Syndicate content

December 2013

#7 from 2013: A New Kind of Female Superhero: Burka Avenger

Shamiela Mir's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by readership in 2013
This post was originally published on August 29, 2013


Have you heard of a new superheroine called “Burka Avenger”?  Burka Avenger is a new animated series for kids in Pakistan. Burka Avenger fights corrupt politicians and Taliban-look-a-like thugs who try to shut down a girl’s school in a village. She is fully trained in martial arts and uses pens and books to fight the bad guys. During the day, her alter-ego Jiya is a teacher at an all-girls school. All in all, she represents a female vanguard of girl’s education. So why would there be any criticisms coming from certain feminists circles in Pakistan?  Her burka.
 
To hide her identity, she wears a flowing black burka to fight the bad guys. Those who have issues with it say Burka is a sign of oppression and cannot be used to empower women. Some also say that it sends a wrong message by implying a woman can only be successful if she is invisible.

#8 from 2013: Today’s Grimfographic: How Many People Die a Violent Death, Where and How?

Duncan Green's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts from 2013
This post was originally published on July 31, 2013


From Action on Armed Violence using data from the Geneva Declaration’s Global Burden of Armed Violence report (whose link seems to be down at the moment). Key points to note:

Only one in 8 violent deaths occur in the ‘conflict settings’ so beloved of news coverage. Most of the rest are ‘intentional homicides’ committed in gun and drug-plagued (but supposedly non-conflict) countries like El Salvador (at 62 deaths per 100,000 people, the world’s most violent ‘peaceful’ country). People often claim the death toll in El Salvador is now worse than during its 1980s civil war, but the numbers don’t seem to add up – 70,000 died over about 12 years in that war, whereas the current carnage kills ‘only’ about 3,600 a year. Latin America remains the world’s homicide hotspot.

Total global death toll is 526,000. That’s a shocking one a minute, but less than half the deaths from road accidents (which I imagine have a similar victim demographic).

But things can improve.  The murder rate in El Salvador has halved since the data for this report was gathered, thanks to a truce struck between the country’s two main street gangs.

#9 from 2013: Using Social Media for Good Governance

Jude Hanan's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by readership in 2013
This post was originally published on Jaunary 14, 2013


2011 was a year of turmoil. Internationally, economic meltdown deepened and continued, massive earthquakes struck New Zealand and a tsunami hit Japan. But 2011 will be also remembered for a different type of earthquake – the Arab Spring – an event that shook the Middle East, causing regimes across the region to totter and fall. Unlike other revolutions, this one used relatively new tools and technologies – networked or social media.

Much has already been written about the Arab Spring but what is already clear from the current body of work being produced is that it was the use of social media that acted as the catalyst for change in an already unpredictable environment. The use and availability of social media easily created connections between prominent thought leaders and activists to ordinary citizens, rapidly expanding the network of people willing to take action.

#10 from 2013: Citizens Against Corruption: What Works? Findings from 200 Projects in 53 Countries

Duncan Green's picture

In the next few weeks, we will be running our Top Ten Blog Posts by readership in 2013

Originally published on May 22, 2013

I attended a panel + booklaunch on the theme of ‘Citizens Against Corruption’ at the ODI last week. After all the recent agonizing and self-doubt of the results debate (‘really, do we know anything about the impact of our work? How can we be sure?’), it was refreshing to be carried away on a wave of conviction and passion. The author of the book, Pierre Landell-Mills is in no doubt – citizen action can have a massive impact in countering corruption and improving the lives of poor people, almost irrespective of the political context.

The book captures the experience of the Partnership for Transparency Fund, set up by Pierre in 2000. It summarizes experiences from 200 case studies in 53 countries. This has included everything from using boy scouts to stop the ‘disappearance’ of textbooks in the Philippines to introducing a new code of ethics for Mongolia’s judiciary. The PTF’s model of change is really interesting. In terms of the project itself:

  • Entirely demand led: it waits for civil society organizations (CSOs) to come up with proposals, and funds about one in five
  • $25k + an expert: the typical project consists of a small grant, and a volunteer expert, usually a retiree from aid agencies or governments, North and South. According to Pierre ‘the clue to PTF’s success has been marrying high quality expertise with the energy and guts of young activists’. (I’ve now added ‘Grey Wonks’ to my ‘Grey Panthers’ rant on why the aid world is so bad at making the most of older people).
  • The PTF is tapping into a zeitgeist of shifting global norms on corruption, epitomised by the UN Convention Against Corruption (2003). The idea that ‘they work for us’ seems to be gaining ground.
  • The PTF prefers cooperation to conflict – better to work with champions within the state (and there nearly always are some, if you can find them), than just to lob rocks from the sidelines (although some rock-lobbing may also be required).
  • It also prefers action and avoids funding ‘awareness-raising’, ‘capacity building’ and other ‘conference-building measures.’

