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civil society

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.

By The People (America.gov)
Civil Society and Social Media

“The term “civil society” can seem almost as amorphous as the term “social media.”  Yet the two are becoming ever more powerfully linked to the promotion of democracy and human rights in the modern world.

Civil society can encompass any collection of nongovernmental activists, organizations, congregations, writers and/or reporters.  They bring a broad range of opinions to the marketplace of ideas and are considered critical to a vibrant, well-functioning democracy.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has described a free civil society as the third critical element to democracy – the other two being a representative government and a well-functioning market.”

Bashing the Bank: Assessing the Efficacy of CSO Advocacy

John Garrison's picture

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been targeting the World Bank Group for 25 years in an effort to influence its economic, social, and environmental policies.  Many of these advocacy campaigns have been quite contentious and critical over the years, the most visible being the ‘50 Years is Enough' campaign of the 1990s which called for the abolishment of the Bank.  While this particular campaign was obviously not successful, it is clear that some of the most important Bank reforms adopted over the years – environmental safeguards, compliance mechanisms, and access to information – were spearheaded by civil society. 

The Public Sphere Enters Public Discourse

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Building on Johanna's earlier post on social media, I thought I'd highlight a few points from Clay Shirky's new piece in Foreign Affairs, entitled "The Political Power of Social Media" (users must register). The essay is a thought-provoking contribution to the ongoing discussion about technology's political impact - and it also gives me an opportunity to clarify a few issues regarding my thinking on the Internet and authoritarian regimes.

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.

Poverty Matters Blog (Guardian)
Technology’s role in fighting poverty is still ripe for discussion

"I'm rarely one for predictions, so I shied away from the usual scramble to make a few at the start of the year. Looking back on events, however, is another thing, and for me 2010 has been a particularly interesting year on a number of fronts.

If I were to make one key observation, I'd say that the "D" in ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) resembled more "debate" than "development" during 2010. The ICT4D field has always been ripe for fierce discussion – perhaps a sign that all is not well, or that the discipline continues to mature, or that the rampant advance of technology continues to catch practitioners and academics off-guard. Where, for example, does the advance of the iPad fit into ICT4D, if at all?"

Multistakeholder Initiatives: Are they Effective?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the Kimberly Process, and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) are just a few examples of major Multistakeholder Initiatives (MSIs). Through comprehensive deliberative processes, involving a broad set of stakeholders from governments, private sector, and civil society, MSIs form and adopt new norms, which they seek to make part of the global agenda, and implement on the ground. MSIs gained traction in the late 1990’s, as a means of filling “governance gaps,” due to the failure of existing structures and processes, and as a means to solve problems through collective action. Lucy Koechlin and Richard Calland, have identified five functions of MSIs: 1) dialogue/forum, 2) institution building, 3) rule setting, 4) rule implementation and 5) rule monitoring.

As the use of MSIs is fairly recent, it might be too soon to question their effectiveness. However, Koechlin, Calland, and N.K. Dubash have identified challenges in their analysis of the EITI and the World Commission on Dams. These challenges, involving effectiveness, legitimacy and accountability, can impede a successful outcome.

Implications of the Giving Pledge: More Technocratic Solutions?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

This article on the cons of the "Giving Pledge" approach to philanthropy is thought-provoking, particularly for those interested in non-technocratic - or rather, not-solely-technocratic - approaches to governance and development issues. The author argues, among other things, that the current trend of billionaire philanthropy tends to emphasize technocratic fixes, derived partly from the business approach to problem-solving. "Thorny social problems require investments in civil society and social justice, not technocratic business-driven solutions," he writes.

Training with the Enemy: How CSOs Are Improving Bank Staff’s Ability to Engage with Civil Society

John Garrison's picture

While some staff of the World Bank and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) may have considered each other ‘enemy combatants’ on the proverbial policy battlefield some years back, today many are collaborating in joint training efforts geared to improving relations.  In a reversal of roles, a number of policy advocacy CSOs are helping to train the very same Bank staff whom they often advocated against in the past.  A good example is the participation of well known CSOs who monitor transparency issues in the extractive industries – Global Witness, Oxfam, and Revenue Watch – in a training session with staff from the Bank’s Oil, Gas, and Mining Department in April 2010.  The session was geared to improving the Bank staff’s knowledge and skills to engage civil society, and the CSOs were asked to both diagnose the nature of Bank - CSO tensions and suggest ways to improve these relations. While CSOs highlighted the difficulty they often face to get information or set up meetings with Bank staff, they also noted how the Bank’s presence can actually guarantee the safety of local CSOs.  Bank staff, in turn, shared the difficulty they have in identifying the appropriate CSOs to engage with at the country level, and expressed frustration with some of the critique the Bank receives despite their efforts to reach out.  They also welcomed greater civil society involvement in Bank-financed extractive industry projects.

It’s Our Money

Sabina Panth's picture

It has been argued that corruption cases are focused mostly on the offenders and retribution is calculated on material value. This leaves out the victims of corruption and the collective damage done to the society at large, especially when the malfeasance involves the misappropriation of public money.  The concept of ‘social damage’ is an emerging concept in the anti-corruption movement, which seeks to identify, quantify, and repair the impact and consequences of corruption on ordinary citizens.  It posits that citizens, as taxpayers, are entitled to a legal claim on public money and how it is spent because “every dollar lost in corruption is a dollar stolen from spending in education, social services, poverty reduction and job creation (Its Our Money)”.

Are CSOs Welcome at the World Bank?

John Garrison's picture

This question may have been hard to respond in the affirmative some years back, as Civil Society Organization representatives were still a rare sight at the Bank. It may be hard to believe today, but 20 years ago visiting CSOs had to be physically escorted throughout the buildings, and it was not uncommon for some CSOs to be refused entry.  Today, CSOs are actively welcomed and some even have long-term building passes to facilitate their daily meetings at the Bank.  As a matter of fact, the recently concluded Annual Meetings represented a milestone for CSO presence at the Bank.  Not only was it the largest gathering of CSOs in a Washington-based AMs, but CSO leaders were invited, for the first time, to participate in the official Opening Plenary.

Agreeing to Disagree on the Blogosphere

John Garrison's picture

There is growing Bank – CSO policy dialogue occurring via blogs which is generating unexpected thoughtful and frank exchange of views.  The most recent case was a few weeks back when Justin Lin, the World Bank’s Chief Economist, was invited to be a guest blogger on the “From Poverty to Power” blog page maintained by Oxfam/GB’s Head of Research, Duncan Green.  The exchange was on Justin’s recent paper "Growth Identification and Facilitation" on the role governments play in promoting economic growth.  Many CSOs, such as Oxfam, feel that the Bank is undergoing a paradigm shift by now providing developing countries with more ‘policy space’ to design their own economic plans, including industrial policies to support nascent industries.

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