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Transparency

Five myths about governance and development

David Booth's picture

In some areas of development policy, deep-rooted assumptions are extremely hard to dislodge. Like science-fiction androids or the many-headed Hydra, these are monsters that can sustain any number of mortal blows and still regenerate. Capable researchers armed with overwhelming evidence are no threat to them.
 
The importance of good governance for development is one such assumption. Take last month’s enquiry report on Parliamentary Strengthening by the International Development Committee of the UK parliament. It references the UN High Level Panel’s opinion that ‘good governance and effective institutions’ should be among the goals for ending global poverty by 2030. It would have done better to reference the evidence in 2012’s rigorously researched UN publication Is Good Governance Good for Development?
 
Here are five governance myths about which the strong scientific consensus might – eventually – slay some monsters.

Your salary is on the web: quantifying transparency and other intangibles

Abir Qasem's picture

open data on the internetWe came across this article that took a very unorthodox position against the axiom “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The “argument” (with a dose of ad hominem) states: “That’s BS on the face of it, because the vast majority of important things we manage at work aren’t measurable, from the quality of our new hires to the confidence we instill in a fledgling manager”. This was followed up by “The good news is that we manage these unmeasurables perfectly well without any need for yardsticks”. Had this been an article on a “clickbait” site, where an unorthodox position is often taken without support or forethought just to get the clicks, we could have just moved on. But this was Forbes.

We have put quotes around the term argument above because cogent arguments do not start with “That’s BS.” It also provides only two examples of unmeasurables: 1) “quality of our new hires” and 2) “confidence we instill in a fledgling manager” to convince readers that a majority has been demonstrated by the author. It is also incorrect to assume that most people “manage these unmeasurables perfectly well.” In fact, we posit most of us (with conscience) will have an extremely hard time making serious decisions (for example, promoting someone or cancelling a project) based on “unmeasurable” indicators.

Measurement of intangibles is hard to do. Even when it is done, such measurement would necessarily be a rough proxy of reality. There is no disagreement from us on this. None at all. However, to account for them would be vastly better than ignoring them completely because in the absence of measurements (even if they are fuzzy), fallacious rhetoric sneaks in and objectivity disappears. We go back to the Forbes article again to support this hypothesis: it uses the term “vast majority”,which can be easily replaced with a quantifiable term (e.g 80% of our managerial decisions).

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.

#Davosproblems: The financial crisis isn‘t over, and the inequality crisis is just beginning
Quartz
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting has kicked off in Davos, Switzerland under the banner of “The New Global Context.” Falling in the long shadow of the financial crisis, the WEF’s theme reflects as much hope as a creeping sense that economic turmoil is the new normal. Some seven years into the current crisis, the participants at Davos are acutely aware that the world economy still hasn’t recovered its past momentum.

The Power of Market Creation, How Innovation Can Spur Development
Foreign Affairs
Most explanations of economic growth focus on conditions or incentives at the global or national level. They correlate prosperity with factors such as geography, demography, natural resources, political development, national culture, or official policy choices. Other explanations operate at the industry level, trying to explain why some sectors prosper more than others. At the end of the day, however, it is not societies, governments, or industries that create jobs but companies and their leaders. It is entrepreneurs and businesses that choose to spend or not, invest or not, hire or not.

Broken Windows: Mending the Cracks

Leonard McCarthy's picture

When the World Bank investigates and sanctions a major corporation for corruption related to one of its project, the deterrent impact is readily apparent. However, not every case the World Bank investigates is a major corruption case. In the past year, the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) received many complaints related to fraud, and it is important to demonstrate responsiveness to complainants who report credible allegations as well as fix the weaknesses identified. Sanctioning cases of fraud also sends a strong message about abiding by high integrity standards in World Bank-financed projects. 

Left unchecked, fraud erodes development effectiveness. It often coincides with poor project implementation, which can result in collapsing infrastructure or the distribution of counterfeit drugs. It causes costly delays and can lead to direct financial losses for countries which cannot afford it. Fraud also fosters a negative enabling environment, creating opportunities for more serious and systemic misconduct to occur.

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.
 
2014 Corruption Perceptions Index
Transparency International
Poorly equipped schools, counterfeit medicine and elections decided by money are just some of the consequences of public sector corruption. Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable – they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in government and leaders. Based on expert opinion from around the world, the Corruption Perceptions Index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide, and it paints an alarming picture. Not one single country gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds score below 50, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
 
The Fall of Facebook
The Atlantic
Facebook has won this round of the Internet.  Steadily, grindingly, it continues to take an ever greater share of our time and attention online. More than 800 million people use the site on an average day. Individuals are dependent on it to keep up not just with their friends but with their families. When a research company looked at how people use their phones, it found that they spend more time on Facebook than they do browsing the entire rest of the Web.  Digital-media companies have grown reliant on Facebook’s powerful distribution capabilities. They are piglets at the sow, squealing amongst their siblings for sustenance, by which I mean readers.

