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Governance

Do International Organizations Listen to CSOs?

John Garrison's picture

This was a central question posed by CIVICUS in its recent report, “Beyond our Two Minutes: State of Civil Society / Intergovernmental Organization Scorecard.” This first of a kind report considered the mechanisms for and effectiveness of the civil society engagement policies in ten prominent international organizations, including the World Bank Group (WBG). It was published as part of the “State of Civil Society Report for 2014” which has become an annual flagship report on the status of civil society worldwide.

The IGO Scorecard assessed the following IGOs:  FAO, OHCHR, ILO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNHCR, UN Women, WBG, WFP, WTO.  The study assessed the civil society outreach policies and practices of the IGOs around four aspects and specifically: access, policy, programs, and empowerment.  The perception survey was based on two online questionnaires which CIVICUS sent out earlier this year, one geared to CSO representatives and the other for IGO staff.  CIVICUS received a total of 462 responses from CSOs (including 52 which commented on the WBG), and some 200 responses from IGO staff (including 26 from WBG staff).

Overall, the study found that global governance has undergone “incredible transformation” over the past 20-30 years, and there is much more space for civil society to access global organizations today.  It notes that “where once IGOs had to justify the inclusion of CSOs in their work, today it is the exclusion of CSOs that requires justification.”  It cites as an example the fact that the number of CSOs accredited with the United Nations grew from less than 100 in 1950 to over 3,900 today.  Yet, the report found that it is not clear how seriously IGOs take civil society outreach and how much influence CSO leaders exert beyond their ‘two minute’ plenary speeches at UN conferences.  The Scorecard found that IGO civil society ‘focal points’ also express concern about how effective their own outreach is, as well as feel that CSOs often lack the technical capacity and skills to influence IGO policies.

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 Human Development Report - Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience
UNDP
As successive Human Development Reports (HDRs) have shown, most people in most countries have been doing steadily better in human development. Advances in technology, education and incomes hold ever-greater promise for longer, healthier, more secure lives. But there is also a widespread sense of precariousness in the world today—in livelihoods, in personal security, in the environment and in global politics. High achievements on critical aspects of human development, such as health and nutrition, can quickly be undermined by a natural disaster or economic slump. Theft and assault can leave people physically and psychologically impoverished. Corruption and unresponsive state institutions can leave those in need of assistance without recourse.
 

The State of the State
Foreign Affairs
The state is the most precious of human possessions,” the economist Alfred Marshall remarked in 1919, toward the end of his life, “and no care can be too great to be spent on enabling it to do its work in the best way.” For Marshall, one of the founders of modern economics and a mentor to John Maynard Keynes, this truth was self-evident. Marshall believed that the best way to solve the central paradox of capitalism -- the existence of poverty among plenty -- was to improve the quality of the state. And the best way to improve the quality of the state was to produce the best ideas. That is why Marshall read political theorists as well as economists, John Locke as well as Adam Smith, confident that studying politics might lead not only to a fuller understanding of the state but also to practical steps to improve governance.

 

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.

Net Threats
Pew Research Internet Project
As Internet experts look to the future of the Web, they have a number of concerns. This is not to say they are pessimistic: The majority of respondents to this 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing say they hope that by 2025 there will not be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online today. And they said they expect that technology innovation will continue to afford more new opportunities for people to connect. Still, some express wide levels of concern that this yearning for an open Internet will be challenged by trends that could sharply disrupt the way the Internet works for many users today as a source of largely unfettered content flows.
 
Good Governance- A Sustainable Development Goal Too Essential To Be Side-lined
Huffington Post
What do the public in the USA, UK, France and Germany consider the greatest impediment to global development? According to new research by the Gates Foundation and partners released at the InterAction forum last month called the Narrative Project, the answer is corruption. Additionally, a recent Gallup poll showed that, around the world, satisfaction with "freedom" is inversely proportional to the perception of corruption in a given country. The answer to corruption is good governance, at the national and local levels. But governance goes well beyond just stopping corruption. It is the cornerstone of individual freedom, political participation, secures the rights of the individual and the media, and makes politicians accountable to their constituencies.

Quote of the Week: Lee Hsien Loong

Sina Odugbemi's picture
 "When people say they don't want a nanny state they are, in fact, in a conflicted state of mind.  On the one hand, they want to do whatever they want and not be stopped. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, they want to be rescued."

- Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore. He became the third Prime Minister of Singapore in 2004, succeeding Goh Chok Tong and before that, his father- Singapore's first Prime Minister- Lee Kuan Yew.
 

The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Can liberal constitutional democracy run the state in a manner that is both responsive and accountable to citizens without succumbing to incurable elephantiasis precisely because it is democratic? Does democratic governance inevitably lead to government as an ‘all-you-can eat- buffet’ (allegedly per Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore), and, therefore, bloat, fiscal crises and collapse? These crucial questions are taken on in an important new book by two of the leading minds around the Economist Magazine: John Micklethwait is the Editor of the Magazine, and Adrian Wooldridge is the management editor, who also writes the Schumpeter column. The book is: The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State.

The authors argue that there have been three and half revolutions in governance in the West, and each one is linked to an emblematic political thinker/economist. The first revolution was the rise of the nation-state, and the paradigmatic thinker is Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan. The second revolution was the rise of the ‘liberal state’, and the focus thinker here is John Stuart Mill. (Objection from a Bentham scholar: the authors do not do justice to the role of Jeremy Bentham).  The third revolution was the rise of the welfare state, and the authors discuss the ideas and efforts of Beatrice Webb.  According to the authors, these first three revolutions in governance were completely successful. The fourth revolution, the effort to roll back the bloated welfare state – the focus here is the economic thought of Milton Friedman – was only partially successful. The authors argue, I believe, that this revolution needs to be completed.
 

