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May 2013

The 3rd Summer Institute on Communication and Governance Kicks Off!

Shamiela Mir's picture

The 3rd Summer Institute kicked off on Tuesday, May 27 2013 with participants from over ten countries with diverse professional backgrounds, ranging from government, multilateral agencies and NGOs. Despite arriving from far away countries and some in the wee hours of the night, participants were fully engaged, ready to learn and contributed to lively discussions. 

The Summer Institute is being offered at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at University of Southern California in partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania, the World Bank Institute’s Leadership and Governance Practice, and the World Bank’s External Affairs Operational Communications. The course primarily targets advisers in the public sector, civil society, senior development professionals and seasoned communication specialists who want to expand their network and strengthen critical competencies to provide implementation support to change agents and reform leaders in developing countries.

‘Squeezed’: How are Poor People Adjusting to Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility?

Duncan Green's picture

Ace IDS researcher Naomi Hossain introduces the first results of a big Oxfam/IDS research project on food price volatility

If the point of development is to make the Third World more like the First, then we aid-wallahs can pack our bags and go home. Job done.

The most striking finding of Squeezed, the first year results from the four year Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility research project, is how like the people of the post-industrial North the people from the proto-industrial South now sound:

  • Stressed and tired
  • Juggling work and home
  • Surrounded by selfish individualists, led by uncaring politicians
  • In strained relationships
  • Constantly pressed for time
  • Never enough money, even for the basics.

‘Squeezed’ is how the UK has been describing its middle classes, beset by austerity and recession. But the countries in our research have high growth rates and apparently a lot of poverty reduction.

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.

iRevolution
Google Blimps for Disaster Response

"A blimp is a floating airship that does not have any internal supporting framework or keel. The airship is typically filled with helium and is navigated using steerable fans. Google is apparently planning to launch a fleet of Blimps to extend Internet/wifi access across Africa and Asia. Some believe that "these high-flying networks would spend their days floating over areas outside of major cities where Internet access is either scarce or simply nonexistent." Small-scale prototypes are reportedly being piloted in South Africa "where a base station is broadcasting signals to wireless access boxes in high schools over several kilometres." The US military has been using similar technology for years."  READ MORE 
 

Are Illicit Drugs a Development Issue and If So, What Should We Do about It?

Duncan Green's picture

I spent last Wednesday morning taking drugs seriously. OK that’s the last of the lame do/take drug jokes. What I actually did was have a coffee with Danny Kushlick and Martin Powell of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, and then attend a Christian Aid seminar on drugs and development. Both conversations addressed the same questions: are drugs becoming an un-ignorable development issue and if so, what should we (INGOs, aid agencies etc) do about it?

The answer to the first question is pretty obviously ‘yes’. In the rich countries the ‘war on drugs’ is getting nowhere, stymied (among other reasons) by the basic laws of supply and demand – any success in the war reduces supply, so prices rise, so supply recovers. In the producer countries, the vast sums involved ($330bn a year, by one estimate) poison politics. And increasingly, the divide between producer and consumer countries is being eroded, as drugs spill over into the slums and alleyways of the developing world – including West Africa, where transhipment and consumption are becoming major issues. Everyone gets dirty, trust is destroyed, communities turn bad. As Christian Aid’s Paul Valentin said, ‘the drugs trade cuts across everything we do – inequality, tax havens, access to services, HIV. Over half the countries we are working in are directly affected.’

Media (R)evolutions: Only a Third of the World's Population Is Online

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very differently from today's, and will have very little resemblance to yesterday's.

This week's Media (R)evolutions: Only a Third of the World's Population is Online.


 

The Legislator’s Dilemma: Following or Moving against the Tide of Perverse Incentives

Fletcher Tembo's picture
Listening to an expert discussion of the role of elected representatives in social accountability interventions at a recent event hosted by the Mwananchi Governance Programme and CIVICUS in Johannesburg on 16th May 2013, I was reminded of this quote by Joe Khamisi, a former Kenyan MP:

“Save, you may not see Parliament again”, one two-term Member liked to tell us.  In many cases non-performers with deep pockets are preferred than stingy doers. “As much as possible, avoid your constituents in the first three years and show up only towards the last half of your term, with plenty of money!”

In response, a Member of Parliament (MP) from one of the countries where Mwananchi works said, “You need to put premium on leadership”. In other words, we should not expect leaders to deliver the change we want if society encourages them to pursue perverse incentives to attain and remain in office, and to achieve solutions to collective action problems. 

