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The People's Purse: Budgeting for the Poor

Antonio Lambino's picture

It is uncontroversial that the resources governments spend belong to the people.  How these resources get allocated varies from country to country at the national and local levels.  Debates and deliberations surrounding the budgetary process are usually technical, tedious, and time-consuming.  Nonetheless, budgeting in the public sector is a critical entry point for the demand for better public goods and services and, more broadly, meaningful and effective citizen engagement.  If citizens could exercise their voices in the prioritization of public sector spending, then government programs would have a higher likelihood of reflecting the needs and wants of constituents.  So a key challenge and opportunity in this area is finding a judicious balance between solid technical analysis and meaningful citizen participation.
 

Changing Norms: Generating Public Will to Fight Corruption

Fumiko Nagano's picture

The current, mainstream approach to anti-corruption work by the international community involves establishing a normative framework (such as the comprehensive United Nations Convention against Corruption) that details a set of recommended standards for countries to meet, requesting that countries ratify the framework, and assisting them in achieving these standards. The framework lists specific measures designed to help countries prevent and control corruption, such as the establishment of independent anti-corruption commissions, creation of transparent procurement and public financial management systems, and promotion of codes of conduct for public officials rooted in ethics and integrity, to name a few.

No Public Will, No Accountability

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Last week and this, the Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA) piloted the new World Bank Institute's (WBI) new Core Learning Program "Introduction to Social Accountability" near Johannesburg, South Africa. CommGAP was invited to present a module on "Communication and Strategies for Constructive Engagement" - introducing our core concepts and messages on mobilizing public opinion to create genuine demand for social accountability. Here's a comment from the evaluations of our module: "The mobilization of public opinion is vital for social accountability. I have to admit that I was not aware of the importance of public opinion for social accountability before this course!"

What in the World is 'Rude Accountability'?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

I have just read a fascinating paper published by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK and written by Naomi Hossain. It is titled 'Rude Accountability in the Unreformed State: Informal Pressures on Frontline Bureaucrats in Bangladesh' [IDS Working Paper Volume 2009 Number 319]. The paper describes and analyzes what happens when poor peasants in Bangladesh are being poorly served by frontline service providers like doctors and teachers in an environment where the institutional accountability mechanisms do not work. So, what do these poor peasants do? They get angry and they show it. They speak rudely to these doctors and teachers who normally expect deference. They embarrass them. They get local newspapers to name and shame them.They even engage in acts of violence like vandalism. And their reactions often produces results, particularly the media reports. This is what Hossain calls 'rude accountability'.

The “State-Sponsored” Public Sphere

Darshana Patel's picture

In India’s 2 million villages, public meetings at the village level called Gram Sabhas (GSs) have provided a structured, institutionalized space for dialogue between the local government and its citizens.  In a recently released paper on the topic, Vijayendra Rao and Paromita Sanyal have coined these GSs as “state-sponsored” public sphere.  In fact, these meetings are mandated by national legislation. 

In India, these public meetings not only offer a space to dialogue and feedback between citizens and local power holders, they also pair it with real decision-making on how to manage local resources for beneficiaries for public programs.  This is the most striking feature of the GSs.  While the government provides data on families living below the poverty line that could be eligible for local resources, the GSs are required to have these lists ratified by those attending the meeting.  Citizens can directly challenge the data in “a forum where public discourse shapes the meaning of poverty, discrimination and affirmative action.”

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"The real thing to worry about is secret government – the constant accumulation of power. It’s actually a conservative notion that accumulations of power aren’t good . . . There’s a whole apparatus set up in government institutions to keep people from finding out what’s really going on. “ 

- Bob Woodward – Financial Times, June 5, 2009. Lunch with the FT: Bob Woodward, by Edward Luce
 

Radio Development and Indonesia's Democratic Transition

Antonio Lambino's picture

More than a decade has passed since Indonesia embarked on the transition from authoritarian rule to building democratic institutions.  This week, CommGAP met with Santoso, Managing Director of KBR68H, a Jakarta-based radio news agency founded in 1999, at the dawn of the country’s democratic transition.  In addition to its long roster of domestic and international awards, KBR68H is the first media and Southeast Asian organization to receive the King Baudouin International Development Prize, named after the former king of Belgium (click here for a video on KBR68H prepared by the prize sponsor).

The Back-Handed Compliment

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Is it true that the news media - when free, plural and independent - promote effective, responsive and accountable governance? Working with Professor Pippa Norris of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, CommGAP has produced a major study making the case  for Yes as rigorously as we can. That study is now being prepared for the printers, and should be available soon. Yet there are times when I think; why do we need to go to great lengths to make what should be an obvious point?

Institutional Takes on Communication for Development

I returned from my two weeks of traveling with a more optimist outlook about Communication for Development -C4D- and the way it is being considered and applied around the world. I went first to Lisbon, Portugal, where I was invited to be a guest speaker in a week-long workshop on communication for social change sponsored by the Objectivo 2015 - UN Millennium Campaign in Portugal and hosted by the Lisbon's School of Communication and Media Studies.  The course was directed at Civil Society Organizations managers and program officers. It has been very encouraging to see not only the high level of interest of participants, but also to realize that C4D principles and concepts can be and are applied effectively in the context of more developed countries.

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