Syndicate content

Governance

The People versus the Leviathan

Sina Odugbemi's picture

 "Only fools, pure theorists, or apprentices fail to take public opinion into account."

Jacques Necker (1792) finance minister to King Louis XVI of France.
 

Recent events confirm, once again, that public opinion is the basis of power, and the very definition of legitimacy. If it comes to pass that the preponderance of the citizens of a country come to despise or hate their rulers...an event that occurs over a period of time and is the outcome of  experiences, debate and discussion ... that crystallization of public opinion is a serious development, one capable of leading to momentous consequences. The regime in question becomes a hollow leviathan. One can only hope that autocratic leaders as well as the cynical technocrats who advise them are paying attention to the lessons of both recent and ongoing struggles between citizens and a variety of autocracies. 

Sotto Voce?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Recently I read yet another paper advancing the idea that governance reforms should take a back seat to economic development. To which, as I watch the ongoing footage from the Middle East, I must respond: really?
 
If there is nothing else that recent events in Egypt have taught us, it is that people, everywhere, demand a voice. Not all democracy templates are universally applicable. But citizens of any country surely desire the freedom to express themselves, and count themselves heard. It's not merely a human right; it's a human fact. 
 
Many development agencies have been caught off balance by recent developments in the Middle East, and are scrambling to adjust. Why? Because we, the collective development community, still have no real way to think about issues of voice, accountability, representation, politics, and power. Our assessment templates only marginally, if at all, take into account such crucial issues; operationally, we have no established methods of building such issues into our work. Even now, governance remains a road hesitantly trod, skirting the outside of the development mainstream. And yet I challenge anyone who has watched recent global events unfold to argue that governance and politics do not matter in people's everyday lives.

Development 2.0: Three Things We Could be Doing Better

Tanya Gupta's picture

Recently I blogged about how development institutions are not making effective use of social media for development.  But what can be done about it?  In this blog I suggest three specific actions that development institutions can take to proactively include social media in their projects, and discuss some sectors where Web 2.0 could make a real difference. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the terms interchangeably, however for inquiring minds, Web 2.0 and social media have slightly different meanings.

Just Because the Revolution Will Not Be Digital Does Not Mean it Will Not Happen

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Much is being made of ICT and social media in the context of public protests. Governments in distress clearly seem to believe in their power, since they continue to try, sometimes successfully, switching off the many-to-many communication channels that protestors use to organize themselves and to distribute information and materials. When new media were truly new and scholars wondered about the phenomenon and its political effects for the first time, the major question was whether ICT could mobilize people that would not otherwise have been politically active or whether it is "merely" a channel for the already active to organize themselves more efficiently. 

Liberal Constitutions and Elections Won't Do the Job

Sina Odugbemi's picture

This piece was originally contributed to the Governance for Development Blog.

_______________________

The entity often known as ‘the international community’ has a touching faith in standard liberal constitutions and one-person-one-vote elections. Now, while those are outstanding human inventions, it is becoming clearer every day that in plural, deeply divided societies these inventions alone will not lead to settled systems of governance.

Safety in Numbers

Antonio Lambino's picture

A few days ago, The New York Times published a piece on Indian citizens who have been intimidated, harassed, and killed because they made access to information requests on questionable government activities.  Many previous posts on this blog have featured successes and failures regarding various country experiences on right/access to information laws and their uneven implementation.  We have discussed threats and violence experienced by courageous people who have attempted to use such laws to dig up corrupt practices occurring in their own backyards.  These individuals are especially brave because they are located where the many eyes and ears of the mighty and powerful can easily find them.  They have nowhere to hide. 

The Public Sphere Enters Public Discourse

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Building on Johanna's earlier post on social media, I thought I'd highlight a few points from Clay Shirky's new piece in Foreign Affairs, entitled "The Political Power of Social Media" (users must register). The essay is a thought-provoking contribution to the ongoing discussion about technology's political impact - and it also gives me an opportunity to clarify a few issues regarding my thinking on the Internet and authoritarian regimes.

Girls Invent Social Network for Farmers in 48 hours

Sabina Panth's picture

The AkiraChix, an-all girls’ team, was declared a winner of the recently held IPO48 software development competition in Kenya.  The IPO48 initiative brought together 100 participants from all over the country to pitch their ideas, question business models, form teams and create 17 prototypes and products which, by the end of 48 hours, were ready for the market (Afrinnovator).  The winning girls came up with an innovative M-Farm, a mobile-based marketplace that is targeted to small-scale farmers to increase their agriculture productivity.

Jeremy Bentham and Dictators Around the World

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A desperate, totally fed up young graduate sets himself on fire in a small, provincial town in his country and within weeks eddies of violent protests by citizens all over the country bring down an authoritarian regime. And everyone is stunned by both the suddenness and the scale of it all. But the philosopher, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), would not have been surprised. He would have reminded the world of three things that he always said in the course of his long life:

Pages