The Four Magic Words of Development, by Tom Carothers and Saskia Brechenmacher

Duncan Green's picture
tom CarothersThis guest post comes from Thomas Carothers and Saskia Brechenmacher of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Tufts University, drawing from their new paper Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus? The penultimate para in particular got me thinking about the different tribes present at the recent Doing Development Differently event.

 

If you are about to visit an organization engaged in international development assistance and are unsure of the reception you will receive, a surefire way exists to win over your hosts: tell them you believe that four principles are crucial for development—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion.  Your hosts will almost certainly nod enthusiastically and declare that their organization in fact prioritizes these very concepts. This holds true whether you are visiting a bilateral or multilateral aid agency, a foreign ministry engaged in development work, a transnational NGO, a private foundation, or any other type of group engaged in aid work. The ubiquity of these four concepts in the policy statements and program documents of the aid world is truly striking–they have become magic words of development.
 

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.

Is the Internet broken, and can it even be fixed?
CNN
Our modern global communications infrastructure still relies on core principles that were defined when the Internet had only a few thousand users. We have faster computers, more storage space, and more people using the network, but worryingly, some of the key assumptions haven't changed. As an example, take the protocol that helps determine how data gets to its destination. Different networks in the Internet "advertise" routes to deliver data to other networks, with the most efficient candidate being chosen.

The Future of Cities
Foreign Affairs
As much as the Internet has already changed the world, it is the Web’s next phase that will bring the biggest opportunities, revolutionizing the way we live, work, play, and learn. That next phase, which some call the Internet of Things and which we call the Internet of Everything, is the intelligent connection of people, processes, data, and things. Although it once seemed like a far-off idea, it is becoming a reality for businesses, governments, and academic institutions worldwide. Today, half the world’s population has access to the Internet; by 2020, two-thirds will be connected. Likewise, some 13.5 billion devices are connected to the Internet today; by 2020, we expect that number to climb to 50 billion.
 

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.

Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Four key principles—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion—have in recent years become nearly universal features of the policy statements and programs of international development organizations. Yet this apparently widespread new consensus is deceptive: behind the ringing declarations lie fundamental fissures over the value and application of these concepts. Understanding and addressing these divisions is crucial to ensuring that the four principles become fully embedded in international development work.
 
Ebola communication: What we've learned so far
Devex
This week, a World Health Organization infectious diseases expert reported the death rate due to Ebola in West Africa has now climbed to 70 percent, higher than previous estimates. And by December, new cases could hit 10,000 a week. For front-line medical workers, the projections couldn’t be grimmer. They are overwhelmed and their numbers are dwindling — Médecins Sans Frontières has already lost nine staff members to the epidemic — but reinforcements remain sparse. For organizations involved in communication and awareness-raising campaigns, meanwhile, this situation means they need to be more aggressive and robust, and their messaging fool-proof.  We know many of them are on the ground, conducting door-to-door campaigns and spot radio announcements, putting up posters and distributing pamphlets to inform communities about the disease. Some have even resorted to using megaphones to reach people who choose to remain indoors, conduct skits in schools and communities via youth drama troupes. A few aid groups are even considering perceived viral forms of communication like music and video messaging led by former football player and now UNICEF ambassador David Beckham.  But are these campaigns actually working? Will the new plans be effective?
 

Expanding Budget Literacy in Nepal

Deepa Rai's picture

In mid-July, when the Government of Nepal’s FY15 budget was announced live on TV, radio and social media, most Nepalis were keen to watch the latest game of the World Cup. However, in a country with a literacy rate of only 57%, where almost half of Nepalis can neither read nor write, analyzing complex GoN budgetary information would not have been their priority. The World Bank’s Program for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN), however, is hoping to change that and educate people how the GoN budget affects their lives.
 
PRAN, together with Institute for Governance and Development (IGD), has recently developed ready-to-use, neo-literate flip charts outlining the importance of the government budget, its priorities, and its processes. These new IEC materials have been officially approved by the Government of Nepal for use nationally. Used effectively, they can help Nepali citizens become much more aware of what is rightfully theirs.  
 
Since 2011, PRAN has promoted increased social accountability and transparency in Nepal. PRAN seeks to educate communities about their local budget process and content.  As part of this effort, these new flip charts will serve as an awareness-raising tool by offering a detailed visual explanation of how the budget is designed, reviewed and approved.
 

Quote of the Week: Barack Obama

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"And so the good news -- and we heard this in the summit -- is that more and more countries are recognizing that in the absence of good governance, in the absence of accountability and transparency, that’s not only going to have an effect domestically on the legitimacy of a government, it’s going to have an effect on economic development and growth.  Because ultimately, in an information age, open societies have the capacity to innovate and educate and move faster and be part of the global marketplace more than closed societies do over the long term.  I believe that."

-Barack Obama, President of the United States, speaking August 6, 2014 at a Press Conference after U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

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