So what works? On the basis of the case studies (chapters on India, Mongolia, Uganda and the Philippines), and his vast experience of governance and corruption work, Pierre sets out a ‘stylized programme’ for the kinds of CSO-led initiatives that deliver the goods:

Access to Information: Aid Effectiveness is the True Test

Kate Henvey's picture

Are citizens receiving the greatest development impact for their development dollar? This is the same question I asked when the Publish What You Fund Aid Transparency Index was released in October 2013.

This week I found myself asking the same question as the 2013 World Bank Access to Information Report was released, highlighting how the Bank’s Access to Information Policy has provided the framework for the institution to emerge as a global leader in transparency and openness.

 “Of course, data and knowledge are not an end in themselves,” President Jim Kim noted in the opening message of the report, “ultimately the true test of our effectiveness is how we use this evidence to change the lives of over a billion people in extreme poverty.”

All About A MOOC (Not A Moose)

Maya Brahmam's picture

Well, it’s finally happening. The World Bank Institute is launching its first MOOC on climate change on January 27, 2014 on the Coursera platform. I still remember when we first talked about MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), colleagues wondered what they were. MOOC sounds like “Mook,” which means a foolish, insignificant, or contemptible person –not the same thing at all!

MOOCs are a way for many people to have access to knowledge – democratizing knowledge, if you will. According to a Short History of MOOCs and Distance Learning, the first MOOC was launched in 2008. It was on ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008’ (CCK8) and was created by educators Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Based on a credit course at the University of Manitoba, Canada, this was the first class designed  as a ‘MOOC’ and used many different platforms to engage students with the topic, including Facebook groups, Wiki pages, blogs, forums and other resources. Around 2,200 people signed up for CCK08, and 170 of them created their own blogs. The course was free and open, which meant that anyone could join, modify or remix the content without paying (although a paid, certified option was offered).

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.

Transparency for what? The usefulness of publicly available budget information in African countries 
ODI

“Advocacy and civil society groups around the world are increasing their calls for governments to publish budgets and expenditure reports, not least in Africa, where budget transparency remains low by global standards. However, while governments are often praised internationally for the number and type of budget documents they release, less attention is given to the content of these documents and whether they allow for meaningful budget analysis. This note considers whether the budget documents released by African governments are sufficiently comprehensive to answer basic questions about budget policy and performance.”  READ MORE

Five steps to more meaningful youth engagement 
Global Development Professionals Network Partner Zone 

“Today's young leaders are taking on a variety of meaningful and dynamic roles in development organisations. As board members, lobbyists, activists, entrepreneurs, designers, experts, trainers, and researchers, youth are driving their own destinies by taking part in decisions that affect them and their communities. For example, Restless Development, an international youth-led development agency, supports a project in which local young people lead action research aimed at finding solutions to complex challenges in the turbulent Karamoja region of Northern Uganda. These young researchers have produced several excellent products, including Strength, Creativity, and Livelihoods of Karimojong Youth.”  READ MORE
 

The Danger of Stories

David Evans's picture
Who doesn’t love a great story? In development, we have wonderful stories to tell. We tell stories about children going to school because of cash transfers in Tanzania and about women in Costa Rica who are empowered through their jewelry businesses. The World Bank recently sponsored a day of development storytelling. Armendáriz de Aghion and Morduch recount the following story of a microcredit borrower from Mexico:
 

“Consider the story of Mrs. Braulia Parra, who lives with a family of seven in a poor neighborhood in Monterrey, Mexico, in a home with cardboard walls and dirt floors. Illiterate and inexperienced in the workplace, Mrs. Parra took her first $150 loan from ADMIC, a local microlender. The loan allowed her to buy yarn and other sewing supplies to make handsewn decorations. Each week she sells about one hundred handmade baskets, dolls and mirrors, going door-to-door in her neighborhood. After ten loans, Mrs. Parra had earned enough to install a toilet in her modest home, as well as an outdoor shower. Building a second floor was next in her sights.”

These stories inspire us, but we have to be careful. Stories are dangerous.
 

