I must say I appreciated the theme of this week’s readings being on accountability and governance in communication for development – as opposed to the long and sordid history of straight IC4D we studied last week.
I think an overall lesson I take from this area of activity in development is that when the local culture is better understood by the foreign actor – understanding that comes from many years of imbedded living, communicating, learning and action – and the local partners trust the foreigners, those are the circumstances under which effective change on the ground takes place. Most western models have foreign actors in development parachute in to an environment for a few months or a few years, and powerful connections and relationships are lost, or are not made.
I witnessed this in Mauritania. One of the more successful NGOs in Nouakchott had been established in the early 1990’s and of the two full-time managing Americans who worked there, one had been in place for more than 20 years, the other for more than 10. They did regularly have volunteers for less than a year who came in to do various kinds of work, but the deep relationships from the time the leadership had invested built a foundation of trust, respect, and accountability that made their initiatives and programs far more successful. Because they, too, had become very real stakeholders in the community, the community trusted them more.
In Taking Direct Accountability Seriously, some points that stood out, the authors argued that crystalized public opinion is necessary for accountability and good governance. Accountability was found to require the activation and mobilization of public demands. This ties in with our readings of people and networks. The melding of horizontal and vertical media systems is making it harder for governments to be immune to public demands or for public opinion to remain latent. Though as the authors pointed out, effective communication is necessary to achieve an informed and mobilized public.
But will the activation and mobilization of public demands lead to development and good governance in the anticipated direction?
In Governance Reform under Real World Conditions, the authors argue that public opinion is a critical part of governance and an essential part of the good governance architecture. The strength of governance reform and poverty reduction was found to lie with the citizens and their ability to voice out their needs. Dialogue is central to these ideas. Reaching the citizens however, may depend on the existing government. This reading ties in with the class discussions on the role of communication for development and poverty reduction. The challenge is to determine the communication model and network that will engage citizens and crystallize their needs for effective poverty reduction.
I enjoyed how he discussed how there are practical ways to create citizen mobilization by inspiring and through motivation. I liked how there is a difference between the “forum movement” that tries to create a face-to-face discussion in citizen democracy. I think it is important to highlight that the growth in powerful countries has made the growth of globalization promote widely used and more advanced forms of communication. This new world of communication has created a “smaller world” which links new practical ways of face-to-face diplomacy together.
I think it is extremely important to note that we should place attention on the context surrounding civic participation. The context forms how citizens create their personal opinion from the information that they are given. Their opinions do not simply arise out of no background, rather context plays a key role in developing sentiments. The types of rule that citizens are living under dramatically effect how the public forms their opinion on a matter–certainly when the concepts are political.
A very intriguing piece to me is that the author discusses how journalists can live in a state of fear in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With threats of death, killings, torture, and capture, the nation has established a poor national brand for journalists that I argue negatively affects on public and traditional diplomacy. This limited role that media can play creates silence and gives arguably dangerous power to the government.
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?
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?