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Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Look, one of the things that makes politics hard for rank-and-file voters in the United States is just how impossibly large this nation is.  In a country of 300 millions, no matter what you do, it's often going to feel like it's a meaningless drop in the ocean.  And given the legislative process, time passes between campaigning and enacting bills into law, and by many people have moved on to other parts of their lives.  But individuals, and especially small groups of people, really can make a difference.  This battle over health care reform is one time when it wasn't just the lobbyists, or the interest groups, or the politicians...whole bunches of small groups of people, in states and Congressional districts across the nation, turned a handful of Senate races and a dozen or two House races around and, sixteen or so months later, their work is, today, most likely going to change the country.  If you're one of them, it's a day to be proud of what you've done."

-- Jonathan Bernstein, "We are the Ones", A Plain Blog about Politics.

 

Good Luck, and Be Careful When You Cross the Street

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP's latest book, Public Sentinel, outlines the role of the news media in governance reform, which is of course all about the roles of journalists in society and political systems. The book identifies three main roles - agenda setters, watchdogs, and gatekeepers - that journalists should, ideally, fulfill in order to strengthen good governance. Looking at a recent report on The State of Freedom of Expression in the Americas, all I can say to a journalist who indeed wants to uphold those ideals: Good luck, and be careful when you cross the street.

The Transparency Revolution Reaches the World Bank

Sina Odugbemi's picture

On November 17, 2009 the Board of the World Bank approved a new policy that will help strengthen the norm of transparency in governance in the global system. It is the Access to Information Policy. The new policy goes into effect on July 1, 2010. The following elements of the policy are notable:

What Does It Take to Bring About Change? (PART I)

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

Why is change so difficult to achieve, even when it seems to be the best solution for a certain problem? We could start by recalling human nature that is usually risk adverse. Probably this derives from our genetic memory going back thousands of years when deviating from a known routine and venturing into the unknown could jeopardize one’s life. Currently, we still tend to be more comfortable with what we know rather than entering uncharted waters. Hesitation and uncertainty that typically accompany changes are also often coupled with a degree of “mental laziness”, as it always takes an extra effort to change old habits in favor of new ones.

Tweet, Tweet

Antonio Lambino's picture

We’ve all heard stories about how helpful and at times, epic, the roles of social media have been in crisis situations, both natural and manmade.  See, for instance, yesterday's New York Times piece on Ushahidi and Anne Arnold’s previous post on the role of new ICTs and social media in disaster response and development.  But I’m of two minds regarding one particular social media application.  Twitter allows its users to send out a “tweet” of up to 140 characters, and to keep one’s followers up to date on just about anything under the sun.  So I signed up last week to see what’s it’s like to have my very own Twitter account.

I certainly value the enabling environment social media provide to the exercise of voice, especially in places where freedom of expression is suppressed.  And heartwarming stories abound of people finding each other through social media.  A decade ago, my family was all atwitter when my cousin sheepishly confessed that he met his special someone in a chat room.  Today, I’ve heard people tell similar stories with nothing but aplomb.  Obviously, there are intrinsic and instrumental values to having multiple routes of self expression.  Especially in bad places where speech is silenced through intimidation and brutality. 

But there is a difference between tweeting things like “Men in uniform shooting at us -- please help” and “Just went to the bathroom – need to go again”. 

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Yet journalism is a critical point. Political journalism in particular must cope with a fragmenting political sphere, the rise of fleet-footed competition from blogs and websites and the decline of an audience. Journalism and politics have, for two centuries, depended on, fought with, supported and tried to destroy each other. Now they sigh for the good old days when they were both certain enough of their respective institutions to engage in combat." -- John Lloyd, Power and the press, Financial Times, February 20 2010

 

Public Opinion and Political Leaders

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's comment to the blog post Leaders Who Ignore Public Opinion Lose Their Offices:

"Having worked for quite some time in public opinion research, I could not agree more with your points. “Public Opinion” indeed has become a catch all phrase for a wide range of information, starting with simple popularity questions to very in depth stakeholder assessments.

What I find interesting about the argument in the FT article is that it suggests a fairly strong negative correlation between public opinion and the politician’s success in office. However, his argument rests upon a few individuals, who were successful when researching public opinion was either non-existent or relatively new (and therefore not much used). It also ignores the shift in voting behaviors that actually made it possible for politicians to ignore the public opinion in their day to a certain degree.

Leveling the Playing Field on World Bank – Civil Society Dialogue

John Garrison's picture

After years of feeling that its policies were unfairly criticized by civil society organizations, the Bank is now ‘turning the tables’ by being formally asked to critique civil society ideas and papers.  Likewise, after years of feeling ‘shut out’ and ignored by Bank experts, CSOs are confidently seeking Bank views on their macro- economic research findings.  This trend is best exemplified by the launches of books written by well known CSO leaders at the Bank’s Infoshop over the past two years.  These include the launch of “From Poverty to Poverty” by Duncan Green (Head of Research for Oxfam/GB) in November 2008, “Development Redefined” by John Cavanaugh (Director of the Institute for Policy Studies) and Robin Broad (Professor of International Development at American University) in February 2009; and "Unheard Truth” by Irene Khan (Secretary General of Amnesty International) in October 2009.  In all three cases, Bank staff were asked to be discussants and offer their critiques of the books. 

Plan of Action to Advance the Right of Access to Information in Africa

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Here is an important initiative led by the Carter Center that I was part of and that we would like to bring to the attention of our readers. What follows is the text from the Carter Center:

"Participants from the African Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information today released the Regional Findings and Plan of Action to advance the right in Africa. The conference found that while access to information is a fundamental human right, political and institutional constraints in Africa have limited the opportunities to exercise the right. Taking into account the realities of Africa, the regional document serves as an annex to the global Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action

Beyond Training: The Role of The International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC )

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A response to the blog post Beyond Training: Development Assistance in the Media Sector from Wijayananda Jayaweera, Director, Division for Communication Development, UNESCO:

I wish to comment on few matters concerning your blog on the recent IPDC decisions to support 84 media development projects.  Firstly, I entirely agree with you on the need of sustained attention from the development community to support media development in a strategic manner. In fact, the IPDC endorsed Media Development Indicators provide a framework for the development community to devise such coordinated strategies at country level.  But far more important is that such strategies are developed in a multistakeholder partnership where local ownership of the processes is assured and participation of media community and civil society is guaranteed. In 2009 multistakeholder partnerships in Croatia, Ecuador, Maldives, and Mozambique have used media development indicators for media sector assessments and have developed evidence based recommendation to improve the media sector development. UNESCO supported these assessments outside the IPDC frame work and will continue to do so, so that the development community can take the resulting recomendations on board when they prepare their country strategies.

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