Poor Countries are Losing $1 Trillion a Year to Illicit Capital Flows - 7 Times the Volume of Aid

Duncan Green's picture

I was surprised not to see more coverage of last week’s hard-hitting report from the Global Financial Integrity watchdog. Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2002-2011 has a whole bunch of killer facts about the escalating haemorrhage of wealth from poor countries. Here are some highlights. My additions in square brackets/italics:

“We estimate that illicit financial outflows from the developing world totalled a staggering US$946.7 billion in 2011, with cumulative illicit financial outflows over the decade between 2002 and 2011 of US$5.9 trillion. [By way of comparison, total global aid in 2011 was $134bn (not mn as first printed -thanks to all of you who pointed this out) – 14% of illicit flows - and has fallen since, even as illicit flows keep booming. Want that as a soundbite? ‘For every dollar of aid, the South loses $7 in illicit outflows; developing countries are losing $2.6 bn a day/$108m per hour/$2m per minute/$30,000 per second’.]

This gives further evidence to the notion that illicit financial flows are the most devastating economic issue impacting the global South.  Large as these numbers are, perhaps the most distressing take-away from the study is just how fast illicit financial flows are growing. Adjusted for inflation, illicit financial flows out of developing countries increased by an average of more than 10 percent per year over the decade. Left unabated, one can only expect these numbers to continue an upward trend.

Quote of the Week: Roger Cohen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“The modern world’s tech-giddy control and facilitation makes us stupid.  Awareness atrophies.  Dumb gets dumber.  Lists are everywhere – the five things you need to know about so-and-so; the eight essential qualities of such-and-such; the 11 delights of somewhere or other.  We demand shortcuts, as if there are shortcuts to genuine experiences.  These lists are meaningless.”

- Roger Cohen, A Columnist of The New York Times.
 

Do We Need Media-Free Zones?

CGCS's picture

Christine Lohmeier examines media-free zones within the context of ontological security. Christine is an Assistant Professor at the University of Munich and former CGCS visiting scholar. Her research interests relate to inter/transnational communication, media and collective memory and identity and belonging.

The recent New York Times article Step Away from the Phone! describes the growing trend of device-free-zones, a movement where people make a conscious effort to not use their mobile phone during designated times. The omnipresence of media has long been established among communication scholars. Many will not have missed the irony of letting a mobile phone, and perhaps in past decades a camcorder or camera, get in the way of ‘real-life’ face-to-face interaction.

There are many studies, theories and approaches to drawn on when trying to assess the value of media or device-free zones. Think of Sherry Turkle’s warning inquiry of whether we expect too much of technology and too little of each other. Or the insightful research by Melissa Gregg in Work’s Intimacy where she demonstrates how constant connectivity seems to make people feel obliged to work on a constant basis. One of the underlying questions, of course, is why is it so difficult to step away from the computer, the mobile phone, or the TV? One explanation for our media-saturated life might be the need for a sense of security and belonging, of community.

The Death of an Elder

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

An Elder has died. With Nelson Mandela’s death, “the world has lost a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice, and a clear moral compass … an inspiration to us all,” said Kofi Annan in a message last week.

Nelson Mandela was the founder of a network of world leaders, called the Elders. The Elders are former holders of public office, former heads of state, activists, visionaries. They are independent, and their mission is to build peace. Mandela, as founder, was an Honorary Elder in this organization, but he was also an Elder to all of us. The global public’s strong emotional reaction to Mandela’s death indicates how deeply rooted the role of an Elder is even in today’s society, which seems to have gone a long way since the days of tribal culture, in which elders were formally acknowledged as leaders and advisors.

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.

Twitter Angling For More International Users
Tech President

“Twitter is following Facebook and Google's lead in creating an avenue for feature or "dumb" phone users to access their service, even without an Internet connection. They have partnered with the Singapore-based company U2opia Mobile, Reuters reports. Chief executive and co-founder of U2opia Mobile, Sumesh Menon, told Reuters that they will launch the Twitter service next year. U2opia Mobile already helps more than 11 million people access Facebook and Google Talk through their Fonetwish service without using data.”   READ MORE


Open government data emerging, trust in government declining
Internet Policy Review

“The use of open government data has declined since last year, a new study by the Initiative D21 and the Institute for Public Information Management (ipima) reported at a press conference in Berlin today. According to the fourth edition of the eGovernment Monitor, the number of users of eGovernment services in Sweden in 2013 was 53 percent, compared to 70 percent in 2012. On average, the decline was as high as 8 percent in those countries that were monitored. Numerous data breach scandals and the revelations about pervasive surveillance were obvious reasons for the heightened caution, the researchers wrote in their summary.”   READ MORE
 

Thinking and Working Politically: An Exciting New Aid Initiative

Duncan Green's picture

Gosh I love my job. Last week I attended a workshop in Delhi to discuss ‘thinking and working politically’. A bunch of donors, academics, NGOs and others (Chatham House rules, alas, so no names or institutions) taking stock on how they can move from talk to walk in applying more politically informed thinking to their work.

