The last 10 years have seen turbulent economic times. The global economic crises was rooted, in part, in standards for guiding private sector behavior and setting economic policy that failed to meet emerging challenges and risks. One of the lower profile, but important, consequences has been to reexamine the fiscal standards that have guided fiscal policy and management practices.
On October 6, 2014 the International Monetary Fund, at a joint event with the World Bank, launched its new Fiscal Transparency Code (FTC) and Evaluation following two years of intensive analysis and consultation. I congratulate the IMF on creating a set of standards that capture the quality of fiscal reports and data, are graduated to reflect different levels of country capacity, and more comprehensively covers fiscal risks.
The unit that monitors the productivity of Tunisian public institutions and enterprises recently published an aggregate report on the performance of public institutions and enterprises from 2010 to 2012. It is worth paying attention to because the report is both the first of its kind since 2007, and the first to be published on the website of Tunisia’s Prime Minister.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Four key principles—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion—have in recent years become nearly universal features of the policy statements and programs of international development organizations. Yet this apparently widespread new consensus is deceptive: behind the ringing declarations lie fundamental fissures over the value and application of these concepts. Understanding and addressing these divisions is crucial to ensuring that the four principles become fully embedded in international development work.
Ebola communication: What we've learned so far
This week, a World Health Organization infectious diseases expert reported the death rate due to Ebola in West Africa has now climbed to 70 percent, higher than previous estimates. And by December, new cases could hit 10,000 a week. For front-line medical workers, the projections couldn’t be grimmer. They are overwhelmed and their numbers are dwindling — Médecins Sans Frontières has already lost nine staff members to the epidemic — but reinforcements remain sparse. For organizations involved in communication and awareness-raising campaigns, meanwhile, this situation means they need to be more aggressive and robust, and their messaging fool-proof. We know many of them are on the ground, conducting door-to-door campaigns and spot radio announcements, putting up posters and distributing pamphlets to inform communities about the disease. Some have even resorted to using megaphones to reach people who choose to remain indoors, conduct skits in schools and communities via youth drama troupes. A few aid groups are even considering perceived viral forms of communication like music and video messaging led by former football player and now UNICEF ambassador David Beckham. But are these campaigns actually working? Will the new plans be effective?
In a sector that is scarce and expensive to begin with, corruption can mean the difference between life and death.
I recently attended the World Bank Group’s second annual Youth Summit, developed in partnership with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth. The event, hosted thanks to the leadership and initiative of young World Bank Group employees, focused on increasing youth engagement to end corruption and promote open and responsive governments. In the wake of the Ebola crisis, and amidst some very eager, idealist, and passionate conversations, I couldn’t help but think about the price of corruption in health.
Many have argued that decades of corruption and distrust of government left African nations prey to Ebola. Whether in Africa or any other continent, it should come as no surprise that complex, variable, and dangerously fragmented health systems can breed dishonest practices. The mysterious dance between regulators, insurers, health care providers, suppliers, and consumers obscures transparency and accountability-based imperatives. As the recent allegations about Ebola-stricken families paying bribes for falsified death certificates illustrate, when it comes to health, local corruption can have serious consequences internationally.
Four years ago, I became part of the newly formed Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network (GYAC). It was then a group of about 50 civil society leaders, journalists, and musicians (or “artivists”) who, using various methods, are fighting corruption in their home countries. I was part of the pack of six journalists. After a week of training and networking in Brussels, I came home to the Philippines more inspired and energized than I could remember. I was baptized and inducted into the anti-corruption world, but could a freelance writer be really tipping the scale in ending corruption?
For some time now, there has been a big buzz in the development community around good governance, open government and the need for citizen-state collaboration built on trust. This is at the core of sustainable development, and in this context Access to Information (ATI) plays a critical role. Citizens’ ready access to government information—through information requests or proactive disclosure by government—is a key dimension of open government and a necessary condition for meaningful citizen participation.
When citizens have access to information they can, for example, learn about and demand their entitlements under certain government programs: By finding out how public resources are allocated and used, such as the availability of medicines in local health centers, citizens can provide concrete feedback for better services.
The ancient cities of Bagan, Myanmar, and Luang Prabang, of Lao PDR offer today’s travelers a nostalgic vision of South East Asia: timeless landscapes and exquisite architecture. This vision is in sharp contrast to the rapid pace of recent economic activity in both countries. Myanmar recorded very strong investor interest in last year’s bidding round for oil and gas blocks. This was a clear signal of the successful reform process undertaken so far. In Lao PDR, the mining industry has increased annual production from around US$ 10 million in the early 2000s to well above US$ 1 billion a decade later – contributing around 15 percent of Government revenues in recent years.
In mid-July, when the Government of Nepal’s FY15 budget was announced live on TV, radio and social media, most Nepalis were keen to watch the latest game of the World Cup. However, in a country with a literacy rate of only 57%, where almost half of Nepalis can neither read nor write, analyzing complex GoN budgetary information would not have been their priority. The World Bank’s Program for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN), however, is hoping to change that and educate people how the GoN budget affects their lives.
PRAN, together with Institute for Governance and Development (IGD), has recently developed ready-to-use, neo-literate flip charts outlining the importance of the government budget, its priorities, and its processes. These new IEC materials have been officially approved by the Government of Nepal for use nationally. Used effectively, they can help Nepali citizens become much more aware of what is rightfully theirs.
Since 2011, PRAN has promoted increased social accountability and transparency in Nepal. PRAN seeks to educate communities about their local budget process and content. As part of this effort, these new flip charts will serve as an awareness-raising tool by offering a detailed visual explanation of how the budget is designed, reviewed and approved.
"And so the good news -- and we heard this in the summit -- is that more and more countries are recognizing that in the absence of good governance, in the absence of accountability and transparency, that’s not only going to have an effect domestically on the legitimacy of a government, it’s going to have an effect on economic development and growth. Because ultimately, in an information age, open societies have the capacity to innovate and educate and move faster and be part of the global marketplace more than closed societies do over the long term. I believe that."
-Barack Obama, President of the United States, speaking August 6, 2014 at a Press Conference after U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit
Citizens around the world know that these accountability problems are at the heart of development, security and equality. But often their voices are not heard and they do not have the tools to change the status quo. The Accountability Lab works with citizens like Bendu to generate innovative ideas for integrity and make people with power more responsible for the issues they face in their everyday lives. The team provides training, mentorship, networks, management support and seed funding to take these ideas from conception to reality to sustainability.
Blair Glencorse is Executive Director of the Accountability Lab. In this video he discusses the nature of accountability and provides optimism for making it a reality.