Looking at the backgrounds of MPs in many countries in Africa, you find that some MPs have been activists in civil society, respected civil servants or faith leaders, often suggesting that things would be very different if it was them that were in office. This is a clear case of a common African saying ‘one finger forwards, four fingers backwards,’ reminding us how easy it is to criticise without examining ourselves. This is why it should not be surprising that again and again we find that when the ‘self-imagined’ leaders get into public office they are equally caught up in the quagmire of perverse incentives as their predecessors.

Quote of the Week: Alexis de Tocqueville

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"It is almost never when a state of things is the most detestable that it is smashed, but when, beginning to improve, it permits men to breathe, to reflect, to communicate their thoughts with each other, and to gauge by what they already have the extent of their rights and their grievances. The weight, although less heavy, seems then all the more unbearable."

-- Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859). Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian. His best known works include Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution, from which the above quote is taken.

Aid and Complex Systems cont’d: Timelines, Incubation Periods and Results

Duncan Green's picture

I’m at one of those moments where all conversations seem to link to each other, I see complex systems everywhere, and I’m wondering whether I’m starting to lose my marbles. Happily, lots of other people seem to be suffering from the same condition, and a bunch of us met up earlier this week with Matt Andrews, who was in the UK to promote his fab new book Limits to Institutional Reform in Development (I  rave reviewed it here). The conversation was held under Chatham House rules, so no names, no institutions etc.

Whether you work on complex systems or governance reform or fragile states, the emerging common ground seems to be around what not to do and to a lesser extent, the ‘so whats’. What can outsiders do to contribute to change in complex, unpredictable situations where, whether due to domestic opposition or sheer irrelevance to actual context, imported blueprints and ‘best practice guidelines’ are unlikely to get anywhere?

In his book Matt boils down his considerable experience at the World Bank and Harvard into a proposal for ‘PDIA’ – Problem Driven iterative adaptation, which I described pretty fully in my review. The conversation this week fleshed out that approach and added some interesting new angles.

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.

NDI Tech
Mobile Phones and Violent Conflict - Is there a Connection?

“Over the past several years, a significant body of research has examined how communication technologies are transforming social, political, and economic dynamics in societies around the world.  Much of this work has observed the positive effects of these technologies on improving civic engagement, increasing transparency, supporting free and fair elections, fostering economic development, and preventing violent conflict.  We at NDI have developed numerous programs using communication technologies to improve democracy and good governance across borders and issue areas.  

A new report, “Technology and Collective Action: The Effect of Cell Phone Coverage on Political Violence in Africa,” sheds light on the less beneficial aspects of communications technologies.”  READ MORE
 

Will Horror and over a Thousand Dead be a Watershed Moment for Bangladesh?

Duncan Green's picture

​A huge and chaotic conversation over how to respond to the appalling Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh (where the death toll has now passed an unprecedented 1100) is producing some important initial results, in the form of the international ‘Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’, launched last week.

I got a glimpse of the background on Wednesday at a meeting of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which brings together big brand retailers, including garment companies, trades unions and INGOs like Oxfam to work on wages and conditions in company supply chains. The Accord got some pretty rave reviews – ‘absolutely historic’, said Ben Moxham of the UK Trades Union Congress; comparable to the 1911 Chicago factory fire, according to one of the big clothes retailers at the meeting.

So what does it say? The Accord covers independent safety inspections, publicly reported; mandatory repairs and renovations; a vital role for workers and trade unions, including a commitment to Bangladesh’s Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety (a national initiative). A key, and controversial aspect is that the Accord will include a legally binding arbitration mechanism, which wins a lot of trust from civil society and trade unions, but has spooked a number of companies based in the litigation-tastic USA (not all though –  part of Tommy Hilfiger’s in there, while Abercrombie and Fitch have said it they will join).

Listening to the People: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Project Performance through Citizen Feedback

Amar Inamdar's picture

There’s been a lot of talk about beneficiary feedback – a fancy term for asking people impacted by aid projects what they think. But we've been playing catch up when it comes to analyzing where and how we’re using these techniques – and whether they’re working. Until now.

