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Making Parliaments Work through Better Communication

Paul Mitchell's picture

Governments and development agencies have devoted many years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing democratic governance in countries around the world. The idea of creating democracies is still the primary driver of many governance improvement agendas. Clearly, democratic systems often bring with them improvements in governance and economic development, but simply putting a democracy into place is not enough.
 

Last week, this blog featured a quote by Elinor Ostrom, which contains an interesting sentence: “Yet I worry that the need for continuous civic engagement, intellectual struggle, and vigilance is not well understood in some of our mature democracies and is not transmitted to citizens and officials in new democracies….We have to avoid slipping into a naïve sense that democracy – once established – will continue on its own momentum." 

The Chicken or the Egg? Law and Public Opinion

Fumiko Nagano's picture

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." -Thomas Jefferson

Thoughtful comments to my recent post on approaches to fighting petty corruption sparked for me an interesting discussion with Sina Odugbemi about norms, public opinion and law. Mainly, our talk centered on the following “chicken or the egg” issue: Do you adopt laws first and ask citizens to obey them? Or, do you gauge public opinion around an issue first, then adopt a law that reflects that society’s prevailing view on that issue? No matter how you dice it, the enforcement of that law would be easier when it conforms to majority opinion as opposed to when it does not.

If You Won't Quit, We'll Make You

Antonio Lambino's picture

Yesterday, I attended a session of the World Bank Institute’s Flagship Course on Health, attended by health specialists from various countries.  An expert panel shared experiences of using communication and persuasion toward bringing about pro health outcomes.  Several success stories were shared on applying behavior change communication in areas such as hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and education, and immunization in Africa and Asia.  Complementary to this focus on individual and social change was a presentation by Patricia Sosa, Esq. on experiences of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.   The organization advocates for policy change in various countries and the core of their strategy is changing the rules of the game to reduce tobacco use.

Communication and the Results Agenda

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The newly launched IEG Annual Review of Development Effectiveness 2009 attests the World Bank a significant increase in development effectiveness from financial year 2007 to 2008. After a somewhat disappointing result last year, 81 % of the development projects that closed in fiscal 2008 were rated satisfactory with regard to the extent to which the operation's major relevant objectives were achieved efficiently.

One crux remains: the measurement of impact. Monitoring and evaluation components in development projects are by far not as frequent as IEG would wish: Two thirds of the projects in 2008 had marginal or negligible M&E components. Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Vice President of the South Asia Region, listed several reasons at the launch of the IEG report this week: the lack of integrative indicators, the Bank's tradition to measure outputs instead of outcomes, the lack of baseline assessments in most projects, and reluctance on the clients' side to realize M&E in projects.

Development Results Require Program Communication

This is my first blog since I left the World Bank and relocated to New Delhi to work for UNICEF. Different cultures, different contexts, different communication challenges. Every change implies dealing with unknown and unexpected situations and it usually also entails refining a different way of thinking in approaching new challenges. In this case, the change I went through allowed me to see even clearer the critical role of communication for development (C4D), or program communication as it is also called in UNICEF, for achieving sustainable change.

The current trend in most international organizations towards results-based management planning is a further element confirming the crucial role of C4D. Results are now defined basically at outputs level and outcomes level. The former refers to results directly related to activities carried out as technical solutions (e.g. production of infrastructure or provision of services), but outcomes are results of a higher level, capable of achieving a greater impact, linked with institutional or behavioral change. That is where C4D becomes a sine-qua-non for the success of most development initiatives. No matter what is the technical solution to be adopted; i.e. latrines, water irrigation schemes, a new kind of crop, children immunization or better governance, these can only be achieved through a professional and systematic use of communication for social and behavior change.

Quote of the Week

Darshana Patel's picture

"The sustenance of a democratic system is similar to the sustenance of an initially successful family firm.  The first generation works very hard to build it up. The second generation has usually witnessed some of the struggles of the first generation and usually is able to continue the effort started by the first generation. But when the firm is turned over to the third, fourth, or fifth generation, problems can occur. Children are born already rich and without a deep understanding of the struggle that it took to build the enterprise in the first place. What took many years to build can be dissipated within a short time….I share a deep conviction that democratic systems of government are the highest forms of human governance yet developed. Yet I worry that the need for continuous civic engagement, intellectual struggle, and vigilance is not well understood in some of our mature democracies and is not transmitted to citizens and officials in new democracies….We have to avoid slipping into a naïve sense that democracy – once established – will continue on its own momentum."  Elinor Ostrom 2000, The Future of Democracy

Photo Credit: PNAS

The Assumptions of the Social Media Community

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Sometimes you go to a meeting and someone produces a moment of elegance, that is, a moment that neatly sums up an area of experience. I had such a moment recently at a meeting on Governance, Media and Accountability organized by the Salzburg Global Seminar. As often happens at such meetings, some of the sessions involve social media specialists educating 'digital migrants' like me (as opposed to the young people of today who are said to be 'digital natives') regarding all the cool new tools being developed. I always come away impressed, and happy to be educated on the subject, especially the tools that can deepen citizen engagement in policy and empower them to hold governments accountable. Some impressive possibilities are emerging, about which more later.

Coming Soon: CommGAP-UNODC Joint Initiatives - White Paper and Side Event on Anti-Corruption

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Last year, CommGAP and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly organized a learning event on the role of communication in anti-corruption efforts, bringing together anti-corruption agencies, senior practitioners, and academics to talk about communication-related challenges faced in anti-corruption work. There, we heard several issues that troubled the anti-corruption agency officials, but one in particular stood out: agency officials were deeply conflicted with the task of working effectively with the media and journalists. While in theory, they understood the importance of working with the media for their work to be successful, in practice, they did not quite know how to establish a good working relationship with the media.

Of Pork, Sausage, and Media Laws

Silvio Waisbord's picture

Watching media law sausage being made is not only ugly. It also raises questions about the conventional apoliticism and technical distance of international aid (an issue that Sina brought up in his last blog entry, and the subject of Sue Unsworth’s smart article that he sent).

Consider what happened in the last months in Argentina. On October 9, Congress passed a new media law, which was immediately approved by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The law is almost identical to the bill sent by the President’s office. The bill replaced the 1980 law that was passed during the last military dictatorship, which had been amended several times since the return to democracy in 1983.

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