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Democracy only works if we show up

Roxanne Bauer's picture

There are parallel and equally unsettling trends occurring worldwide: trust in media is falling as people are increasingly unable to discern credible information while trust in national governments worldwide (although with more pronounced distrust in developed countries) is also deteriorating.

The 2017 Edelman Barometer, for the first time, found that three-quarters of the 28 countries surveyed were categorized as “distrustful” of government, business, media and non-governmental organizations.

Globally, public confidence in institutions has dropped by more in the past year than in any other since the financial crisis in 2009. Media are seen as part of the elite class, who govern.

Trust in media plunged from 51% to 43%, an all-time low for the index, with the sharpest falls in Australia, Canada, Colombia, and Ireland. As the reputation of traditional media declines, people are shifting towards the internet for news, the results showed. Online search engines were deemed more reliable than traditional media for information, a reversal from five years ago.

Likewise, a survey of 300 government communication chiefs from 40 countries, found there has been considerable declines in trust for national governments. The study, entitled Leader’s Report: The Future of Government Communications, finds that just as the internet has transformed media, it has also transformed the role of government as providers of information. Governments are now struggling to keep pace with how modern voters gather information and form their opinions. since governments rely on the consent and trust of the people for their legitimacy and authority, falling levels of trust in government is a key issue facing government communicators. 
 
These trends simultaneously reinforce one another, inhibiting dialogue among citizens and with the government, contributing to disengagement among publics, and impeding policies that require informed publics.
 
So, what is a citizen to do if they’d like to cut through the noise to see more transparency and accountability?  Australian journalist Claire Connelly offers this concise, erudite answer: be vocal, participate, and check facts because democracy only works if we show up.

Ubuntu: How social networks help explain theories of change

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the second post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

There is a Nguni-Bantu phrase, “I am because we are” which arises from the Ubuntu philosophy of community. Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee translated it in her TED Talk as “I am what I am because of who we all are.” At its most basic understanding, Ubuntu means “human kindness toward others,” but its meaning is much greater, expressing ideas of connection and community. It is a concept known to cultures around the world. The Maori of New Zealand say “We all in the same boat”, and the North American Sioux tribe believes that, “With all things and in all things, we are relatives.” Globally, cultures around the world know and use the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. 

Modern philosophers have taken these axioms and developed social science research to explore them. Social capital refers to the interpersonal interactions we all participate in to create economic and cultural resources. When social capital is functioning well, social relations are marked by reciprocity, trust and cooperation and individuals can produce goods and services not just for themselves, but for the common good.  Relatedly, social cohesion describes the degree to which a society works toward the wellbeing of all its members, supports inclusive practices, and allows individuals to work for upward mobility.

These theories are essential to international development because, as Michael Woolcock points out, “Development changes who people interact with, and the terms with which people interact.”  Whether you think of these ideas as Ubuntu or social capital, they encompass the way in which people deal with power structures, like the state, and with other people who are not like them. 
 
Michael Woolcock

 

Right to Information Laws: Are They Transparent?

Victoria L. Lemieux's picture

 Requests and Appeals

More than 95 countries have laws that grant citizens right to information held by public bodies.These laws are commonly referred as the right to information (RTI) or freedom of information (FOI). The international community recognizes citizens’ ability to access public information as a human right.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Global Information Society Watch
2012-The Internet and Corruption

“GISWatch 2012 explores how the internet is being used to ensure transparency and accountability, the challenges that civil society activists face in fighting corruption, and when the internet fails as an enabler of a transparent and fair society.

The eight thematic reports and 48 country reports published ask provocative questions such as: Is a surveillance society necessarily a bad thing if it fights corruption? and how successful have e-government programmes been in fighting corruption? They explore options for activism by youth and musicians online, as well as the art of using visual evidence to expose delusions of power.

By focusing on individual cases or stories of corruption, the country reports take a practical look at the role of the internet in combating corruption at all levels.”  READ MORE 
 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

BET
Like Water for Internet: Ory Okolloh Talks Tech in Africa

“Last week, ahead of her trip to Washington, D.C., to speak to the World Bank about Africa’s private sector, the 35-year-old Policy Manager for Google Africa took to her Twitter account and asked her followers, “What should I tell them?”
The responses came in fast and varied from rants about corruption in multinational corporations to comments about infrastructure and energy. For the most part, Okolloh didn’t engage the responses, but she did re-tweet them for all to read and she made sure to add the World Bank’s twitter account to the dispatches so that the behemoth institution could also see what Africa’s tweeting populace had to say.” READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

SciDev
Cell Phones can speed up malaria treatment in remote areas

“Mobile phones along with local knowledge and field support, can help to ensure the effective diagnosis and treatment of malaria in remote rural areas, according to a study in Bangladesh.

Researchers examined almost 1,000 phone calls to report suspected cases of malaria that were made over two years by inhabitants of a hilly and forested part of the country bordering Mynamar. This area, called the Chittagong Hill Tracts, has Bangladesh’s highest malaria rates.”  READ MORE

Democratizing Development -- Really?

Maya Brahmam's picture

This weekend I drove by a Popularise sign and wondered what it meant. I learned later that a local commercial real-estate investor, Dan Miller of WestMill Capital, has been using Popularise to encourage communities to share their ideas about possible development ideas. This is a great way for “grassroots” brainstorming on commercial development.

In an article in The Washington Post about this phenomenon, Dan Miller states, “Most people…don’t get a say in how their neighborhoods take shape. Popularise is one solution to … a "broken community engagement" process…In [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] meetings, you have a vocal minority that dominates…You can have a much broader discussion with thousands of people and have it be dynamic. Popularise is the 21st-century version of a community meeting.”

Quote of the Week: Stephen Reicher

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Individuals don’t lose identity in the crowd and they don’t lose control over their behaviour or rationality. Rather they shift to a shared social identity and seek to act in terms of that shared identity.”

Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, University of St. Andrews. As quoted in the Financial Times, December 28, 2011.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

ICT Works
Avoiding the Digital Divide Hype in Using Mobile Phones for Development

"To all of you digital divide warriors out there – nice work. With over 483 million mobile phone subscriptions in low-income countries - an estimated 44.9% penetration rate, few will deny the success of your efforts to expand mobile technology in the developing world.

Rapid mobile growth rates further exhibit success in dissemination, and stats such as, “There are more mobile phones than toilets in India,“ and “There are more mobile phones than light bulbs in Uganda,” make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside."  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

One
Citizens and civil society tell governments: Make budgets public now!

Last Friday in Tanzania, nearly 100 civil society groups and 12 international organizations, including the International Budget Partnership, Greenpeace and ONE, launched a global effort to make public budgets transparent, participatory and accountable. Budgets are the most critical tool that governments have to address problems like poverty, provide critical services like education and health care, and invest in their country’s future. When the political speeches end, it is how governments actually manage funds to meet their promises and priorities that matters.

The Civil Society Movement for Budget Transparency, Accountability and Participation envisions public finance systems that make all budget information easily accessible, provide meaningful opportunities for citizens and civil society to participate in budget decisions and oversight throughout the process, and include strong institutions to hold governments accountable for how they raise and spend the public’s money.  READ MORE


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