A new World Bank paper looks at one particular tool for collecting real-time feedback – Grievance Redress Mechanisms – and starts to answer these basic questions: Where are they? Do they work? How will they help? For the first time, we now have data available on the distribution, quality and impact of grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) in the Bank's portfolio.  Beyond just the quantitative data, there are 23 in-depth case studies of GRMs in operations - highlighting both disputes resolved and challenges faced. Focusing on what works and why, this report provides World Bank staff and clients with concrete data to support their work to improve GRM implementation and results.

For example, did you know...

  • Half of all World Bank-supported projects now include a GRM in project design?
  • GRM usage is still predominantly tied to triggering one or both of the World Bank safeguards policies that require a GRM?
  • The World Bank’s Africa region has the most higher-risk projects and the Middle East/North Africa region (MENA) has the fewest, but 70 percent of Africa's higher-risk projects have a GRM compared with only 22 percent in MENA?
  • GRMs exist on paper but not always in practice: less than one-third of the Bank-supported projects sampled could provide data on grievances received or resolved.

The report makes five simple recommendations for things that the World Bank can do better:

Quote of the Week: Adam Posen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Some would like to turn the debunking of the fiscal event horizon claim into a cautionary tale about macroeconomic policy advice in general. They would throw up their hands, saying macroeconomic analyses either inherently depend upon too little data to have reliable results, or inevitably will be selectively picked up by ideologues and opportunistic politicians to suit their purposes.

Perhaps both: there will always be some willing economist who can play with the data to provide credible-seeming study to support any given politically influential point of view. This, however, is far too defeatist, if not craven, a conclusion to draw."

Adam Posen – President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

A Crucial Step in Fighting Inequality and Discrimination: The Law to Make India’s Private Schools Admit 25% Marginalised Kids

Duncan Green's picture

This guest post comes from Exfam colleague and education activist Swati Narayan 

This summer, India missed the historic deadline to implement the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. This landmark law, the fruit of more than a decade of civil society activism, has many path-breaking clauses. For the first time, it bans schoolteachers from offering private tuition on the side – a rampant conflict of interest. It also legally prohibits corporal punishment.

Most powerfully, it insists that every private school must reserve 25 percent of classroom seats for children from poorer or disadvantaged families in the neighbourhood. This quota is by no means a silver bullet. After all, eighty percent of schools in India are government-run and in dire need of teachers, infrastructure and more.

Nevertheless, this masterstroke, which aims to piggyback on the rest of the mushrooming for-profit private schools, single-handedly opens the door for at least 1 million eligible children each year across the country to receive 8 years of free education.

Reinhart & Rogoff: Paradigm Battles, Reputation Hits, and the Public Intellectual

Sina Odugbemi's picture

You can almost feel the intensifying and clangorous clash of two economic policy paradigms. The question is: what is the best policy response to high indebtedness by countries especially after the global financial crash of 2008? Some economists say stimulate the economy now even if it means taking on more debt, pursue growth and then deal with deficits once the economy is robust. Others say you have to deal with deficits now by imposing serious, often crippling austerity programs. The bloodless phrase for this: fiscal consolidation.  Who is right and who is wrong? Unfortunately for many citizens, this is not an argument that can be settled in a science lab, perhaps by testing the theories on some unfortunate rats or monkeys. Entire countries are the laboratories for the testing of these rival policy paradigms.

I use the phrase ‘policy paradigms’ advisedly because I have been reading the notable political scientist  Peter A. Hall who wrote the classic piece ‘Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State: The Case of Economic Policymaking in Britain’ for the journal of Comparative Politics in 1993. I went back to the piece after reading the April 2013 special issue of the journal, Governance, which is entirely about the politics of policy paradigms. In that compelling issue, a salute to Hall’s classic essay, he himself has an op-ed titled ‘Brother, Can You Paradigm?’ Hall restates the view that policy paradigms shift, for example from Keynesian policies to monetarist ones, but in order for this to happen ‘each of these transitions required a motivation, means, and motor’.  

Til Debt Do Us Part: South African Soap Opera & Financial Education

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Will Maletsatsi take the necessary steps to get out of debt and successfully manage her finances in the future? This is the central question posed in Scandal, a South African soap opera that is the subject of a new World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. Maletsatsi, the main character in this show, is in a real bind. After borrowing an excessive amount of money and gambling away her fortunes, she is forced to confess the extent of her debt to family and friends. In one scene, her daughter convinces her to negotiate lower monthly payments with a local furniture store. The store eventually agrees to extend the loan period, but her interest rate goes up and she starts to ignore other bills, leaving them unopened and unpaid. A well-intentioned woman, you can’t help but sympathize with Maletsatsi, who was only trying to create a beautiful home for her husband and family. It is through this emotional connection that television viewers are not only able to relate to the main character’s dilemma, but are also able to share Maletsatsi’s joy as she learns the rules of sound financial management and takes control of her debt.

