The final readings of our class presented a lot of food for thought and tied in many of the concepts that we’ve learned throughout the semester. I was especially interested in the readings in “Accountability through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Opinion.”
I enjoyed Mary Myers’article “Well-Informed Journalists Make Well-Informed Citizens…” on journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mention of the practice of coupage, when journalists being paid off to print specific stories, is a reminder of how difficult it can be to escape the heavy-handed propaganda messages in a developing country, not just from the government but other parties including warlords and church leaders. But the success of Radio Okapi as an independent voice and a valuable foil to Radio-Télévision Nationale Congolaise could be a small but important sign that the tides are changing.
The strategy of entertainment-education, mentioned in last week’s Family Tree reading written by Waisbord, comes up again in Myers’ article. The NGO Search for Common Ground has created radio soap operas and other formats to spread messages of good governance which have been well-received by millions of local citizens. As the Waisbord article mentions, there are doubts about the effectiveness of entertainment-education. So I’m curious to know if there are long-term and measurable effects of this entertainment-education campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Communication Technologies for Accountability article presents some stimulating points on the flow of information from the state to the citizens. The author does acknowledge that research on Western countries heavily influences the article due, in part, to a lack of comprehensive studies on developing countries and refers to the “limited scope” of the article. But, in spite of this, I think there are some substantial ideas that were presented. I think that there is potential for the convergence of ICT with traditional media to grow, over time, to become an effective tool for accountability.
I believe that these two publications have done an incredible amount of research and much of which may be very well intended, but we have to ask, what are the special interests? What do the other parties ie foreign stakeholders have to gain and at what cost? Maybe a culture of debt is not right for all or any societies. I mention this, because this is a publication written by the world bank and banks lend money or at the very least facilitate the exchange of money. I think that in order to better evaluate a situation as complex as this, we must also do some research into the roots of what causes a nation to be considered less than “1st World”. How did these “lesser nations” get here, was it always like this? If not what has or is still causing this?
http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/life-and-debt/ This documentary explores the dangers of outside intervention and the use of debt to, in theory help a nation, but actually prolong its economic suffering and or make it much much worse.
I think that it is absurd and an insult to the local people to say that the locals need outside assistance. According to this and many other documentaries, debt is actually a manipulative tool to gain more control over a nation and the people who inhabit it.
One other documentary film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui0NL3bb21o and or book that should be read for consideration is called “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” http://library.uniteddiversity.coop/Money_and_Economics/confessions_of_an_economic_hitman.pdf . This is a documentary and book that details the career of John Perkins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Perkins_(author) who claimed that he played a role in economic colonization of third world countries. It’s wildly entertaining to say the least and if any of it is true, then debt to third world nations is grossly immoral and highly dangerous to all civilizations.
When we read publications from places like the World Bank or a large corporation claiming to do well for the less needy in the world, we must also be aware of the other side as well, and wonder why are they doing what they are doing, what is their long-term goals, and ramifications for making those choices?
I didn’t have a chance to finish all the readings for this week, but I thought one idea that the author Odugbemi mentioned in Governance Reform was very interesting and provoking. In this book, he mentioned that public opinion being a key component of good governance and accountability, in which he further define the term “good governance” as “an excellent definition of the term in a development context is offered by the white paper published by the U.K Department for International Development (2006), the U.K government’s development ministry, titled Eliminating World Poverty: Making Governance Work for the Poor.” (Odugbemi, p.16) However, at this point, it makes me to realize that public opinion is not the only factor that matters, something more crucially to be fixed in most of the developing countries, especially in bureaucratic countries, is how the public opinion could be heard, and how the people oversees could respond to the public voice.
Later in this book, when talking about the democracy, the author indicates that “the democratic sphere is a force for capable, responsive, and accountable government, and it is a permanent, self-acting force. Second, it is a structural fundamental for any governance system keen on promoting accountability on a permanent basis. The only opponents of democratic public spheres are dictators and authoritarian regimes.” (Odugbemi, p.31) This I believe could be further discussed how do we define an “authoritarian regimes”, since from real time example, there were so many external factors may influence the ideology of democracy, social, racial, historical, political background could extremely influence the democratic process to the largest extent.