That means both trying to do the normal stuff better (eg understanding the politics that determines whether your water or education programme gets anywhere) and in more transformational work trying to shift power from haves to have nots.

The meeting was convened by some very practical (‘what do I do on Monday Morning’) aid people keen to move on from what they see as the overly academic (‘needs more research’) character  of discussions on governance, institutions, state-building and all its obfuscatory language (‘What we don’t need is lots of people talking about isomorphic mimicry, rules of the game and political settlements’).

The purpose of this discussion was to take the growing body of research from the Development Leadership Programme, Tom Carothers, ODI, Matt Andrews, ESID etc and turn it into programme ideas that can be tested on the ground. A giant ‘do tank’ exercise, in fact. Alarmingly, I can’t think of other examples of such an explicit research →hypothesis→test process on governance (unlike drugs research, say).

Some impressions:

A New Era: Media Landscape in Pakistan

Shamiela Mir's picture

Most would agree that the media play a critical role in democracy by amplifying public voice and holding government accountable. I recently read a BBC Media Action Policy Briefing on the media of Pakistan, which analyzes the media’s role in Pakistan’s on-going democratic transition and offers policy recommendations to those in the international community wanting to support deepening democracy within the country. I summarize here some key points made in the report.

Delivering Results: The Collaboration Imperative

Camilo Azcarate's picture

There seems to be a growing consensus among experts in different fields that in today’s highly interdependent world, effective collaboration has become crucial for achieving results.
 
As part of the World Bank's Internal Justice System Week a few days ago, we attended a presentation by Dr. Peter Coleman, Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University and heir of an illustrious research tradition in social-psychology going back almost a hundred years. Dr. Coleman is part of an inter-disciplinary team of global experts that also includes mathematicians, astrophysicists, anthropologists and computer modeling experts in a quest to answer the following question: what are the conditions that support or hinder collaboration in social relations?
 
Using computer simulations they observed the results of competitive and cooperative behaviors, and detected how dynamic patterns develop over time. They realized that the dynamic social relations created behaved in ways similar to those that have been observed in other complex systems, from cancerous cellular mutations to global climate shifts. Like such systems, social dynamics are not only complex but also “non-linear”, which means that the different elements constantly influence each other, acting as both cause and effect of each other’s behaviors. The tool available to study such systems is known as “dynamical system theory”, and Dr. Coleman’s team has been applying its methods to social systems.

Quote of the Week: Nelson Mandela

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"It is never my custom to use words lightly.  If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

- Nelson Mandela, July 14, 2000, South Africa. Mr. Mandela  (1918 – 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist.

Bits and Atoms: Limited Statehood and Digital Technology

CGCS's picture
Steven Livingston, a Professor of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs at George Washington University, discusses his upcoming book Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood.
 

Much of the development, governance and more general international affairs literatures speak of failed or fragile states when describing a breakdown of governance capacity.[1] In Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood Gregor Walter-Drop of the Freie Universität Berlin and I use a different formulation. We provide a more nuanced conceptual foundation for thinking about the nature of statehood and how digital technologies might serve to ameliorate the effects of what we call limited statehood. Following Max Weber, statehood is characterized by a monopoly on the means of violence, the ability to make and impose binding rules, and by the effective provisioning of public goods. An area of limited statehood is defined by the absence of some or all of these qualities.

As Thomas Risse and his colleagues have argued, limited statehood has at least three manifestations. It can be territorial, limited to a particular geographical space within the larger context of the sovereign borders of an otherwise consolidated state. The urban slums of Nairobi, Lagos, or Rio are territorial areas of limited statehood, confined spaces where basic public goods – clear water, sanitation, security, and infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks — are missing. Limited statehood can also be sectoral, limited to specific policy areas where the governance capacity of the state falls short. And it can be temporal, where an otherwise fully consolidated state suffers a temporary loss of governance capacity. Disasters in this respect constitute a governance stress test, measuring the governance capacity of state institutions. When Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines in November, destroying everything in its path, the Philippines government was overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge found in restoring order and providing for basic public services. In much the same way, the Japanese government was overwhelmed by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The tsunami added to the burden when it caused level 7+ meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans fits this category “in the sense that U.S. authorities were unable to enforce decisions and to uphold the monopoly over the means of violence for a short period of time.”[2] These examples make clear that even fully consolidated states such as Japan and the United States can experience periods of limited statehood.

