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Project Sunlight: Access, Reform, Accountability

Naniette Coleman's picture

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

James Madison

 

Browsing bills, bill and veto jackets and state contracts is not exactly my idea of a good time but it has its use, just ask the people of the State of New York where SunlightNY.com is promoting access, reform and accountability in both English and Spanish.  Created largely by the Office of the Attorney General and Blair Horner, a leading advocate for government transparency who was on loan to the office from the New York Public Interest Research Group, SunlightNY.com is an innovative approach to keeping the public engaged in government. An approach that’s seems to have no equal in the US. 

 

Teaching a Culture of Transparency

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Access to Information is a big topic these days. It is for the World Bank, with its own ATI strategy kicking in this week, on July 1. It's a big topic elsewhere too: The Philippine Congress just killed a Freedom of Information Bill, the Parliament in Liberia is taking up it's review of a Freedom of Information Act after a two year hiatus, and the New York Times reports on the positive effects that India's Right to Information Law has on the poorest castes.

Legislation, however, is only one side of the bargain. As we have argued many times on this blog, legislation could be mute if there is no culture supporting the law. If governments don't want to reveal information, how is a law going to make them? If citizens don't want to request information, how is a law going to encourage them? It's not only about transparency legislation, it's also about a culture of transparency.

Appreciative Planning Action

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's comment to the blog post, Co-creating the Future:

"We have used the Appreciative Planning Action to get buy-in in reviewing our institution's strategic plan for the period 2005-2010. The consultants reviewed the achievements and challenges faced during the implementation of the Plan, interviewed key stakeholders and organised focus group discussions among key stakeholders. After which they compiled a Draft Report that was presented to the selected key stakeholders in a workshop. The key stakeholders were the staff members of the institution, board of management and opinion leaders.

The APA method was used to obtain information from the selected key stakeholders and corrobate the previous vision, mission and strategic objectives. The purpose was to assist participants to observe that some items in the previous plan that constituted the vision already had been achieved, the mission had become rather vague and required sharpening, and some of the objectives required to be focused in light of the achievements made.

Village Intelligence: There Are No Obvious Solutions

Naniette Coleman's picture

The story was told to me and so I will tell it to you. No, it was not passed down to me by my father or my father’s father but I still think it is a great story. A known story amongst international volunteer corps, it is whispered between friends with wistful eyes and knowing glances. 

 

The Well

 

Kunda Dixit On Little Stations That Can

Sabina Panth's picture

Kunda Dixit is not only a household name among the media savvy, newspaper reading audience of Nepal but also a well-known figure in the international media community.   The Columbia University trained journalist worked for the BBC World Service, in UN and as Regional Editor for Inter Press Service Asia Pacific, before he returned to Nepal and launched Himalmedia, which has become a popular and credible source of information and analysis on democracy and governance issues in South Asia.  Mr. Dixit is also the author of a trilogy of books (A People War, Never Again, People After War) on the Nepal conflict that is regarded as a model for the media's role in post-war reconciliation. 

Recently, Kunda Dixit grabbed the attention of Sina, CommGAP’s program head, when he spoke about the massive role played by community radio in the democratic transition in Nepal.  Sina asked me to follow-up on the story for a blog post, which I did, but decided it is best served if I directly post my online interview with Mr. Dixit, which is as follows:

OhMy...Not

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Think the traditional news business is dying? Consider Japan, says a New York Times article describing the country's vibrant traditional media sector and moribund digital news startups. OhMyNews, a hugely popular South Korean citizen-journalism site that flopped in Japan, is cited as one example of how digital news culture has awkwardly mapped onto a Japanese context. Interestingly, some quoted in the article hypothesize that countries with more deep-seated social and political divisions may take to digital news media more easily than those without.

Killed Bill: Freedom of Information in the Philippines

Antonio Lambino's picture

Global Voices, a website that aggregates news and information from an international community of bloggers, recently posted an obituary entitled “Philippines: Congress Fails to Pass Freedom of Information Bill.”  In my mind, this failed reform is but a lost battle in the larger war waged between patronage politics and good governance.  Winning the war entails much more than enacting a new law; it requires transforming the country’s political culture from one dominated by a web of patronage relationships to one characterized by transparency, accountability, and participation.

I was in Manila during the bill’s final days, and monitored the news with deep interest as a coalition of local and international advocates launched a public campaign in support of the bill’s ratification.  On May 24, 2010, ABS-CBNNews.com and the front page of The Philippine Star, an influential broadsheet, carried a piece entitled “World awaits RP’s (Republic of the Philippines) Freedom of Info Act” by veteran journalist Malou Mangahas.  Here’s a snippet:

“Today starts a series of mass actions by journalists, workers, students, professionals, business and church leaders, and civil society groups in their vigorous push for Congress to ratify the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.  But the world waits and watches, too.  More than just a Philippine story, the 14-year advocacy of Filipinos for Congress to enact the law has become a serious concern of freedom of information advocates, scholars, and members of parliament across the globe.”

Coda on Propaganda by the Deed

Sina Odugbemi's picture

You will have heard that the Government of Israel has agreed to ease  its 3-year-old land blockade of the Gaza strip, clearly in response to the international outcry that ensued when  a raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza turned deadly on May 31. On that day Israeli commandos had killed nine pro-Palestinian activists. In the ensuing dispute both sides claimed they acted only to protect their own lives.

Naturally, I am not getting into the rights and wrongs of one of the most contentious disputes in international affairs, and the interminable 'peace process'. I am interested only in adding a coda to  an earlier post: The Power of Propaganda by the Deed. In that post, I drew attention to a technique available to the underdogs of the world when confronting the powerful. It works as follows:

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