Imagine you have walked back home from your local town market on a jasmine-scented Saturday morning with a bagful of the season’s harvest. In Northern California in the summer, that bag will probably contain some heirloom tomatoes, hothouse cucumbers, red bell peppers, Meyer lemons, and mint sprigs. As you sit to rest your feet, your mouth starts to water in anticipation of how these provisions will taste. They are meant to entertain guests over supper later in the evening, but you simply cannot wait and decide to steal a sampling of small pieces of each item.
Transparency International’s 2009 Global Corruption Barometer, published last month, details the results of an opinion survey on the public’s perceptions and experiences of corruption and bribery around the world. The report contains many interesting findings, but the ones I found particularly notable were the following:
"... we must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans. ... In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples' lives. ... Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions."
President of the United States
in a speech to the Ghanaian Parliament in Accra, Ghana, on July 11, 2009
A reader's comment to the blog post A Riot of Global Norms:
You raise an extremely relevant question. An interesting example is the European Union, where the consensus-building process may appear painstakingly slow, but once a norm has been adopted by all countries, it applies to 450 Million citizens across the 27 EU countries. In fact, more often than not, EU norms even serve as a reference for other geographical zones. Could this apply to norms in the area of governance? I do not know, but what is clear is that over the years this process has created a specific culture. As much as everyone may grumble against the "Eurocracy", we all follow the rules because we know participating is the best chance we have to get our voice heard.
Robert de Quelen
A reader's comment to the blog post The Culture of Media Development on Both Sides of the Atlantic:
It has been very interesting to read the various Blogs regarding the development of media in conflict and post-conflict situations. Here at the Centre for Communication and Social Change at The University of Queensland, Australia we have been actively involved in a range of initiatives which seek to support the use of media and communication processes in development.
Part of my job is to give advice to teams working on different projects and initiatives in the broad areas of governance and accountability regarding what I like to think of as people-related challenges. And one of the commonest threads running through the initiatives I look at is the challenge of transplanting global norms. Think for a minute about the norms around good governance, around work on anti-corruption. In almost every case, initiatives involve a set of global norms that experts want developing countries to adopt.
Our work on a media development toolkit for governance advisors in donor agencies has reached another stage - last week we took our consultations to London to talk to a wide range of media development experts from Europe. This completes the major part of expert discussions that we conducted to develop a toolkit on how to increase the effectiveness of media development projects.
"The four major collective concepts commonly invoked in public opinion research - the general public, the electorate, the attentive public, and the elite or active public - correspond roughly to a continuum from mass to public. ... each of these four collectives - whether formally considered a public or not - can play a significant role in the formation of public opinion. It is in this sense that the search for the public is likely to be in vain. ... It is in the interaction among these groups – as they form and change over time – that answers are likely to be found concerning the collective formation and impact of public opinion."
in Public Opinion (1992)
The outbreaks of political turbulence around the world have prompted me to re-visit Edmund Burke's masterpiece, Reflections on the Revolution in France ( 1790). In the work, Burke attacks the French Revolution. I remember that when I had to write a term paper about the work in a class on the History of Political Thought in graduate school, I fully expected to hate the Reflections and to debunk it. But it amazed me, and impressed me. First, its eloquence is overpowering. Even now as I leaf through my old copy, the grandeur of the language still moves the spirit. Second, you cannot but be impressed by the prophetic power of Burke's analysis of the French Revolution. For he wrote the Reflections in the early days of the Revolution, yet he was able to correctly predict its path - the deepening violence, the collapse into dictatorship. Now, as a school-boy fan of the French Revolution that got my attention.