These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
No Impunity for Corrupt Dictators
“The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have demonstrated the power of citizens who won’t endure corrupt governments any longer. Their call for accountable and transparent leadership to ensure an equal distribution of public goods was heard around the world.
In France, the UK and Switzerland governments heeded calls to freeze and investigate the assets of ex-president of Tunisia Ben Ali and ex-president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak and their families. There should be no impunity for those who wield power for their own benefit and not for their people.”
“On Wednesday in Paris, a group of international donors agreed to a new standard for publishing their aid flows, in a common language and format, to make the information easier to access and compare. Although this may not seem particularly exciting at the outset, it is a huge victory in terms of making aid to developing countries more effective and more accountable.
The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI)—which is a coalition of donor countries and multilateral organizations, recipient countries, and civil society organizations—aims to improve and increase transparent reporting on aid flows and activities. At present, individual donors largely decide themselves what and how much information they want to make public regarding money they spend on international development. What they do publish isn’t always easily comparable to what other donors make available, and that makes it very difficult to track aid flows at the international level, or even within specific recipient countries. With IATI’s help, and with the new standard developed by their steering committee on Wednesday, more and more donors will be encouraged to publish their information in a common format on their registry.”
The New York Times
Facebook Officials Keep Quiet on Its Role in Revolts
“With Facebook playing a starring role in the revolts that toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt, you might think the company’s top executives would use this historic moment to highlight its role as the platform for democratic change. Instead, they really do not want to talk about it.
The social media giant finds itself under countervailing pressures after the uprisings in the Middle East. While it has become one of the primary tools for activists to mobilize protests and share information, Facebook does not want to be seen as picking sides for fear that some countries — like Syria, where it just gained a foothold — would impose restrictions on its use or more closely monitor users, according to some company executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal business.”
“Donor agency officials working on development assistance programmes in highly corrupt and weak governance environments face the challenge of making a difference in citizens’ lives. At the same time, they have to manage the risks to development effectiveness – and their reputations – from pervasive corruption and weak governance. Based on his extensive experience in the governance and anti-corruption field, as well as drawing on work of other practitioners, the author offers operational advice on addressing these challenges.”
Free African Media
Africa’s media freedom map: a depressing picture
“Free African Media. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? We think so. Most of all though, we think it must ring true. Sadly, reality's far from the case. In fact, the name has a disturbing undertone – it's not unfair to read it as an oxymoron. On the ground, journalists in Africa find themselves working in overwhelmingly unfree conditions. And the situation is rapidly deteriorating.
Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders (RSF - Reporters Sans Frontières) are two well-respected international organisations that publish barometers of press freedom around the globe. Freedom House publishes a world map of press freedom, with three basic classifications: Free, Partly free, and Not free. The map has a simple legend - green countries boast a free media, yellow countries are home to a partly free media and in blue countries the media is not free.”
“The International Anti-Corruption Academy and International Development Law Organization have pledged to work more closely in the fight against corruption.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed by both organizations on Feb. 8, the initial partnership will focus on training, technical assistance, networking and research. It is expected to lead to more concrete and formal cooperation between the two in helping developing countries and the international community promote integrity.”
Gemalto squeezes Facebook onto a SIM
“Gemalto has managed to get Facebook running on a SIM chip, making every GSM phone a Facebook phone and bringing social networking to the dumbest of handsets.
The SIM-based client isn't as pretty as its smartphone contemporaries – don't expect picture streams or sliding interfaces – but it was developed with the help of Facebook, and provides text-menu-based interaction with Facebook – including status updates, pokes and friend requests – to any GSM-compatible handset through the magic of the GSM SIM Toolkit and Class 2 SMS messages.”
National Democratic Institute
Citizen hotline launched ahead of Ugandan elections
“During 2006 elections in Uganda, international observers and domestic monitors reported significant violations of electoral law and protocol, including disenfranchisement of voters, counting and tallying irregularities, the use of state funds for campaign activities and the incarceration of political opposition leaders. As February 2011 elections approach, efforts are underway to head off potential repetition of these problems and violations.
DEMGroup and Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy, domestic election monitoring organizations, are carrying out a comprehensive monitoring strategy that includes a citizen hotline.”
Visualizing an Arab Revolution
“Experts say Egypt is the crystal ball in which the Arab world sees its future. Now that Mubarak has stepped down, I can share the work I've done making that metaphor tangible, and visualizing the pro-democracy movement in Egypt and across the Middle East. It is based on their Twitter activity, capturing the freedom of expression and association that is possible in that medium, and which is representative of a new collective consciousness taking form.
Twitter users are said to influence each other if they follow each other. These relationships are shown with lines. Individual users are placed near the individuals they influence, and factions near the factions they influence. Node size represents the extent of a user's influence across the entire network. Color, meanwhile, is based on the language they tweet in — a choice that itself can be meaningful, and clearly separates different strata of society.”
Media Shift Idea Lab (PBS.org)
Will the Next Revolution be Stroomed?
“When you think of the recent unrest in the Middle East, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube immediately come to mind.
Yet in an era where the revolution no longer need be televised -- now it's tweeted -- wouldn't a collaborative online video editing platform that allows producers, correspondents and reporters to create news reports in real time be a welcome addition to the insurgents' arsenal?
Well, such a tool does exist. It's called Stroome. And in a time when the journalist's traditional role -- to build and curate an informed public -- is rapidly eroding as citizens now are able to inform themselves and one another, is it possible that video will soon replace text as the central means of communication? Could it be that the next revolution will be Stroomed?”
“The laws of contract and international commercial relations generally suppose two corporate entities doing business with each other, both seeking profits and answering to shareholders. This makes sense, unless one of the parties is not a corporate entity, but rather a government, answerable to citizens. Even as they conduct business, governments have duties, obligations and interests that go well beyond pure profit maximization. As such, the same secrecy afforded to contracting parties in commercial law is out of place in such contracts. Governments must be held accountable for all contracts they enter, be they for the provision of roads or the purchase of goods. And when the contracts concern non-renewable resources, the need for scrutiny is even more pressing.
In this light, the growing interest in mining, oil and gas contracts on the part of concerned citizens around the world makes a great deal of sense. There are increasing calls for transparency in state investor contracts in many sectors, though none are so acute and urgent as the appeals in regard to non-renewable resource wealth. Given the history of government corruption and mismanagement of extractives, along with the environmental degradation, community displacement, violent conflict, and human rights abuses, it is no wonder that the calls for better government management of and more corporate responsibility in the extractive industries have never been louder.”
Is social media a new political weapon for Africans?
“The fall of dictatorial regimes in Egypt and Tunisia has largely been attributed to social media collaboration. In the wake of the protests, Internet experts have been quick to point out that social media might be the saviour of Africa’s search for democracy in general and Southern Africa in particular in the not-so- distant future. John Mokwetsi of Newsday collects the thoughts of some African journalists on the potential social media has to change politics in Africa.
Sceptics have been cynical of the assertion that social media networks, mainly Facebook and Twitter, will not impact in Africa as in Europe and the United States because of low Internet penetration rates.”
- Transparency International
- Social Accountability and Local Governance
- aid transparency
- Internatioanl Aid Transparency Initiative
- social media revolution
- African Media
- Freedom House
- Reporters without Borders
- International Anti-Corruption Academy
- Coalition Building
- Arab Revolution
- Media Shift Idea Lab
- Revenue Watch
- extractive industries