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.

Corruption Perceptions Index
Transparency International

"The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 serves as a reminder that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world.  The Index scores 177 countries and territories on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). No country has a perfect score, and two-thirds of countries score below 50. This indicates a serious, worldwide corruption problem. Hover on the map above to see how your country fares. The world urgently needs a renewed effort to crack down on money laundering, clean up political finance, pursue the return of stolen assets and build more transparent public institutions." READ MORE

How to Measure a Post-2015 MDG on Good Governance
Global Integrity 

"There’s been plenty of chatter in recent months about a possible post-2015 Millennium Development Goal on governance following the release of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The report called out "good governance and effective institutions" as one of 12 "illustrative" goals that nations might consider when adopting new development targets for the post-2015 era. This is potentially big news for transparency and accountability boosters; enshrining good governance in the post-2015 MDG process could provide significant political cover for continued reform efforts while simultaneously unlocking new resources for the work.

A chief risk to the prospect of a good governance goal is the data problem. How would we measure countries’ progress towards "good governance" in a post-2015 framework? Whose data should be used? Is it accurate and robust enough for such an august task? Is it possible to generate quality data on a global scale, regularly, that could be used for tracking?" READ MORE

Innovations for Resolving Disputes in Development

Amar Inamdar's picture

As rapid innovation and adoption of new communications technology sweeps across the globe, one thing is certain: the trend for increasing demand from citizens to have a greater say in public projects.  It’s an opportunity and a challenge, depending on how you look at it.  The World Bank can do more to step up to the challenge of managing this kind of complexity more smartly. Typically, we are seeing disputes relating to land, water and governance issues. These trends are not going away. So what can we do about it? Well the short answer is—plenty.
 
“We are witnessing this incredible transformation in the Middle East and North Africa region that is still unfolding,” said Inger Andersen, the World Bank’s vice president for the Middle East and North Africa Region, speaking at an event on innovations for resolving disputes in development in Washington.

“It is a different reality now,” said Andersen. “Hearing the peoples’ voice inside the programs and projects is a major breakthrough for us. The work we are now doing in the region is reaching millions via Twitter, Facebook, and social media outlets. It is a real challenge to ride on the transparency wave across the region while adhering to our policies at the Bank.”

Cambridge Votes Save Artist from Apocalypse

Caroline Jaine's picture

Last night I attended the launch of the 2013 Cambridge International Development Report at Cambridge University.  The report is the work of the Humanitarian Centre – a unique network that is truly cross-sector and collaborative in its approach.
 
So often I attend conferences and networks with homogenous attendees.  Artists network with artists, social entrepreneurs with social entrepreneurs and diplomats with diplomats.  Empathy and feel good scores high at these events, but rarely are people surprised, intrigued or challenged. The Humanitarian Centre puts poverty at its heart – and as a result attracts not just development professionals, but business leaders, academics, policy-makers, and, as it turns out – artists. 
 
To launch the report last night I was asked to take part in a “life raft” debate.   I had no idea what this was at first, but happily joined into the playful scenario.  I am an artist after all. Everyone at the event was a survivor of an apocalypse.   The year was 2015. The building we were in - Newnham College – was the last building standing on a tiny patch of land in the British Isles.  The life raft was heavily laden with food, stocks and blankets and people and was poised to sail away to a new land, where survivors would build a new society from the ground up.  Just as the raft was about to embark, six more survivors were found trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building.  You can guess what comes next.  I was one of the six and I had to argue my way onto the only remaining place on the boat.  I was not there as a communications strategist or international relations expert – instead they asked me to present my case as an artist.

The Evolving HIV and AIDS Pandemic: Overall Progress; more varied between Countries; Southern Governments Stepping Up to Fill Aid Gaps

Duncan Green's picture

Last week the ONE campaign issued The Beginning of the End?, a report (+ exec sum) on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with some important findings. They include hitting the global tipping point on AIDS, probably next year; the increasing divergence in performance between African countries, and the fact that over half of global HIV/AIDS spending now comes from developing countries.

Excerpts from the Exec Sum, with a few additions from ONE’s press release, plus a final comment from Oxfam’s top HIV policy wonk:

“The world has achieved a marked acceleration in its progress towards the achievement of the beginning of the end of AIDS (defined as when the total number of people newly infected with HIV in a given year falls below the number of HIV-positive people newly receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment). Updated data shows that if current rates of acceleration in both adding individuals to treatment and in reducing new HIV infections continue, we will achieve the beginning of the end of AIDS by 2015 (see chart – click to enlarge).