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Governance

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.

The Governance of Service Delivery 10 Years On: Are we Really Learning the Lessons?

Simon O'Meally's picture
The blogs and events on service delivery ‘ten years on’ are timely and critical. There is now a wide consensus on the fundamental importance of service delivery for furthering poverty reduction.  As we try to forge a so-called ‘post-MDG consensus’, we would be wise to take stock of the past before lurching forward.
 
So I thought I would chip in to the debate on lessons learned. In my role supporting service delivery in South Asia, I have actually been asked, ‘what have we learnt?’  So I have been trying, but still failing, to come up with a satisfactory summary – not least because what constitutes a ‘lesson’ depends on the ‘evidence’ you value.  Here is my (subjective) work in progress:

Bits and Atoms: ICTs in Areas of Limited Statehood

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Imagine that you’re a citizen of a country that has just experienced one of the worst earthquakes in history. You, your neighbors, and fellow country-men are immediately thrown into danger, chaos, and destitution. As one of the fortunate survivors, you wait for authorities to provide medical care, shelter, food, and other immediate needs, but you receive little or no help. Yet, to your surprise, a large group of ordinary citizens begin organizing a massive disaster response by using blogs, twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks. Their efforts have provided you with life-saving resources. And all of a sudden, within days, digital technologies have facilitated an entire social movement around this earthquake. These are the types of stories that Steven Livingston and Gregor Walter-Drop examine in their new edited series, Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood.
 
If you are interested in digital media and politics, there is a plethora of literature on the role of ICTs in powerful political systems in the industrialized world. However, there has been very little focus on the role of digital technology in weak states with inadequate governance systems. Bits and Atoms is a comprehensive volume that examines the extent to which ICTs can help fill governance voids in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, Sub-Sahara Africa, and the Middle East. A distinguished group of scholars attempt to answer some important questions like, “Can ICTs help fill the gap between pressing human needs and weak states’ ability to meet them? Can communities use ICTs to meet challenges such as indiscriminate violence, disease, drought, famine, crime, and other problems arising from deficient and non-responsive state institutions? How does ICT affect the legitimacy of the state?”

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.

Two-Thirds of Obese People Now Live in Developing Countries
The Atlantic
We tend to think of obesity as a rich-country problem, but for several years now evidence has been building that the public-health hazard is assailing low- and middle-income countries as well, even as these same countries struggle with high rates of malnutrition. In perhaps the most comprehensive snapshot yet of this phenomenon, a study published in The Lancet on Thursday found that one-third of the world's population is now overweight or obese, and 62 percent of these individuals live in developing countries.

Why Humanitarians Should Pay Attention to Cybersecurity
Brookings
Most international staff I know who are working in the humanitarian field aren’t paying any attention to cybersecurity. Why is that? For starters, it’s an issue rooted in the security community which humanitarians have traditionally tried to maintain at arm’s length. But also humanitarians see themselves as the good guys; "we’re delivering food and water to needy people," the argument goes, "who would want to launch a cyberattack against us?" While this argument has been undermined by the fact that even well-meaning humanitarians are targeted by armed actors using traditional weapons, there’s still a reluctance to pay attention to cybersecurity. And humanitarian actors are under pressure to keep their overheads low so that they can distribute most of their funds to people in need – not to beefing up their IT departments. Inspired by my colleague Peter Singer’s new book, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know,” I humbly suggest four reasons why humanitarians should pay attention to this field.

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.


Three reasons investors are beginning to take sustainability seriously
The Guardian
Most of the ingredients for a healthy, secure, and fulfilling existence come to us from nature. Food, clean water, pollination, and natural hazard protection are all essential goods and services that underpin our economy and secure our wellbeing. But business models that exploit these benefits unsustainably are intensifying pressure on our planet's natural resources, putting their future – and ours – in jeopardy. How can we relieve this pressure before it is too late? As a first step, we need to recognise that rapidly declining natural systems are bad news for business. There is a two-way street between the economy and the environment: businesses damage the environment, and the damaged environment then creates risks to the bottom lines of businesses. But why should members of the investment community care?

Does transparency improve governance? Reviewing evidence from 16 experimental evaluations
Journalist's Resource- Harvard Kennedy School
The idea that transparency can make institutions more effective and provide greater accountability and better results for the public seems uncontroversial on the surface. But scholars and bureaucrats who have been involved in the wave of transparency initiatives over the past decade continue to debate the particular merits of various approaches. Some commentators have been troubled that as a reaction to scrutiny, malfeasance and inefficiency could increasingly be kept hidden and transparency could erode public trust in institutions and personal privacy. The many types of transparency initiatives around the globe are often confused, making sharp distinctions all the more essential.

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