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If Only Corruption Could Be Defeated with Pocket-Less Trousers

Fumiko Nagano's picture

We at CommGAP are interested in learning how to change social norms as key to fighting petty corruption. When looking at the issue of norms as they relate to corrupt practices, as with most issues, there are two sides to the petty corruption equation: citizens who pay bribes and public servants who accept them. A number of posts on this blog have dealt with the importance of getting citizens to view bribery as wrong. So what about public servants? How do you get them to stop demanding and accepting bribes from citizens?

A couple of interesting solutions to this question were found in Nepal and Kazakhstan, as reported by the BBC earlier this year. In Nepal, in order to fight petty corruption at its main international airport, the government planned to put in place an unusual measure: making airport employees wear pants without pockets to prevent them from taking bribes from travelers. In Kazakhstan, one of the government’s anti-corruption initiatives included making civil servants wear badges saying “I am against corruption,” in the hopes that those wearing such badges would think twice before demanding bribes.

Access to Information: Different Contexts, One Essential Ingredient

Darshana Patel's picture

Andrew Puddephatt’s Exploring the Role of Civil Society in the Formulation and Adoption of Access to Information Laws defines the main contours of Access to Information (ATI) movements in 5 countries (Bulgaria, India, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom).  In Bulgaria, ATI was established by an environmental eco-glasnost movement that emerged in a post-Communist society (glastnost meaning transparency). In India, the ATI movement was embedded in a larger, anti-corruption movement led by the rural poor communities.  In Mexico, a group of social activists and experts from academia and media conducted a targeted campaign for ATI just as Mexico was joining the OECD, NAFTA, and the WTO. The campaign for ATI in South Africa grew out of a post-apartheid civil society which recognized that information (or the systemic denial of it) was a key factor in perpetuating racial, social and economic inequality.  The movement for ATI in the United Kingdom was spearheaded by a specialist NGO that capitalized on a government in the process of implementing broader constitutional reforms.

Quote of the Week

Antonio Lambino's picture

"There are many approaches to evaluating public health communication programs, all of them struggling to resolve the tension between making strong inferences and making sure that an intervention has gotten a fair test.  There will always be some way to question the inferences made or the generality of the results to other contexts.  That does not take away from the legitimacy of the evaluations.  The fair question for them is whether they have gone reasonably down the path toward reducing uncertainty.  A valuable study is one that can usefully inform the policy community about whether the intervention approach is worthy of support, without promising that there is no risk of a mistake.  A study is valuable if future judgments about programs are better made taking this information into account than remaining ignorant of it."

- Prof. Robert C. Hornik (2002, p. 405)
Public Health Communication: Evidence for Behavior Change

Watch the Watchdogs

Antonio Lambino's picture

Onora O’Neill (2002) contends that advocates of media freedom have erroneously equated the citizen’s right to information and expression with press freedom.  They have claimed for journalists and media organizations what is essentially an individual right reserved for citizens.  A free media, according to O’Neill, “is not an unconditional good… Good public debate must not only be accessible to but also assessable by its audiences.”

Accessibility is often measured through indicators that quantify access to various media, such as newspaper circulation or the number of TVs, radios, and computers per thousand people in the population (e.g., UNESCO, World Bank).  Assessability, on the other hand, is driven by normative standards and can be carried out on at least two levels. 

Is Sue Unsworth Right about Donors and Politics?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

For anybody who thinks about governance as an issue in development, Sue Unsworth needs no introduction. She used to be the main intellectual force behind DFID's 'drivers of change analysis', an approach to political economy analysis. She is now with the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, in the United Kingdom. She has just published an  article in the Journal of International Development  titled 'What's Politics Got to do with It?: Why Donors Find It So Hard to Come to Terms with Politics, and Why it Matters' (a free version can be found here).

The article deserves wide attention. In it, Unsworth points out that donors are paying more attention to politics these days than they used to, and some are even applying political analysis to aspects of development practice, but huge barriers remain that ensure that all this is having little influence on  mainstream debates about how to do development . Mainstream approaches remain apolitical and the 'implicit assumption is still that the obstacles to better governance and development performance are primarily financial, technical and managerial...'

Turning Failures into Teachable Moments

Darshana Patel's picture

Everyone likes a happy ending and this applies in development work too.  Quite often, we have the tendency to showcase our successes through best practices that are upheld as evidence that a particular approach works. But what about those instances when we may have made some mistakes along the way or failed outright? Humans have a tendency to focus on successes rather than failures.

"This [handling of failure] is difficult for us to do well because we have strong human bias to value successes more than we value failures. In most organizations failure is stigmatized and nobody wants to be associated with it…..Unfortunately this produces some dangerous side-effects. Since improbable failures have high information content, it is important to communicate information about failure quickly and widely throughout the organization. To the extent that we hinder the flow of this information, we will force people to reinvent failures that we have already experienced, and that generates no useful new information."

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Our definition of propaganda focuses on the communication process – most specifically, on the purpose of the process: Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”

“To identify a message as propaganda is to suggest something negative and dishonest. Words frequently used as synonyms for propaganda are lies, distortion, deceit, manipulation, mind control psychological warfare, brainwashing, and palaver. A term implying propaganda that has recently gained popularity is spin, referring to a coordinated strategy to minimize negative information and present in a favorable light a story that could be damaging.”

Garth S. Jowett Victoria O’Donnell in Propaganda and Persuasion, 1999, p. 3 and p. 6.

Shouting Heads

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In his latest post, Tony Lambino makes an interesting argument about pundits and social norms. He says that pundits' comments, for example on statements of public figures, are a manifestation of the social norms of a society. Punditry is a fascinating phenomenon and a recent development in the mass media - and might have changed the media landscape quite significantly.

Pundits discuss current affairs from their own point of view, often together with or in contrast to other pundits. Pundits can be experts, such as academics, but often journalists stylize themselves to be experts on political and other issues. It seems debatable to me whether punditry it is indeed part of the media's role in democracy.

You Can't Say That. It Doesn't Matter Who You Are.

Antonio Lambino's picture

The media have recently been going ga-ga over what many consider to be appalling public statements made by prominent figures in various fields --music, sports, domestic politics, and just today, international diplomacy.  From the U.S. Open to the U.S. Congress, to the august halls of the United Nations, public figures have said some terribly inappropriate things and, come the very next news cycle, have suffered sharp rebuke by pundits in the mainstream media.  Some have even claimed that these events portend the end of civilized society.  I think they exaggerate.

'I'll Be Gone and You'll Be Gone'

Sina Odugbemi's picture

There was an article in the New York Times recently with the title 'What's Really Wrong With Wall Street Pay?'  In the article, the writer discusses a problem world leaders want to do something about but are not sure how. How do you stop compensation packages for bankers and traders in global markets from encouraging them to take the kinds of wild risks that have done so much damage to the global economy?  I wish the leaders the very best of luck in dealing with that one. Success in the endeavor is far from certain...to put it gently.

What caught my eye as I was reading the piece is what the writer says bankers call the "I.B.G-Y.B.G." problem, as in 'I'll be gone and you will be gone'. It is the moral hazard problem. Traders in global markets take incredible risks and recklessly, they collect their bonuses and move on. The firm takes all the risk. Well, it turns out that taxpayers take risks as well, since governments have had to bail out so many banks deemed too big to fail.

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