These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
This paper suggests that reform-minded public officials can improve development results by using citizen engagement in a variety of ways: to elicit information and ideas, support public service improvements, defend the public interest from ‘capture’ and clientelism, strengthen the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of citizens and bolster accountability and governance in the public sector. Based on analysis of five case studies exploring recent citizen engagement initiatives in different parts of the world this paper posits that there are no blueprints for the design and implementation of such initiatives or standardised and replicable tools. Instead it suggests that successful and sustainable citizen engagement is ideally developed through “a process of confrontation, accommodation, trial and error in which participants discover what works and gain a sense of self-confidence and empowerment”.
As a reporter in the Bosnian war, in 1993 I went to Belgrade to visit Vuk Drašković, the Serb nationalist politician and writer who was then leading the mass opposition against the Slobodan Milošević regime. Drašković had drawn liberal as well as ultra-nationalist support in Serbia for his cause. As I was leaving his office, one of Drašković’s young aides pressed a folded bit of paper into my hand. It turned out to be blank except for a date: 1453 – the year Orthodox Constantinople fell to the Muslim Ottomans. Friends of mine who had worked in the former Yugoslavia during the Croatian and Bosnian wars had similar experiences in Zagreb and Sarajevo, though the dates in question were different. It seemed as if the “sores of history”, as the Irish writer Hubert Butler once called them, remained unhealed more than half a millennium later – at least in the desperate, degraded atmosphere of that time and place. And yet, while alert to the possibility that history can be abused, as it unquestionably was in the Balkans in the 1990s, most decent people still endorse George Santayana’s celebrated dictum: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Western aid agencies and scholars agree that the rule of law is required before developing countries can reduce poverty and corruption. For decades, they have supported aid programs designed to help developing countries establish law-based states. But our research suggests that they have the sequence backward. Before urging governments to adopt the rule of law, they must first advise reformers to take one key step: eliminating the government subsidies that sustain criminal elites and replacing the compromised bureaucrats who patronize them.
The Electoral Integrity Project
In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption, and flawed registers. Which claims are accurate? And which are false complaints from sore losers? New evidence gathered by the Electoral Integrity Project has just been released in an annual report which compares the risks of flawed and failed elections, and how far countries around the world meet international standards. The report evaluates the integrity of all 180 national parliamentary and presidential contests held between 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2015 in 139 countries worldwide, including 54 national elections held in 2015. Data is gathered from a global survey of more than 2,000 election experts. Immediately after each contest, the survey asks 40 domestic and international experts to monitor the quality of each election based on 49 indicators. These responses are clustered into eleven stages occurring during the electoral cycle and summed to construct an overall 100-point expert Perception of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index and ranking. ‘Failed’ elections are defined as those which fall below 40 on any of the 100-point scales.
This special issue of International Affairs, launched on International Women’s Day 2016, explores the potential and limits of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, a global policy architecture supporting gender equality and today a significant reference point in the management and resolution of, as well as recovery from, violent conflict. The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda has developed at the United Nations over the course of the past 15 years, and there have been critical engagements with it for nearly as long. In this article, we first take stock of the operationalization of the WPS agenda, reviewing its implementation across a number of sectors. In the second section, we expose the tensions that have marked the WPS agenda from the start. With others, we argue that there has been a narrowing of the agenda’s original scope, reducing it to the traditional politics of security rather than reimagining what security means. We highlight this reduction primarily through an analysis of the tension between the ‘participation’ and ‘protection’ pillars of the agenda. Further, we argue that the WPS agenda faces a current challenge in terms of the actors entrusted with it.
This article reexamines the venerable concept of indirect rule. We argue, drawing on evidence from colonial and postcolonial South Asia, that indirect rule actually represented a diverse set of governance forms that need to be clearly distinguished. Using a new typology of varieties of governance, we show that colonial governments established suzerain, hybrid, and de jure governance, in addition to direct rule across territories, based on the incentives and constraints of the state. The repertoire of governance forms narrowed and changed but did not disappear during decolonization, showing that the postcolonial state had powerful reasons to maintain forms of heterodox governance. Dramatic shifts, alongside enduring continuity, challenge a simple narrative of path dependence and the adherence to tradition, instead showing that governments have made conscious choices about how to govern. We conclude by discussing the implications of these arguments for broader understandings of state power.