Are assessments and standardized tests critical to measuring the effectiveness of educational systems? How can communities demand accountability from local schools? Suvojit Chattopadhyay argues that assesments can serve as a lever to improving education.
In our eagerness to be constructive, we who work for accountable governance from our comfort zones in the global north sometimes forget what it’s like to live with a deeply unaccountable state. I don’t just mean finding that the party we voted for has since done a U-turn on a pre-election policy promise (a sensitive issue in the UK this week as the hotly contested general elections loom). I mean being a citizen within a state that has a history of torturing and massacring its citizens. For instance, how does it sound to a Guatemalan indigenous community when an international agency urges it to hold its state to account through ‘constructive engagement’?
At IDS on 30 April, Making All Voices Count’s Research, Evidence and Learning component hosted the third workshop in a series focused on accountability, organised jointly with the Transparency & Accountability Initiative and the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability. We chose as a theme The Quest for citizen-led accountability: Looking inside the state. Libraries overflowing with literature on the state and its institutions haven’t proven very useable for social actors who see the state within an ‘accountability politics’ frame, and come at it in campaigning mode. This event brought together some of the scholars who’ve written that literature with some of those social actors who lead and support those rights-claiming processes, to unpack the state in ways that might help citizen-led accountability struggles gain purchase.
Sharing the most politically nuanced analysis of accountability that has ever been developed under World Bank auspices, Anu Joshi (IDS) and Helene Grandvoinnet (Lead Social Development Specialist, World Bank) offered a series of reflections, insights and devices for digging down inside of “context” so as to understand what makes state actors tick. Their work points to what can be learnt by applying to state actors – individual and collective – what we already know about citizen actors – individual and collective. Among these are the notion that power relations are at work not only between citizens and the state, but between one state actor and another; and that for governance to become more responsive and accountable, state officials may need to be empowered or mobilized at least as much as they need to be informed. Here was ‘the state’ viewed on the inside, and from the inside looking out.
In response to feedback he received on a recent post on the myths of governance in development, David Booth of ODI offers some ways to reorient governance work for more effective change.
My Five myths blog questioned several assumptions about governance and development that continue to influence the international agenda despite having little basis in research or historical experience. The animated debate that followed has confirmed that it is a good time to be raising these issues. It also challenged me to spell out some of the practical recommendations flowing from this necessary ground-clearing.
I believe five steps would take us a long way towards a governance-for-development practice with solid grounding in evidence and experience.
Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel at the World Bank, shares his thoughts on the Panel's new Pilot for Early Solutions and describes its success in the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project in Paraguay.
Richard Branson believes in accountability. When he founded Virgin Galactic, the first company to offer commercial trips to space, he promised to be on board during the inaugural flight so that he would be the first saying “oops” if need be (let’s hope not). Similarly, the tradition is that the Captain of a ship is the last one to abandon it, if things go wrong, and to go down with it if necessary (the Captain of the “Costa Concordia” being a recent exception to this rule). In earlier times, Roman engineers stood under the arches they designed as the capstone was set in place, so that the full force of their mistakes would be unleashed upon their heads. Regardless of the definition of accountability used, spotting it is easy when it is there.
The Inspection Panel was designed more than 20 years ago, at a time when both the Bank and the world were quite different. Today, information travels instantaneously, and the challenges of development are ever more pressing and complex. This new world demands ever stronger levels of accountability. At the Panel, we define successful accountability as the process through which redress is provided to people that have suffered harm when things have gone wrong, and lessons are learned by the Institution so that the same mistakes are not repeated.
One example of successful accountability is the recently concluded Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Project (PRODERS) case in Paraguay. This is a Bank-financed project aimed at supporting participatory rural development with indigenous populations. Last July, we received a complaint from indigenous people from the Departments of San Pedro and Caaguazú in Paraguay claiming that consultation within the PRODERS project had broken down. Through discussions with World Bank management, we learned that the project team had developed an Action Plan geared to working closely with the government to resolve the impediments for effective indigenous participation. We also learned that the requesters wanted a quick solution to their participation problems, rather than to wait for the results of a potentially lengthy Panel process.
“The public does not want unprofessional politicians any more than unprofessional dentists. But we do need to find a more civilized from of discourse in which politicians are able to admit they have got things wrong and reverse track without fearing for their careers.”
- Jonathan Powell, a British diplomat who served as the first Downing Street Chief of Staff, under British Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1995 to 2007. In the early years of the Blair Government, one of Powell's most crucial jobs was his role in the Northern Ireland peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement.
In the development business, DFID is a research juggernaut (180 dedicated staff, £345m annual budget, according to the ad for a new boss for its Research and Evidence Division). So it’s good news that they are consulting researchers, NGOs, etc. tomorrow on their next round of funding for research on empowerment and accountability (E&A). Unfortunately, I can’t make it, but I had an interesting exchange with Oxfam’s Emily Brown, who will be there, on some of the ideas we think they should be looking at. Here’s a sample:
What do we need to know?
On E&A, we really need to nail down the thorny topic of measurement – how do you measure say, women’s empowerment, in a manner that satisfies the ‘gold standard’ demands of the results/value for money people? And just to complicate matters, shouldn’t a true measure of empowerment be determined by the people concerned in each given context, rather than outside funders? We’ve made some progress on such ‘hard to measure benefits’, but there’s still a long way to go.
In some areas of development policy, deep-rooted assumptions are extremely hard to dislodge. Like science-fiction androids or the many-headed Hydra, these are monsters that can sustain any number of mortal blows and still regenerate. Capable researchers armed with overwhelming evidence are no threat to them.
The importance of good governance for development is one such assumption. Take last month’s enquiry report on Parliamentary Strengthening by the International Development Committee of the UK parliament. It references the UN High Level Panel’s opinion that ‘good governance and effective institutions’ should be among the goals for ending global poverty by 2030. It would have done better to reference the evidence in 2012’s rigorously researched UN publication Is Good Governance Good for Development?
Here are five governance myths about which the strong scientific consensus might – eventually – slay some monsters.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
#Davosproblems: The financial crisis isn‘t over, and the inequality crisis is just beginning
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting has kicked off in Davos, Switzerland under the banner of “The New Global Context.” Falling in the long shadow of the financial crisis, the WEF’s theme reflects as much hope as a creeping sense that economic turmoil is the new normal. Some seven years into the current crisis, the participants at Davos are acutely aware that the world economy still hasn’t recovered its past momentum.
The Power of Market Creation, How Innovation Can Spur Development
Most explanations of economic growth focus on conditions or incentives at the global or national level. They correlate prosperity with factors such as geography, demography, natural resources, political development, national culture, or official policy choices. Other explanations operate at the industry level, trying to explain why some sectors prosper more than others. At the end of the day, however, it is not societies, governments, or industries that create jobs but companies and their leaders. It is entrepreneurs and businesses that choose to spend or not, invest or not, hire or not.
When the World Bank investigates and sanctions a major corporation for corruption related to one of its project, the deterrent impact is readily apparent. However, not every case the World Bank investigates is a major corruption case. In the past year, the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) received many complaints related to fraud, and it is important to demonstrate responsiveness to complainants who report credible allegations as well as fix the weaknesses identified. Sanctioning cases of fraud also sends a strong message about abiding by high integrity standards in World Bank-financed projects.
Left unchecked, fraud erodes development effectiveness. It often coincides with poor project implementation, which can result in collapsing infrastructure or the distribution of counterfeit drugs. It causes costly delays and can lead to direct financial losses for countries which cannot afford it. Fraud also fosters a negative enabling environment, creating opportunities for more serious and systemic misconduct to occur.