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.

Ijnet
Keeping online newsrooms sustainable in the developing world

“Independent news websites in the developing world tend to be on shaky ground, as they often oppose a corrupt regime or report in a censored environment. Their work attracts hacking attempts from the government and sends advertisers fleeing.

Offering a solution to this two-pronged problem of sustainability for these sites is Media Frontiers, a social-purpose enterprise of International Media Support, a nonprofit, Danish press freedom organization.”  READ MORE

'Citizens Against Corruption: Report from the Front Line'

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Prepared by Partnership for Transparency Fund

Citizens Against Corruption: Report From The Front Line tells the story of how groups of courageous and dedicated citizens across the globe are taking direct action to root out corruption. Based on extensive practical experience through the work over more than a decade supported by The Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF), this book shows how ordinary people are no longer prepared to accept the predatory activities of dishonest officials and are successfully challenging their scams.

Author Landell-Mills, co-founder and first president of PTF, states: “This book draws on over 200 case studies that describe impressive initiatives undertaken over the past decade by 130 civil society organizations (CSOs) in 53 countries which engage directly with public agencies to stop the bribery and extortion that damages peoples’ lives and obstructs social and economic progress.”

He adds, “This book challenges the notion that, at best, civil society can only have a marginal impact on reducing corruption. Quite the opposite; it argues that CSOs have demonstrated again and again that their impact can be game-changing.”

Examples from some of the poorest countries in the world show how a single CSO initiative can save several million dollars. Several million such initiatives can transform the way government does business, making public agencies accountable to those they serve.  The message is clear: aid donors need to radically rethink their assistance for governance reform, tilting it dramatically in favour of supporting CSOs.

How to Plan When You Don’t Know What is Going to Happen? Redesigning Aid for Complex Systems

Duncan Green's picture

They’re funny things, speaker tours. On the face of it, you go from venue to venue, churning out the same presentation – more wonk-n-roll than rock-n-roll. But you are also testing your arguments, adding slides where there are holes, deleting ones that don’t work. Before long the talk has morphed into something very different.

So where did I end up after my most recent attempt to promote FP2P in the US and Canada? The basic talk is still ‘What’s Hot and What’s Not in Development’ – the title I’ve used in UK, India, South Africa etc. But the content has evolved. In particular, the question of complex systems provoked by far the most discussion.

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile is Taking Over the World

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very differently from today's, and will have very little resemblance to yesterday's.

This week's Media (R)evolutions: Mobile is Taking Over the World.




 

Risk and Accountability: What Role for the Inspection Panel?

Alf Jerve's picture

The World Bank wants to speed up. To meet the needs of clients and find new solutions to development challenges its appetite for taking risks must change. Accountability mechanisms, like the Inspection Panel, are often accused of causing staff to become risk averse – of slowing down the speed. The Panel has been set up to give people affected by Bank-supported projects an avenue for raising their concerns, knowing that the complaint will be handled by a body independent of those who man age the project. We call it citizen-driven accountability. Does this slow down speed or does it allow for speeding up because it improves the braking system? Fast cars need good brakes.

The answer is not simply one or the other. The Panel has stated on several occasions that it recognizes risk-taking is an essential part of development work, and that the Bank needs to be able to take the risks that go along with innovation, and venture into challenging circumstances where risks and potential rewards may be high. Effective safeguard policies provide means to identify and manage risks, which at times may slow down speed and rightly so. At the same time, citizen-driven accountability helps to enable risk-taking by providing a safety net for affected people in the event that risks materialize.

Quote of the Week: Nawal El Saadawi

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Many people come here and they think my apartment is a poor relative to my name. But you cannot be radical and have money, it’s impossible."

-- Nawal El Saadawi is a leading Egyptian feminist, sociologist, medical doctor and militant writer on Arab women's problems. She is one of the most widely translated contemporary Egyptian writers, with her work available in twelve languages.
 

