I was in Paris in early June to take part in a meeting organized by the OECD Development Affairs Committee (DAC) Governance Network (Govnet). The meeting brought together governance advisers in OECD donor agencies and the media development community to talk about the role of the media in strengthening domestic accountability in developing countries. Govnet is developing practice guidance on domestic accountability. The meeting was productive but it was quite clear that these were global policy networks that had not previously interacted much, if they had interacted at all. Speaking during the deliberations, I made the point that those of us who had been trying to bring the two communities together for quite some time often felt that our first job was translation: making the discourse of one network intelligible to the other one and vice versa.
Two quick examples should suffice. The media development community ---like human rights advocates -- often feels very strongly that there is an intrinsic value to strengthening independent media and are suspicious of donor agency technocrats. They often think the latter are a bunch of crass instrumentalists. On their part, governance advisers are often sceptical of the evidence of the impact of media strengthening initiatives. They ask: what do you folks have beyond anecdotes? As a wit once said: the plural of anecdotes is not data. Media development practitioners often think the demand for evidence is entirely wrong-headed, especially when donors are not always willing to pay for rigorous evaluation and rarely stay with initiatives long enough for demonstrable impact to happen.
Since we left Paris, I have been wondering if the problem is the apparent absence of a global policy network on (good) governance. Should all those who work on the creation of effective and accountable states not be in the same global policy network? Why do we have all these little networks on specialist niches like: anti-corruption, taxation, public financial management, public sector management, civil society, media development, demand for good governance etc when these are all aspects of the how you get to effective and accountable states?
I made this point to my colleague Shanthi Kalathil yesterday. She has a background in democracy promotion and used to work for USAID. She thinks the closest to a global policy network on (good) governance is the democracy promotion policy network, although the network might not necessarily see itself as such. Plus many of the governance advisers in bilateral and multilateral donor agencies will probably not willingly sign up for a global policy network explicitly committed to something as blunt as 'democracy promotion'.
I keep thinking we need a global platform for these specialist communities tring to get to the same hilltop to at least talk and trade insights.
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