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.

 

The Promise of a New Internet
The Atlantic
People tend to talk about the Internet the way they talk about democracy—optimistically, and in terms that describe how it ought to be rather than how it actually is. This idealism is what buoys much of the network neutrality debate, and yet many of what are considered to be the core issues at stake—like payment for tiered access, for instance—have already been decided. For years, Internet advocates have been asking what regulatory measures might help save the open, innovation- friendly Internet. But increasingly, another question comes up: What if there were a technical solution instead of a regulatory one? What if the core architecture of how people connect could make an end run on the centralization of services that has come to define the modern net?

Are the Oceans Failed States?
Foreign Policy
In the early hours of March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 lost contact with air traffic control just one hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. Since then, a multinational effort has scoured the Indian Ocean floor, deploying aircraft, ships, and even a robotic submarine in search of the wreckage. Yet four months on, the jet remains lost in the least accessible and most ill- understood ecosystem on the planet. Only about 5 percent of the ocean floor has been mapped in detail. We know more about the contours of the moon and nearby planets than we do about the basins of the high seas. But however remote these depths might seem, no corner of the ocean is untouched by human activities. As a result of these impacts, much of it is now in peril. That is the conclusion of the Global Ocean Commission, which reported in late June that the planet's largest and least- protected bioregion is close to collapse.

Strengthening Active Citizenship After a Traumatic Civil War: Dilemmas and Ideas in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Duncan Green's picture

I went to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) last week to help Oxfam Italia develop advocacy and campaign skills among local civil society organizations. They have their work cut out.

Firstly, there is a crisis of trust between the public and CSOs, which are poorly regulated, often seen as little more than ‘briefcase NGOs’, only interested in winning funding, and under constant attack from politicians. Many CSOs seem pretty disillusioned, faced with a shrinking donor pot and public hostility.

I think there’s a strong case for the CSOs to take the lead in putting their house in order, practicing what they preach on transparency and accountability, and working with government to sort out the legitimate organizations from ones that have registered (there are some 10,000 in the country) but do nothing, (or worse).

Meanwhile, Oxfam is working with some of the more dynamic ones to develop the advocacy and campaign skills of what is still a maturing civil society network (after decades of state socialism, followed by a devastating war, and then an influx of donor cash that had mixed results). Two days of conversation and debate with some great organizations working on everything from disability rights to enterprise development to youth leadership identified some big issues and dilemmas:
 

World Bank’s Four Year Access to Information Policy Update

Thomas Browne's picture

Solutions Oriented Knowledge-Sharing

Making information and data freely available and usable enables citizens to engage with service providers to participate in development decisions.  But is this enough? 

Proactive disclosure of better data and information are prerequisites to enabling citizens, governments and institutions to make informed decisions.  In order to help countries utilize the open initiatives and build client demand for increased openness, the World Bank organized local workshops and public forums in South Asia and East Asia since 2012, using the twinning approach of access to information and open data.  This was an opportunity to connect local citizens and stakeholders to national and global data and knowledge, further providing the public with information needed to influence development at the local level. The World Bank interacted with civil society organizations, research and academic institutions, media, and government, among other stakeholders, providing a forum for discussion, debate and the exchange of information.  Access to Information broadens the conversation among multiple informed stakeholders and creates opportunities to find and deliver innovative local solutions to long-standing development problems.
 

The Need to Improve Administrative Data

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture
While we debate poverty estimates and methodologies, the humble administrative data continues to be ignored
 
A key aspect of good governance is the generation and use of data—good quality data, produced through reliable means that can inform policy-making and implementation. The importance of official data need not be underlined—state and national-level poverty statistics are fodder for academic as well as political debates. We know that this is mainly because the headline figures reflect the achievements of the governments in power.

However, in the same universe, administrative data is often ignored. Administrative data is the data collected primarily for (or as part of) implementation of specific interventions or functions. Within the government, this may refer to data as varied as that of birth and death registries; cooking gas cylinders issued; teachers’ attendance or mid-day meals served. It is easy to see how such administrative data can be used in monitoring implementation—better data can help identify and plug leakages; ensure better targeting and delivery; and maintain a high quality of service delivery, among others. In fact, the quality of data is both a contributing factor as well as outcome of the quality of governance. Better data, made public in easily digestible formats can also enable citizens to hold governments to account.

Development Challenges for Participatory Public Delivery of Underground Water in Rural India

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

India’s rapidly industrializing economy and urbanizing society pose a daunting challenge towards augmenting the limited supply of water resources.  No wonder that conflicts over competing uses and users of water, especially in rural areas, are growing by the day. Agriculture, that uses eighty percent of the water resources with low efficiency, is a case in point. Falling water table due to deep drilling and groundwater contamination through discharge of untreated effluents is a serious problem. Therefore, in context of the climate change effects that continue to upset weather patterns, efficient underground water management is extremely critical for 200 million hectares of rainfed areas. This, infact, constitutes 62% of the geographical area of the country with the largest concentration of rural poverty spanning several agro ecological regions.

Since groundwater, as a common pool resource, also accounts for nearly two- thirds of India’s irrigation water needs, there is a dire need for a participatory approach to make its sustainable management more effective. It is interesting to highlight that while groundwater resources are perceived as a part of specific geographic and administrative formations- watersheds, landscapes, river basins, villages, blocks, districts and states, they are seldom placed in the context of aquifers- rock formations that are capable of storing and transmitting the same.

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