Building the “Iraqi Media” – A Book Review

Caroline Jaine's picture

Ten years after Iraq was declared as liberated, many are reflecting on how Iraq presents itself to the world today.  Our mediatised view of the country is one rife with renewed sectarian divide, and as previously written, any economic good news is overshadowed by the rise violence.  One aspect given much attention in the efforts to build a new Iraq was the media sector.  A decade later the Iraqi government announced their decision to ban Al-Jazeera and nine Iraqi television channels, eight of which are Sunni. They claim the channels were fuelling sectarian divide.

On the same day as the media ban and the anniversary of “liberation”, Dr Al-Safi quietly launched his academic study of Iraqi media. His research for “Iraqi Media” lasted three years and earned him a PhD from City University, London. The book offers a fascinating chronological juxtaposition of dictatorship and occupation and this thorough, academic study of Iraqi media pre and post Saddam also has its “shock and awe” moments.   Saddam Hussein’s persecution of the journalist tallies with the popular narrative on his reign, but the fact that Uday Hussein’s paranoid actions may have been perversely good for Iraqi journalists is a new story.  Through his interviews with hundreds, Al Safi also reveals complexities and challenges in a frank and detailed account of the post Saddam attempt to build a “free” media. He claims, the largest media-building project ever attempted. 

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.

Freedom House
Freedom of the Press 2013

“Ongoing political turmoil produced uneven conditions for press freedom in the Middle East in 2012, with Tunisia and Libya largely retaining their gains from 2011 even as Egypt slid backward into the Not Free category. The region as a whole experienced a net decline for the year, in keeping with a broader global pattern in which the percentage of people worldwide who enjoy a free media environment fell to its lowest point in more than a decade. Among the more disturbing developments in 2012 were dramatic declines for Mali, significant deterioration in Greece, and a further tightening of controls on press freedom in Latin America, punctuated by the decline of two countries, Ecuador and Paraguay, from Partly Free to Not Free status.

These were the most significant findings of Freedom of the Press 2013: A Global Survey of Media Independence, the latest edition of an annual index published by Freedom House since 1980. While there were positive developments in Burma, the Caucasus, parts of West Africa, and elsewhere, the dominant trends were reflected in setbacks in a range of political settings. Reasons for decline included the continued, increasingly sophisticated repression of independent journalism and new media by authoritarian regimes; the ripple effects of the European economic crisis and longer-term challenges to the financial sustainability of print media; and ongoing threats from nonstate actors such as radical Islamists and organized crime groups.”  READ MORE 
 

Why are there so Few Bloggers at the UN? A Conversation with Staff

Duncan Green's picture

I spent a busy few days in New York last week, talking to (well, OK, mainly talking at) about 200 UN staff at various meetings in UN Women, UNDP and UNICEF. There was a lot of energy in the room (and even outside the room – people at UNDP spilled over into the corridor), and plenty of probing viva-like questions and comments.

Which is what I expected, because intellectually, I think the UN is in an enormously productive phase. Just thinking back over recent posts on this blog, there is UNRISD on Social and Solidarity Economy, UNCTAD on finance-driven globalization, UNDP on the rise of the South, UN Women on women and the justice system and regular appearances by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Taken as a whole, this output is innovative and important, both challenging received wisdom and coming up with some of the new ideas and alternatives we so desperately need.

So where are the UN’s bloggers? UN staff certainly read blogs (including this one, I think a lot of people came along just to see what a blogaholic looks like in the flesh). But they hardly ever write them – the only one I regularly read is Ian Thorpe’s excellent ‘KM on a Dollar a Day’ (the KM is Knowledge Management), but that is so unbranded I’m not even sure the UN knows he’s doing it. The only official UN blog that comes up on a quick search is aimed at the general public – photos etc – not much there for wonks.

In contrast, I’m speaking at the World Bank today and suggested a chat to a few of its bloggers. Tricky they said – there’s 300 of them. Why the enormous difference? Is this about a greater degree of overall confidence and agency among Bank staff, or the institutional and political constraints operating in both institutions, or a mix of the two?

The Umpteenth Blog on using SMS Feedback in Projects…Now with Support!

Aaron Seyedian's picture

With shiny apps hogging the mobile spotlight these days, one could be forgiven for forgetting about SMS (“Short Message Service” or text messaging).  But although apps often disguise themselves as universally useful, their data and hardware requirements preclude their widespread use in poor countries.  Amongst the world’s poor, SMS is still king.  Given the World Bank’s mandate to serve the exactly that population, and in response to demand from staff, I recently attended a 2-day Frontline SMS training here in DC.

