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Public Sector and Governance

The Accountability Lab: What is Accountability, Really?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
“We need clean water, education and medicines- all of these things” points out Bendu as we talk to her one oppressively hot day in West Point, a township of Monrovia, Liberia. “But we really care about corruption” she adds: “and the law- without these our other problems cannot be fixed”.
 
Citizens around the world know that these accountability problems are at the heart of development, security and equality. But often their voices are not heard and they do not have the tools to change the status quo. The Accountability Lab works with citizens like Bendu to generate innovative ideas for integrity and make people with power more responsible for the issues they face in their everyday lives. The team provides training, mentorship, networks, management support and seed funding to take these ideas from conception to reality to sustainability.

Blair Glencorse is Executive Director of the Accountability Lab. In this video he discusses the nature of accountability and provides optimism for making it a reality.
 
What is Accountability, Really?

How to Fix Fragile States? The OECD Reckons it’s All Down to Tax Systems.

Duncan Green's picture

‘Over-generous tax exemptions awarded to multinational enterprises often deprive fragile states of potential revenues that could be used to fund their most pressing needs.’ Another broadside from rent-a-mob? Nope, it’s the ultra respectable OECD in its Fragile States 2014 report.

After years of growth, aid to fragile states started to fall in 2011, so the report centres around an urgent call for OECD member states to help their more fragile cousins find a post-aid arrangement that funds essential state functions and builds the ‘social contract’ with citizens.

The key is a shift from aid dependence to ‘domestic resource mobilization’ (taxes and natural resource royalties), currently averaging a feeble 14% of GDP across fragile states and far too dependent on royalties from oil, gas and mineral extraction. Foreign direct investment (factories, farms etc) is generally low in volume and volatile.

Weekly Wire:the Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

World Press Freedom Index 2014
Reporters Without Borders
The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. READ MORE

Throwing the transparency baby out with the development bathwater
Global Integrity
In recent weeks, a number of leading voices within the international development movement – including the billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates as well as development economist Chris Blattman and tech-for-development expert Charles Kenny - have come out arguing that corruption and governance efforts in developing countries should be de-prioritized relative to other challenges in health, education, or infrastructure. Their basic argument is that while yes, corruption is ugly, it’s simply another tax in an economic sense and while annoying and inefficient, can be tolerated while we work to improve service delivery to the poor. The reality is more complicated and the policy implications precisely the opposite: corruption’s “long tail” in fact undermines the very same development objectives that Gates, Blattman, and Kenny are advocating for. READ MORE

How's Your Inner Autocrat Doing These Days?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about human beings is the gap between our avowed values and our behavior when we come under pressure. I have come to believe that your values are the ones that shape your conduct when you are dealing with a tough, high pressure situation or a life crisis, not the values you spout when you are showing off at the dinner table. Pieties are all too easy. What do you do when the going gets tough? What values truly underpin your conduct? I notice this most often when people claim to be profoundly devout, and they want you to know it. They claim an aura of sanctity. I have learned not to argue with them. I wait until they have to deal with complexity and then see what they do. You’d be amazed what some of these people get up to. More often than not, piety flies out of the window.

Look around you today. We are all supposed to be democrats these days. We love openness, inclusiveness, and transparency— everybody counts, every voice matters. But what do we do when the going gets tough? Let’s reflect on a few current situations around the world.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week. 

Compare your country - Aid statistics by donor, recipient and sector
OECD Data - Aid Statistics

Compare your country is a service provided by the OECD. It is based on the OECD's Development Co-operation Report 2013. EXPLORE THE MAP
 

More Than One in Five Worldwide Living in Extreme Poverty
Gallup

"Gallup's self-reported household income data across 131 countries indicate that more than one in five residents (22%) live on $1.25 per day or less -- the World Bank's definition of "extreme poverty." About one in three (34%) live on no more than $2 per day. The World Bank Group recently set a new goal of reducing the worldwide rate of extreme poverty to no more than 3% by 2030, but Gallup's data suggest meeting that goal will require substantial growth and job creation in many countries. In 86 countries, more than 3% of the population lives on $1.25 per day or less." READ MORE

Education Wonkwar: The Final Salvo. Kevin Watkins responds to Justin Sandefur on Public v Private

Duncan Green's picture

The posts are getting longer, so it’s probably a good time to call a halt, but at least you had the weekend to read Kevin Watkins‘ response to Justin Sandefur on private v public education provision. If you have even more time, it’s worth reading (and relishing) the whole exchange: Justin post 1; Kevin post 1; Justin post 2 and now this.

Dear Justin,

Thank you for the response. I’d also like to thank Duncan for setting up the discussion, along with the many people, on both sides of the debate, who have contributed their ideas and experiences. Whatever our differences, I think all of us share a conviction that decent quality education has the power to transform lives, expand opportunities, and break the cycle of poverty. There is no greater cause, or more important international development challenge, than delivering on the promise of decent quality education for all children.

Private Schools or Public? Justin Sandefur responds to Kevin Watkins

Duncan Green's picture

Everyone enjoyed last week’s arm-wrestle on public v private education, so in a titanic struggle for the last word, Justin Sandefur (right, in the private corner) and Kevin Watkins (in the public one) are back for another go. Seconds out, round two…..

Dear Kevin,

Thanks for your reply. You are of course quite right that I wear a Pearson corporation logo on a chain around my neck to ward off evil spirits, I can’t stand (or understand) solutions with multiple steps and regularly visit my local medium to have a chat with the sadly departed Milton Friedman.  But despite all that, I want to contend that we agree on almost all the necessary ingredients for a constructive policy discussion.  I’ll end with where I think our core disagreements are.

#4: I Paid A Bribe

Sabina Panth's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on January 12, 2011

I Paid a Bribe is a recently launched online tool that strives to change the perception of corruption and move citizens from apathy to action.  Its goal is to “uncover the market price of corruption” by encouraging victims to report on incidences when they have been forced to pay a bribe, when they have resisted a demand for a bribe, or when they didn’t have to pay a bribe because of honest officers on duty or improvements in law or procedures.  The format for reporting is compartmentalized in a manner that allows both the viewers and the host organization of the website to observe the nature, pattern, types and distribution of bribes across cities and government departments in India.   

Are Women More Susceptible to Corruption than Men?

Sabina Panth's picture

The gender dimensions of corruption have typically been approached from the point of view of whether women are less corrupt than men and whether women are disproportionately affected by corruption. While the concept of women inherently possessing a higher level of integrity has been challenged, studies have confirmed that women do indeed bear significant negative consequences from corruption, at least in fragile states and weak institutional settings.  In an article published on Transparency International's Anti-Corruption Research Network, Farzana Nawaz discusses these issues, the highlights of which I will cover in this blog. 

Action Groups Move…on Water

Sabina Panth's picture

Access to safe and reliable drinking water is not only problematic in rural areas but is becoming a growing concern in rapidly urbanizing cities in developing countries. Often, utilities do not get extended in low income areas and, even if they do, they are generally of poor quality.  As a result, the poor are impacted the most. In recognition to this, The UN General Assembly recently passed a regulation (2010) that declared access to safe drinking water and sanitation a human right.  However, to enable proper implementation of this declaration, meaningful participation is required from citizens to secure service delivery that meets their needs.   Here is a case experiment in Kenya that sheds some light on the advantages and challenges involved in promoting citizen participation in water service delivery.

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