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.
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.
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.
"Leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect" - an interesting headline we found in last Wednesday's Financial Times, opening a comment by Economist and columnist John Kay. Kay makes two common mistakes in his article: First, he confuses public opinion with the popularity of an individual. Second, he underestimates the role of public opinion for legitimizing government.
"The same egalitarian value that is embodied in people's equal right to be self governing and that requires 'one-person/one-unit-of-formal-political-power' applied to the ballot box also applies to the public sphere. The public sphere influences how people choose to exercise their vote. Equally important, through the creation of public opinion, the public sphere should and often does influence how elected and appointed public officials actually exercise their formal decision-making power. In any large society, the mass media constitute probably the most crucial institutional structure in the public sphere."
-- C. Edwin Baker (2007)
Media Concentration and Democracy: Why Ownership Matters
Last month, I had the pleasure to meet again with Shaazka Beyerle, Senior Advisor at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, during her visit to Washington. Sina and I first met Beyerle in Doha and were impressed by her research on civic campaigns to fight corruption; I had the chance to speak with her by phone in December and was happy to continue our conversation in person in February. Having examined a multitude of non-violent grassroots campaigns against corruption around the world for her own research (for those interested, here is the link to her research description), Beyerle shared with me not only numerous interesting cases for CommGAP to look into in our research, but also her observations about the factors that contribute to the success of civic efforts to fight corruption.
UNESCO plays a critical role in promoting media development globally. The organization’s Communication and Information Sector regularly sends out statements condemning attacks against journalists and updates on the state of media freedom in various countries. Yesterday, I received an e-mail announcing that UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) had chosen to support 84 media development projects around the world.
But the numbers worry me a little. The total package amounts to 2.1 million USD spread out over 84 projects. That’s around 25,000 USD per project. Allocations range from 7,000 (strengthening journalism training capacity in Cameroon) to 80,000 USD (much needed assistance to a Haitian journalists’ association). This list of projects tackles a limited set of issues compared to those addressed by the broad media indicators framework IPDC itself released in 2008.
This is an extended quote from the New York Times of February 19, 2010, from a story titled 'Afghan Push Went Beyond Traditional Military Goals':
"Before 10,000 troops marched through central Helmand Province to wrest control of a small Afghan town from a few hundred entrenched Taliban fighters, American officials did something more typical of political than military campaigns: they took some polls.
When I try to wrap my head around the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for development, I usually don't get much further than "blogging" and "text messages." It was therefore enlightening to attend today's World Bank Institute Keys to Innovation Discussion Series on "Developers for Development: Using Open Source Technology in Disaster Response and Beyond." Five presenters from open source organizations introduced their projects. The relevance of those projects is painfully obvious in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.
"A vast change has happened in politics in the past half-century. The media have become crucial to the business of governing. Though they do not rule the country, the media sometimes rule the rulers, forcing them to spend long hours wooing, refuting, dodging and complaining."