I was recently in an informal discussion with development colleagues regarding the governance of extractive industries in a fragile state, which shall remain unnamed for various reasons. One of them had been working in development for more than three decades and in country X for five years. In terms of governance, he didn't think any of the usual solutions to the widespread and deeply embedded culture of rampant corruption and excessive rent-seeking would work in the country. Things are just that bad. He intimated that the only thing he could think of was to build the capacity of the country’s fractious civil society so that they could become credible interlocutors to government actors, and demand accountability from their elected and appointed leaders. It was quite distressing when he said, “I don’t know what else to do.”
Since time immemorial, human beings have been defined by the theory of the state of nature. The theory goes that - without an external, governing hand - humans enter a state of anarchy. Decades of work by Professor Elinor Ostrom, however, have gone into proving the limitations of this theory. In Crowding Out Citizenship, Ostrom describes the many assumptions behind the way policy textbooks and planners view human behavior:
“Centrally designed and externally implemented rules-based incentives – both positive and negative – are seen as universally needed to overcome all types of social dilemmas….The state is viewed as a substitute for the short-comings of individual behavior and the presumed failure of community. The universal need for externally implemented incentives is based, however, on a single model of rational behavior which presumes short-term, self-interested pursuit of material outcomes as the only mode of behavior adopted by individuals.”
“Leviathan is alive and well in our policy textbooks,” Ostrom says.
Governments and development agencies have devoted many years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing democratic governance in countries around the world. The idea of creating democracies is still the primary driver of many governance improvement agendas. Clearly, democratic systems often bring with them improvements in governance and economic development, but simply putting a democracy into place is not enough.
Last week, this blog featured a quote by Elinor Ostrom, which contains an interesting sentence: “Yet I worry that the need for continuous civic engagement, intellectual struggle, and vigilance is not well understood in some of our mature democracies and is not transmitted to citizens and officials in new democracies….We have to avoid slipping into a naïve sense that democracy – once established – will continue on its own momentum."
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." -Thomas Jefferson
Thoughtful comments to my recent post on approaches to fighting petty corruption sparked for me an interesting discussion with Sina Odugbemi about norms, public opinion and law. Mainly, our talk centered on the following “chicken or the egg” issue: Do you adopt laws first and ask citizens to obey them? Or, do you gauge public opinion around an issue first, then adopt a law that reflects that society’s prevailing view on that issue? No matter how you dice it, the enforcement of that law would be easier when it conforms to majority opinion as opposed to when it does not.
Yesterday, I attended a session of the World Bank Institute’s Flagship Course on Health, attended by health specialists from various countries. An expert panel shared experiences of using communication and persuasion toward bringing about pro health outcomes. Several success stories were shared on applying behavior change communication in areas such as hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and education, and immunization in Africa and Asia. Complementary to this focus on individual and social change was a presentation by Patricia Sosa, Esq. on experiences of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The organization advocates for policy change in various countries and the core of their strategy is changing the rules of the game to reduce tobacco use.
The newly launched IEG Annual Review of Development Effectiveness 2009 attests the World Bank a significant increase in development effectiveness from financial year 2007 to 2008. After a somewhat disappointing result last year, 81 % of the development projects that closed in fiscal 2008 were rated satisfactory with regard to the extent to which the operation's major relevant objectives were achieved efficiently.
One crux remains: the measurement of impact. Monitoring and evaluation components in development projects are by far not as frequent as IEG would wish: Two thirds of the projects in 2008 had marginal or negligible M&E components. Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Vice President of the South Asia Region, listed several reasons at the launch of the IEG report this week: the lack of integrative indicators, the Bank's tradition to measure outputs instead of outcomes, the lack of baseline assessments in most projects, and reluctance on the clients' side to realize M&E in projects.
This is my first blog since I left the World Bank and relocated to New Delhi to work for UNICEF. Different cultures, different contexts, different communication challenges. Every change implies dealing with unknown and unexpected situations and it usually also entails refining a different way of thinking in approaching new challenges. In this case, the change I went through allowed me to see even clearer the critical role of communication for development (C4D), or program communication as it is also called in UNICEF, for achieving sustainable change.
The current trend in most international organizations towards results-based management planning is a further element confirming the crucial role of C4D. Results are now defined basically at outputs level and outcomes level. The former refers to results directly related to activities carried out as technical solutions (e.g. production of infrastructure or provision of services), but outcomes are results of a higher level, capable of achieving a greater impact, linked with institutional or behavioral change. That is where C4D becomes a sine-qua-non for the success of most development initiatives. No matter what is the technical solution to be adopted; i.e. latrines, water irrigation schemes, a new kind of crop, children immunization or better governance, these can only be achieved through a professional and systematic use of communication for social and behavior change.
"The sustenance of a democratic system is similar to the sustenance of an initially successful family firm. The first generation works very hard to build it up. The second generation has usually witnessed some of the struggles of the first generation and usually is able to continue the effort started by the first generation. But when the firm is turned over to the third, fourth, or fifth generation, problems can occur. Children are born already rich and without a deep understanding of the struggle that it took to build the enterprise in the first place. What took many years to build can be dissipated within a short time….I share a deep conviction that democratic systems of government are the highest forms of human governance yet developed. Yet I worry that the need for continuous civic engagement, intellectual struggle, and vigilance is not well understood in some of our mature democracies and is not transmitted to citizens and officials in new democracies….We have to avoid slipping into a naïve sense that democracy – once established – will continue on its own momentum." Elinor Ostrom 2000, The Future of Democracy
Photo Credit: PNAS
Sometimes you go to a meeting and someone produces a moment of elegance, that is, a moment that neatly sums up an area of experience. I had such a moment recently at a meeting on Governance, Media and Accountability organized by the Salzburg Global Seminar. As often happens at such meetings, some of the sessions involve social media specialists educating 'digital migrants' like me (as opposed to the young people of today who are said to be 'digital natives') regarding all the cool new tools being developed. I always come away impressed, and happy to be educated on the subject, especially the tools that can deepen citizen engagement in policy and empower them to hold governments accountable. Some impressive possibilities are emerging, about which more later.