The training took place on the 2nd floor of the OAS building, otherwise known as the “OpenGovHub.”  The hub hosts many organizations working at the intersection of data, governance and development, including Ushahidi, Accountability Lab and Tech4Dem.  Though only one block from the World Bank, it definitely has a Silicon Valley vibe - open offices, young CEOs, bumperstickered laptops and standing desks abound.  Thankfully, this open and informal environment carried right into the training, giving participants the chance to experiment with the software and engage in candid discussions with Frontline’s leaders.  Two days of training, only one Powerpoint presentation. I know, right!?

On the second day, I was particularly struck by a question posed by Frontline CEO Laura Hudson.  In explaining the design tenets of using FrontlineSMS, she asked us:  “What decisions can you make that exclude the fewest voices?”  That’s a question the Dispute Resolution & Prevention team wants all staff designing grievance redress mechanisms for their projects to ponder as well.

The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development: A Big New Book by Matt Andrews

Duncan Green's picture

There’s nothing like an impending meeting with the author to make you dig out your scrounged review copy of his book. So I spent my flight to Boston last week reading Limits (sorry the full title is just too clunky).  And luckily for the dinner conversation, I loved it.

Limits is about why change doesn’t happen, and how it could. It synthesizes the ‘groundswell’ of disquiet about the failure of the governance and institutional reforms that have been promoted for many years now by aid agencies like the World Bank. And it’s not just a whinge – there are plenty of ideas for how aid agencies can do better. The book is particularly useful for those working on fragile states – lots of the positive examples (as well as some failures) come from Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and elsewhere, although there is a bit of ‘why can’t everywhere be more like Rwanda?’ in there too.

Overall, the approach reminded me of Dani Rodrik’s great book, In Search of Prosperity, and Matt says Rodrik (a fellow Harvard prof) was influential in pushing him to nail down the always-elusive ‘so whats’.

Limits summarizes research and thinking from disparate disciplines, with lots of fascinating case studies (he’s put in the legwork to build a serious empirical basis for his conclusions). His big idea is captured in a new acronym, PDIA (Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation), which, as he pointed out, is similar to the Participatory Institutional Appraisal idea I raised in a recent blog. I’m not sure if PDIA will catch on – it could have done with a snappier title, as could the book – but the content is really important if you are interested in aid, institutions or governance.

So what does it say? Firstly, that we have a big failure on our hands. The spate of projects and programmes around institutional reform has at best a mixed record of success; in many countries institutions have actually deteriorated in terms of effectiveness, corruption etc.

Challenges for Community Radio in India's Rural Development

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

India’s 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) talks of challenges emanating from the economy’s transition to a higher growth path, the structural changes that come with it and the expectations it generates. One pertinent challenge in India, in the context of economic growth at the rate of 8%, is the extent of progress towards the multi dimensional process of inclusive growth. Without doubt, the latter should result in lower incidence of poverty, significant improvements in health care, universal access for children going to school and increased access to skilled development.

These parameters are more critical for an estimated 833 million people in India who continue to live in rural areas and a very large proportion of whom, both men and women, are either wholly or significantly still dependent for their livelihood on farm as well as non-farm activities. A plethora of centrally sponsored flagship rural development programs such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been given special impetus aimed at building rural  infrastructure and providing basic services with the aim of reducing poverty. These are mandated to be implemented by the provincial governments through institutions of local self governance in the gaze of the well oiled administrative district machinery and increasingly in collaboration with the civil society.

An unprecedented injection of public funds during the 12th Plan Period through decentralized governance, calls for a renewed focus on the dynamics of grassroots empowerment that could enable rural communities to access information about their rights and entitlements made available under these programmes, both by law and policy. This consequently also has implications for accountability in the reach and impact of the public delivery system that the poorest approach. The key question, thus is, what kind of an accessible communication medium, amongst today’s robust social media, should be utilized during the next four years extensively to sensitize and empower the poorest in rural areas in partnership with civil society?  Secondly, what are the governance challenges that need to be identified in the above partnership to make the benefits of the envisaged inclusive growth more transparent, participatory and bottom up?

Quote of the Week: Lawrence H. Summers

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"As the old joke about economics examinations has it, the questions do not change – only the answers do."

-- Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University. Mr. Summers is also a former Treasury secretary of the United States, and Vice President of development economics and chief economist of the World Bank.

