone? The ambition is heroic, perhaps crushing on occasion – with your few thousand (or even million) quid, it’s not enough to just help a few hundred people, you have to think how this can transform lives en masse. I suspect it partly stems from frustration born from aiming too low; partly from the push for results.
I normally try and keep Oxfam trumpet-blowing to a minimum on this blog, but am happy to make an exception for this piece from Jacky Repila (right) on a new report on our Raising Her Voice programme in Pakistan, a country that ranks 134th out of 135 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index (only Yemen is worse).
When Veeru Kohli stood as an independent candidate in Hyderabad’s provincial elections on 11th May, she made history.
Kohli is poor. Making the asset declaration required of candidates, Kohli listed just two beds, five mattresses, cooking pots and a bank account with life savings of 2,800 rupees, wages for labourers in Karachi are around 500 rupees a day.
She’s a member of a minority group – Hindus represent less than 6 per cent of the country’s total population. The vision of tolerance and inclusion of Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, has sadly been eroded as we can see from the 500 Pakistani Hindus who recently fled to India to escape discrimination.
She’s uneducated and does not boast the political connections or patronage of most politicians. In fact she has ruffled feudal feathers, escaping captivity from her former landlord and fighting in the courts for the release of other bonded labourers.
And then of course, she’s a woman. Only 3 per cent of all candidates contesting the general seats for the National Assembly were women.
And yet…. in spite of the inevitable establishment backlash seeking to devalue her credentials, on 11th May six thousand people voted for her. Although not enough to win the seat, the fact of Kohli’s standing is in itself a remarkable act.
Yesterday I idly tweeted a request for the Monty Python sketches most relevant to development. Great response, uncovering some forgotten gems – turns out Python fans are everywhere, (and they’re not even all men, well not 100% anyway). Too many for one post, so today we’ll do politics. Here are my favourites (with credits where due):
Good governance and accountability (aka anarcho sindicalist v monarchist discourses) [via Emily Barker and others]
Colonial legacy and institutions [aka what have the Romans ever done for us?, via Matt Collin]