In Accountability Through Public Opinion, one question I was keep thinking was how do we make our government media more accountable?
The readings this week were very long yet equally thought-provoking. Each focuses on improving international development and global governance by emphasizing accountability through a citizen-government lens.
My initial reaction to the readings was that communication must play an integral role in the efforts to inform a nation and mobilize the citizens to hold their governments accountable.
Here are my questions:
1. What is new about the concept of accountability in the context of this article? The authors describe “accountability” as the new buzz word, but hasn’t it always been important? What innovation do they propose int his respect?
2. Are communication efforts strongest means to facilitate accountability? What does that mean for the other fields and sectors?
3. The readings touched on international development needing accountability. It made me wonder about the importance of accountability in developing nations as opposed to developed nations. Are these initiatives needed at the genesis of a developed nation or can they be implemented after a strong institution is already in place?
My first two questions respond to the quote found under the “Participation, Transparency, and Consensus Building in Support of Public Sector Reform: The Case of Nicaragua” case study:
“This experience demonstrates how communication can be used holistically in support of good governance, to build coalitions and constituencies around reforms, and to increase citizen demand for accountability and foster participation at the local level” (348).
While transparent communication increases public opinion and participation in a government, does it also prohibit corruption in by offering the public the opportunity to contribute to the reforms? Or is the purpose to solely convince the citizenship of the government’s current programs?
Does influencing participation through communication strategies increase access to propaganda, or does it regulate for a truthful analysis/identity of the government and its departments?
And in response to the “Gaining State Support for Social Accountability” section of “Accountability through Public opinion…” article, who defines social accountability? And is it determined by the citizens or large international organizations conducting these studies, like the World Bank that published this research?
My group and I are presenting on our case study tomorrow. The topic will be Reddit and the SOPA/PIPA protests. This is just a heads up if anyone is unfamiliar with the topic and wanted to look up some information before class tomorrow. See you then!
“Accountability through Public Opinion”
- One of the main takeaways I got from this reading was within the discussion of current state of South Africa’s media as it relates to public diplomacy. It is inferred that the power to continually refine public media participation and engagement rests within the hands of the national policy institutions or “gatekeepers.” I found this discussion analogous to the topic of social assimilation, wherein the dominant culture has the ultimate power of accepting the acculturation of outsiders. I make this connection because in both cases the delivery of service has little to do with individual influences and much more to do with the fundamental policies. Public participation is inherently limited by the amount of accountability of the state.
- On the other side of this issue, however, is the oppositional force of public organizations and individuals to construct platforms and public forums as a means of engaging and influencing public policy. The beneficial developments that are engendered through democratic participation are undeniable and inevitable. This article describes these participatory platforms of having the distinct ability to enhance the quality of public opinions, enable problem solving, and strengthen the relationships between the public and the officials.
“Governance Reform: Under Real-World Conditions” :
- Accountability plays a central role in this week’s readings. More specifically, the focus is on the specific mechanisms and practices necessary to ensure and protect the accountability of our governments. Some suggested fundamental aspects of governance accountability include an informed public opinion as well as a public democratic sphere. These institutions are created through overlapping, communicative subgroups and are vital especially within developing countries, where the ‘citizen voice’ holds a great amount of significance. These public spheres foster development and reform through engagement because their existence facilitates a dialogue between stakeholders.
-Do definitions of “accountability” translate across borders? Whose definition do you trust more— that of international aid organizations, civil society, or governments? Are there differences between how these groups look at accountability?
-How can newly democratizing societies, such as those that underwent the Arab Spring, communicate their needs to their newly-formed governments? How can they ensure that these new governments remain accountable to the people after years of dictatorships?
-How can governments gain the trust of indifferent or skeptical populations? What role do the media, education, civil society, private corporations, religious leaders, etc. play in this?