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At The Cutting Edge of Governance: Day Two

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The second day of the workshop on 'Implementing Effective Country Level Governance Programs', Cape Town, South Africa was marked by a sectoral turn. The substantive reflections and lesson-sharing of the day focused on the implementation of governance and anti-corruption programs at country level in sectors like health, education, transport, energy, and extractive industries. Now, these sectors are very different, but what is fascinating is that with regard to good governance the issues and challenges are amazingly similar. Let me explain.

First, for all the sectors, what emerged is the complementarity of efforts to improve governance in the sectors and efforts to minimize corruption. The emerging view is that these efforts do not compete but are mutually reinforcing. The overarching goal is effective development, or as a country director put it, 'governance for results'.
Second, there emerged a sense that the truly ambitious shift is not to concentrate only on the effectiveness of the funding provided by the World Bank (and by implication, other donors) but on the results-delivering impact of the resources being committed by the partner government. To take an example that was used, suppose the World Bank and other donors are committing $200million to a programme to improve primary health care in a country. The government is probably committing $2 billion. The proper focus of efforts to improve governance is how to make sure you get the best results for the total commitment of $2.2 billion, not just the $200 million. That requires a commitment to improving the governance of the sector as a whole and country systems.
Third, more and more of these sectors are building political economy analysis into their work. Sector specific studies in different countries are being commissioned asking questions like: what is blocking reform in this sector? What is the best pathway to reform? In fact, some were of the view that really useful political economy analysis is best done at the sector level in specific countries, not vast studies of entire countries that often say nothing new. The problem, however, is that tackling the underlying political economy challenges in different sectors is a tough row to hoe. Nobody claimed confident expertise; rather the opposite.
Fourth, one common emerging response to dealing with political economy challenges and generally improving accountability in sectors, is the increasing reliance on mechanisms for stimulating citizen demand for good governance. While there was general humility in the face of this daunting task, I was struck by the commonality of  accountability/citizen engagement tools being deployed in widely different sectors. For instance, the presentation on governance of the human development sectors (health and education) detailed tools for improving citizen agency, defined as, capacity for action and choice among citizens/service users.' The presentation stressed the role of information campaigns, score cards, access to information, the establishment of redress mechanisms and so on.
Finally, humility in the face of what is not known about how to achieve and secure improved governance was a marked feature of the day. Colleagues pointed out the absence of rigorous data regarding what is actually working on the ground in different countries. Stories exist, but as someone pointed out, World Bank president, Bob Zoelick is apparently in the habit of remarking that 'the plural of anecdote is not data.' Clearly, getting a better grip on what works and what doesn't is likely to be a crucial part of the agenda going forward.
About all that, however, more tomorrow.....

Photo: Sri Mulyani,World Bank Managing Director, speaking to workshop participants

At The Cutting Edge of Governance: Day One

At The Cutting Edge of Governance: Final Day

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