Last year, CommGAP and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly organized a learning event on the role of communication in anti-corruption efforts, bringing together anti-corruption agencies, senior practitioners, and academics to talk about communication-related challenges faced in anti-corruption work. There, we heard several issues that troubled the anti-corruption agency officials, but one in particular stood out: agency officials were deeply conflicted with the task of working effectively with the media and journalists. While in theory, they understood the importance of working with the media for their work to be successful, in practice, they did not quite know how to establish a good working relationship with the media.
Watching media law sausage being made is not only ugly. It also raises questions about the conventional apoliticism and technical distance of international aid (an issue that Sina brought up in his last blog entry, and the subject of Sue Unsworth’s smart article that he sent).
Consider what happened in the last months in Argentina. On October 9, Congress passed a new media law, which was immediately approved by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The law is almost identical to the bill sent by the President’s office. The bill replaced the 1980 law that was passed during the last military dictatorship, which had been amended several times since the return to democracy in 1983.
A reader's comment to the blog post, "If Only Corruption Could Be Defeated with Pocket-Less Trousers":
If we are looking to understand how to change the social norms related to corruption, I think that we should give the Nepalese and Kazak governments credit for developing initiatives that force individuals to think more about their actions. These anti-corruption initiatives demonstrate that the governments of Nepal and Kazakhstan are committing political will to change the societal perceptions of and acceptance of corruption. Imposing a change in behavior can be seen as a first step to changing norms (smoking bans is an example).
But there is another interpretation of why individuals engage in petty corruption that may not necessarily be related to socially accepted norms of behavior, but rather more to their socioeconomic well-being. If a person does not have enough income/resources to meet their (and their family's) needs, and if this person lives in an area where the inequalities between rich and poor are stark, manipulating the system could be seen as a means of survival and betterment. Perhaps ensuring that people have adequate food, shelter, health care, education, and a sense of empowerment would go a long way in decreasing the prevalence of (petty) corruption.
"Power is always, as we would say, a power potential and not an unchangeable, measurable, and reliable entity like force or strength. While strength is the natural quality of an individual seen in isolation, power springs up between men when they act together and vanishes the moment they disperse."
We at CommGAP are interested in learning how to change social norms as key to fighting petty corruption. When looking at the issue of norms as they relate to corrupt practices, as with most issues, there are two sides to the petty corruption equation: citizens who pay bribes and public servants who accept them. A number of posts on this blog have dealt with the importance of getting citizens to view bribery as wrong. So what about public servants? How do you get them to stop demanding and accepting bribes from citizens?
A couple of interesting solutions to this question were found in Nepal and Kazakhstan, as reported by the BBC earlier this year. In Nepal, in order to fight petty corruption at its main international airport, the government planned to put in place an unusual measure: making airport employees wear pants without pockets to prevent them from taking bribes from travelers. In Kazakhstan, one of the government’s anti-corruption initiatives included making civil servants wear badges saying “I am against corruption,” in the hopes that those wearing such badges would think twice before demanding bribes.
Andrew Puddephatt’s Exploring the Role of Civil Society in the Formulation and Adoption of Access to Information Laws defines the main contours of Access to Information (ATI) movements in 5 countries (Bulgaria, India, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom). In Bulgaria, ATI was established by an environmental eco-glasnost movement that emerged in a post-Communist society (glastnost meaning transparency). In India, the ATI movement was embedded in a larger, anti-corruption movement led by the rural poor communities. In Mexico, a group of social activists and experts from academia and media conducted a targeted campaign for ATI just as Mexico was joining the OECD, NAFTA, and the WTO. The campaign for ATI in South Africa grew out of a post-apartheid civil society which recognized that information (or the systemic denial of it) was a key factor in perpetuating racial, social and economic inequality. The movement for ATI in the United Kingdom was spearheaded by a specialist NGO that capitalized on a government in the process of implementing broader constitutional reforms.
"There are many approaches to evaluating public health communication programs, all of them struggling to resolve the tension between making strong inferences and making sure that an intervention has gotten a fair test. There will always be some way to question the inferences made or the generality of the results to other contexts. That does not take away from the legitimacy of the evaluations. The fair question for them is whether they have gone reasonably down the path toward reducing uncertainty. A valuable study is one that can usefully inform the policy community about whether the intervention approach is worthy of support, without promising that there is no risk of a mistake. A study is valuable if future judgments about programs are better made taking this information into account than remaining ignorant of it."
Onora O’Neill (2002) contends that advocates of media freedom have erroneously equated the citizen’s right to information and expression with press freedom. They have claimed for journalists and media organizations what is essentially an individual right reserved for citizens. A free media, according to O’Neill, “is not an unconditional good… Good public debate must not only be accessible to but also assessable by its audiences.”
Accessibility is often measured through indicators that quantify access to various media, such as newspaper circulation or the number of TVs, radios, and computers per thousand people in the population (e.g., UNESCO, World Bank). Assessability, on the other hand, is driven by normative standards and can be carried out on at least two levels.