Earlier this month, the Financial Times published a piece by Misha Glenny entitled “Who Controls the internet?” The article tells the story of USCybercom, the military command in charge of securing vital U.S. interests from attacks on the web. Last week, it was widely reported that U.S. Legislators asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for more information on the revelation that third-party applications running on the ubiquitous social network he founded were transmitting personally identifiable data to private companies. It may not be immediately apparent, but these two stories and others like them are inextricably related. These developments run counter to the realization of a global digital commons, one envisioned to enable an unprecedented number of people around the world to freely express themselves and come into contact with the ideas and opinions of others.
It's hard not to be inspired by Nick Kristof's article on "The D.I.Y. Foreign Aid Revolution" in the New York Times. His detail-rich story of energetic, socially conscious people routing around the bureaucracy of large aid organizations to tangibly and directly improve people's lives in the developing world is both important and thought-provoking. And it helps reframe the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of development assistance from one of "nothing works" to "there are so many ways to make this work."
With remarkable rapidity, a commitment to ‘better understand and address the governance and corruption (GAC) impediments to development effectiveness’ as a basis for policy advising is taking hold among development practitioners. The implications for development work of bringing GAC to center stage are profound and unsettling – and only beginning to come into view. The momentum for GAC mainstreaming has two main drivers. The first comprises a recognition that the credibility of the aid endeavor depends on taking GAC seriously – as evidenced by the 2007 strategy paper, Strengthening World Bank Group Engagement on Governance and Anticorruption, and similar initiatives by other donors.
At the "Reinventing Governance" conference in Boulder, Colorado, earlier this month I learned about a participatory method that made a lot of sense to me: community-based research. In principle, this is a partnership between experts in some technical area and members of the community in which some project is supposed to be carried out. Boyd Fuller and Ora-orn Poocharoen from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy reported how members of the Phrak Nam Daeng community in Thailand took on dam building engineers and public water management and in a series of public meetings with community members, experts, and authorities found a solution for a watergate on the local river that would benefit the communities in the area while at the same time maintaining high technical standards.
When we think about 'fashion' we mostly think about clothes, like what the pace-setters in Milan and Paris tell the susceptible is currently fashionable, or what is, to use the lingo. 'so last season'. (I tend to think that , in the words of the old Hugo Boss slogan: True Style is Never Out of Fashion.) But what is increasingly clear is that political leaders, given one of the peculiar dynamics of public opinion, can be in and out of fashion too. So, as you read this, wherever you are in the world, think about your political leader. Is your leader still in fashion?
Two types of reaction are common when talking about civil society engagement in public sector reform: 1. Skeptical. 2. Idealistic. This leaves very little room for a realistic view to genuinely reflect on the actual impact and contributions of civil society in good governance work.
The use of relevant and credible evidence from the ground is crucial in strengthening arguments and incentives for reform. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, for example, was successful in part because of the evidence gathered and presented by experts with practical experience from conflict-torn societies. Forging strong ties with local actors and ensuring inclusive representation in coalitions are crucial factors for successful campaigns.
To this point, Transparency International (TI), a global coalition to fight corruption, recently introduced Participatory Video (PV) as part of their program on Poverty and Corruption in Africa. The introduction of PV is a first for TI, and it is used as a tool to engage and partner with the poor in fighting corruption. In collaboration with InsightShare, a leading company in PV, TI’s African National Chapters have started training local communities on how to create their own films, capturing authentic stories about corruption and how it impacts their daily lives. Alfred Bridi discusses his experience about the training process in Uganda and has made a short film (see above) to illustrate the process and enthusiasm among the participants.
I chaired a very lively seminar on Friday afternoon that focused on the question, “Can Africa Trade with Africa?” The answer was a resounding yes.
Today, there is strong consensus among African leaders that regional integration is indispensable to unlock economies of scale and sharpen competitiveness. And promoting intra-African trade has emerged as a top priority, in recognition that the African market of one billion consumers can be a powerful engine for growth and employment.
Yet despite the introduction of free trade areas, customs unions, and common markets within the Region, the level of intra-African trade remains among the lowest in the world -- only about 10% of African trade is within the continent, compared to about 40% in North America and about 60% in Western Europe.
Anyone who has ever been to the Central African Republic (CAR) knows that the country has huge infrastructure needs after years of internal turmoil and strife. But when you look up how much of the government’s investment budget actually was implemented and financed infrastructure development in 2009 for instance, you find a stunningly low execution rate of 5 percent.
As we heard last month during the MDG Summit at the United Nations, progress has been made but much work remains if we are to come close to halving poverty or reaching other targets we all agreed to in 2000. These issues are very much at the center of the Bank-IMF Annual Meetings this week in Washington.
Making development aid more accountable, transparent and effective is at the heart of this week’s discussions. New partnerships and players are emerging. Donor and client governments, along with their constituents, are demanding measurable results. That said, it is challenging to measure aid when there are multiple channels and types of assistance, from bilateral to multilateral, from loans to trust funds, and the data generated is not always presented in a comparable way.