When the People Say Yes and the Leaders Say No

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Does the state of public opinion on a public policy issue create obligations for political leaders, obligations they ignore at their peril? This is an issue being debated in the United States right now about a specific public policy controversy – gun control – but the core issue applies everywhere. In the specific case of the United States, many readers will know that there was an attempt to pass legislation requiring background checks before you can buy guns online or at gun shows. The legislation was blocked in the US Senate in spite of the fact that opinion polls say again and again that 90 per cent of Americans polled support the measure. So, the question is being asked and debated: how can 90% of the people support a measure and it does not become law? Very often the question is asked with real heat. Now, we are not going to get into the Byzantine complexities of American politics. What I am interested in is bringing to your attention what professional political scientists who blog have been saying about the core, universally relevant issue: does the state of public opinion create unavoidable obligations for political leaders?

In a couple of blog posts Jonathan Bernstein (he writes the excellent A Plain Blog about Politics) offers the following insights:

Tapping the Youth Bulge

Maya Brahmam's picture

At the Global Voices on Poverty discussion on ending poverty during the World Bank-Fund Spring Meetings, Muhammad Yunus talked about the pressing need to engage young people and leverage their creative capacity in order to end poverty. He noted that young people are a completely different force that could be engaged on larger social issues – e.g., reforesting a country like Haiti – and that this could be accomplished via social business funds.

Given the recent gloom on youth unemployment, could social entrepreneurship be a silver lining? Certainly the global challenges are many and large. But so are the youth populations in many countries. Instead of reaping the demographic dividends, many countries fear future instability owing to the very large youth bulge. The Economist, in a recent article “Youth unemployment: Generation jobless,” calculates that all told, almost 290,000,000 (almost a quarter of the planet’s youth) are neither working nor studying.

Post-2015 Wonkwar Continued: Claire Melamed on Why It’s a Good Thing + Your Chance to Vote

Duncan Green's picture
​​Claire Melamed responds to my ‘bah humbug’ opener on post-2015

I spend most of my working life thinking about post-2015 so this is a slightly nerve-racking experience.  What if Duncan convinces me?  Let me first respond to his arguments, then set out what I think is to be gained from the post-2015 circus… and then we’ll see if I’m still working on post-2015 at the end of it.

I’ll start with the magical thinking.  Yes a lot of what’s being said in the name of post-2015 is a bit ‘if everything was nice everything would be nice’.  But think of it this way: people everywhere, not just wonks like us – are getting involved in serious debates at national, regional and global level, about poverty, about politics, about economics and about the environment.  We don’t know where it will lead yet.  Some of it will lead nowhere.  But don’t write off all that energy and commitment because it’s a bit unfocused, rather celebrate the fact that so many people want to get involved in political debate and action (even be, um, active citizens….).

In any case, that is about the campaign and the public debate, not the goals, and the two shouldn’t be confused.   If the outcome is important, being annoyed at the tone and strategy adopted by campaigners has to be a reason to get in there and change that, not to walk away.

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 
 

Anyone Fancy a Post-2015 Wonkwar? Me v Claire Melamed on the Biggest Development Circus in Town

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been good friends with Claire Melamed for ages, but recently we’ve found ourselves on opposite sides of the post-2015 debate. As ODI’s growth and inequality supremo, Claire is deeply immersed in the ever-proliferating discussions, whereas I decided early on that I had massive reservations about the whole process. So for your amusement (and who knows, perhaps enlightenment), we’ve decided to air our differences in public. I’ll kick off,

Claire responds, and we hope that will produce a load of comments and a life and death struggle for the last word (which I shall of course win, because it’s my blog).

What’s my beef? The post-2015 discussion typifies the kind of ‘magical thinking’ that abounds in aid circles, in which well-intentioned developmentistas debate how the world should be improved. These discussions and the mountains of policy papers, blogs etc that accompany them, are often based on what I call ‘If I ruled the World’ (IRW) thinking. IRW, then I would do X, Y, Z – Rights for (disenfranchised group of your choice)! More Infrastructure! Better Data! Jobs!

Media (R)evolutions: Change in Percentage Internet Users and Democracy Scores, 2002-2011

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very differently from today's, and will have very little resemblance to yesterday's.

This week's Media (R)evolutions: Change in Percentage Internet Users and Democracy Scores, 2002-2011.

Note: "On the vertical axis is the change in percent of a country's population online over the last decade.  The horizontal axis reflects any change in the democratization score- any slide toward authoritarianism is represented by a negative number."