The Legislator’s Dilemma: Following or Moving against the Tide of Perverse Incentives

By Fletcher Tembo*

Listening to an expert discussion of the role of elected representatives in social accountability interventions at a recent event hosted by the Mwananchi Governance Programme and CIVICUS in Johannesburg on 16th May 2013, I was reminded of this quote by Joe Khamisi, a former Kenyan MP:

“Save, you may not see Parliament again”, one two-term Member liked to tell us. In many cases non-performers with deep pockets are preferred than stingy doers. “As much as possible, avoid your constituents in the first three years and show up only towards the last half of your term, with plenty of money!”

In response, a Member of Parliament (MP) from one of the countries where Mwananchi works said, “You need to put premium on leadership”. In other words, we should not expect leaders to deliver the change we want if society encourages them to pursue perverse incentives to attain and remain in office, and to achieve solutions to collective action problems. Continue reading

Pharaonic powers and a struggling Egypt

Seven people were killed on the night of 5 December in Cairo, Egypt, with reports of over 770 injured after peaceful protesters were attacked by Muslim Brotherhood supporters outside the Presidential Palace. They were there to protest the new draft constitution and a constitutional decree giving President Morsi nearly unrestricted powers when they were set upon by a mob.  Witnesses said Brotherhood members marched to the palace and tore down the opposition’s tents before throwing stones and using clubs to attack demonstrators. Clashes between both sides then ensued. Continue reading

What does Barack Obama’s re-election mean for Global Civil Society?

Progressive civil society across the globe breathed a collective sigh of relief on the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama. This was not because of the colour of Obama’s skin or the eloquence of his speeches. It is because the Republican proposition was outright dangerous: giving free rein to the narrow interests of mammoth corporations and pursuing an aggressive foreign policy bordering on war mongering.

The world is still reeling from a financial crisis precipitated by corporate excess and a lack of accountability. Unsustainable development and the pursuit of economic growth to serve the interests of the rich and powerful are fuelling climate change. Despite the hopefulness generated by last year’s people’s revolutions, intolerance and extremism are rising. Democratic governments are continuing to selectively invoke and manipulate the language of human rights to serve their own ends. The solution is not more but less war. Obama has done some to address the multiple integrated global crises but clearly he has not done enough. This time the expectations are much higher.

What the world needs is hope and “change we can believe in”. The kind promised by candidate Obama prior to his first presidential election. With a strong mandate from the people of the United States, the leader of the world’s most powerful country has a great opportunity to shape global events for the better while also enhancing U.S.’ adherence to the international human rights framework. From Civil Society’s perspective there are key issues that President Obama touched upon in his acceptance speech which will have a critical impact on the world as we know it. Continue reading

The proof of the pudding will lie in the eating: reflections from the IMF/World Bank Civil Society Forum and Annual Meetings

by Mandeep Tiwana, Policy and Advocacy Manager, CIVICUS

CIVICUS actively participated in the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Civil Society Forum and Annual Meetings from October 8-13. Some key activities that CIVICUS engaged in were: moderating the CSO town-hall meeting with the heads of the IMF and World Bank; participating in the CSO interaction with the World Bank Managing Directors; hosting a workshop on assessing an enabling environment for civil society; and contributing to discussions in workshops at the civil society forum.

During various meetings and interactions with World Bank and IMF staff, CIVICUS sought to seek answers to two critical questions:

First, the Arab Spring and pro-democracy movements around the globe have shown that development without freedom is meaningless. It is increasingly clear that economic stability and political freedoms are deeply entwined and that a vibrant civil society is a way to achieve both. How can multi-lateral institutions and their member governments collectively protect and promote a civil society enabling environment?

Second, pro-democracy protests, occupy movements and anti-corruption demonstrations have highlighted people’s frustration with governments ignoring their social contract with citizens and increasingly outsourcing the provision of basic services to the private sector at an enormous price to society as a whole. Yet, the language of public-private partnership continues to be touted as the panacea for all development. How do we ensure action on peoples’ demand for greater accountability from governments and the private sector? Continue reading

Finding common ground – faith-based organisations and a global alliance

CIVICUS research shows faith structures usually have the highest trust of any non-governmental formation. Faith-based CSOs may have particular routes to some sections of the public and the ability to reach and channel large pockets of support. At CIVICUS, we are seeking to build partnerships with FBOs in order to achieve greater impact in areas of common interest.

Civil Society in crisis: Civil Society funding and the way forward (23 May)

Many CSOs report declining funding, volatility and changing donor priorities, and in response are giving more attention to fundraising and diversification of funding sources. Financing for development and reforming the existing architecture of international aid are key issues on the global agenda for CSOs. Organised in conjunction with CIVICUS’ donors, this webinar hopes to explore techniques to weather these turbulent times.

Fulfilling the Promise of Busan: Moving from Principles to Impact – Oxfam session at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings

As many readers know, CIVICUS is an active player in the aid/development effectiveness dialogue, including in the lead up to the Busan High Level Forum last November/December and in its aftermath. During the Civil Society Policy Forum of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, Oxfam America organised a session and invited CIVICUS to join the panel of high level speakers. I represented CIVICUS on this panel.

By now, many of us at CIVICUS who speak on the subject have become a broken record (or shall I say, broken iPod player these days?), repeating the key phrases of (1) ‘democratic ownership’ and (2) an ‘enabling environment’ which will ensure the principle of democratic ownership. This is fine, as these key phrases need repeating many times and communicating to various stakeholders in many ways. Continue reading

Civil society engagement with the World Bank – glass half empty?

When John Garrison, Senior Civil Society Specialist at the World Bank, asked me to be on the panel to discuss the relationship between the World Bank/International Monetary Fund and civil society at the Civil Society Policy Forum of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, the first thing that came to my mind was Kumi’s distinction between access and impact.

The panel was titled ‘Advocating Policies with the IFIs: Opportunities, Constraints, and Lessons Learned’, and sponsored by the IMT and World Bank. My co-panellists were Mark Rentschler, Director of Campaigns, Bank Information Center (BIC), John Garrison and Karla Chaman, Senior Civil Society Officer at IMF. Continue reading

Changing face of civil society in the Caribbean?

Mark Nowottny is Coordination and Planning Manager at CIVICUS, and is currently based at the offices of CIVICUS member the Caribbean Policy Development Centre in Barbados.

On Tuesday 20 March, CIVICUS co-hosted, with the Association of Development Agencies, a national consultation in Kingston, Jamaica on the changing global environment and state of civil society. The consultation formed part of the CIVICUS alliance’s process of setting new strategic directions and a new civil society agenda for 2013 to 2017, but also explored the needs and possibilities for civil society strengthening in the Caribbean. Continue reading

Israel severs ties with UN Human Rights Council: what might the implications be?

The Israeli foreign ministry announced on 26 March 2012 that it has cut all contact with the UN Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Office and the Human Rights Treaty Bodies. Israel has refused to cooperate with a fact-finding mission to investigate the settlement issue and whether the rights of Palestinians are being abused.

A resolution authorising the inquiry into the impact of settlements on Palestinian rights was adopted on 22 March 2012 by the 47-member council with 36 votes in favour and 10 abstentions. Only the US voted against it. Continue reading