These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Full Disclosure: The Aid Transparency Blog (Devex)
Recipient Governments Must Boost Transparency, Too: The Case of India
“‘Watch out, aid wallahs’ and ‘Payback time for corrupt panchayats’ have become catchphrases for a new generation striving for development in India.
The Right to Information Act, originally intended to halt corruption and encourage transparency, has become a tool for poor communities to access and realise their right to development.
Parbati, a soap seller from Kalur in Tamil Nadu, had not received her pension for five years until her grandson heard about the law and they jointly requested information on the delay from their local officials. A week later, Parbati’s new pension book was in her hand.”
From Poverty to Power (Oxfam)
What difference do accountability and transparency initiatives really make?
“The advice to ‘beware the common sense of the time’ is just as true of today’s developmental buzzwords as it is of the discredited versions of yesteryear. And what could be more commonsensical than ‘transparency and accountability are a Good Thing’? But does supporting them with aid money actually make a difference? Researchers at the UK’s Institute of Development Studies (a bit of personal transparency – I recently became a visiting fellow there), have pulled together all the evidence to try and answer the question, and seem pretty underwhelmed by what they’ve found. Here are some extracts from the synthesis report. Full 128 page report here, with lots of case studies etc to flesh out the arguments.”
Citizen Journalism & Democracy in Africa
“The study identifies and analyses two types of citizen journalism: non-institutional and institutional. Exploratory in nature, the study is underpinned by four specific objectives, namely to:
- Analyse the social context of the practice of citizen journalism in Africa;
- Assess the technological basis of citizen journalism, especially the processes by which new information and communication technologies (ICTs) shape, and become shaped by, human attempts at citizen journalism;
- Ascertain the level of uptake of citizen journalism by conventional media, as a way of establishing how citizen journalism becomes institutionalised in the process of adoption; and
- Evaluate the democratic value of citizen journalism, as a way of appreciating the possible transformative power of citizen journalists.
The overall aim of the study is to make sense of the democratic premium that initiators of various non-institutional and institutional citizen journalism projects place on the phenomenon. As such, this is an ethnographic study that seeks to tease out people’s experiences of the practice of citizen journalism.”
“Citizens must have access to public information in order for democracy to function. Lack of access to information results in a non-participatory society in which political decision-making is not democratic. Access to information concerning governance of the state allows individuals to exercise their political and civil rights in election processes; challenge or influence public policies; monitor the quality of public spending; and demand accountability. Access to information and transparency are thus prerequisites for democracy as well as a key tool in the fight against corruption.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can support democracy and human rights by enabling and expanding citizens’ social mobilization. A better informed and active citizenry, who can put pressure on national institutions to be accountable and responsive to citizens’ needs and priorities, is a fundamental component of a functioning democracy.”
John Githongo’s war on corruption
“Kenya’s most famous anti-corruption campaigner, John Githongo, has resumed his war on graft, after death threats forced him to flee his country in 2006. Earlier this month, he launched a new campaign, Kenya Ni Yetu (Kenya Belongs to Us), aimed at mobilising ordinary people to speak up against corruption, impunity and injustice. The Kenyan government estimates that one-third of its revenue is lost in scams such as the theft of emergency food aid and funds for primary education and inflated contracts for shoddy or non-existent projects. There was a surge of optimism in 2003 when President Mwai Kibaki appointed Githongo - head of Transparency International-Kenya - as his anti-corruption czar (or we can say Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics). Two years later, Githongo went into exile in the UK after receiving death threats. He had unveiled a $600 million scandal in which contracts were awarded to a fictitious company, known as Anglo-Leasing. His evidence included hidden tape recordings of his meetings with top government ministers who he alleged were behind the swindle. His story was published in Michaela Wrong’s book It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower in 2009. “It’s our turn to eat” is the phrase used by Kenyan ethnic communities to say it is their turn to rule and steal from public coffers. Githongo spoke to TrustLaw about his new approach.”
“French President Nicolas Sarkozy told singer-activist Bono Sunday that he will spearhead efforts to force companies extracting raw materials in Africa to say how much they pay local regimes.
In a letter released by Sarkozy's office, the French leader said he "totally" agreed with the Irish singer on the need to make the exploitation of raw materials in Africa more transparent.
The letter was in response to a letter by Bono published in French daily Le Monde calling on France to lead the way in supporting a European bill based on the "Publish What You Pay" concept, which aims to tackle state-level corruption and redistribute natural-resource revenues to the populations of African countries.”
“Aid transparency is more than one of the latest buzz words in foreign assistance: It is a new aid revolution that sees international development organizations releasing more and better information in the name of accountability and effectiveness. With the new transparency come opportunities and challenges for donors and implementers alike.
To explore this how all that newly available information may change your work and allow your organization to thrive, Devex is launching “Full Disclosure: The aid transparency blog” in collaboration with Publish What You Fund, the London-based aid transparency group.
This is no ordinary blog: It is entirely user-generated. That means you’ll hear thought-provoking opinions and practical advice from a variety of industry experts - donor officials, aid workers, IT experts, advocates and others - about their struggles and successes in boosting aid transparency and making use of the newly available data.”