Making Local Democracy Accountable

Representatives from 10 countries met in Zambia in early December to review methodology from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).

The methodology, called the State of Local Democracy Assessment Framework (SoLD), allows people to carry out citizen-led assessments of local democracy.
It has already been tested in nine countries and is currently applied in Ghana, Indonesia, the Philippines (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), and Morocco.

Based on the challenging findings of assessment teams made up of academics and NGO representatives, delegates shared experiences and discussed the various strengths and weaknesses of the methodology.

Specific issues included challenges for assessment teams in conflict situations, urban versus rural contexts, the impact of informal institutions, the adequacy of methodology in capturing the gender dimension, and the need to include accountability for improving service delivery as a specific topic in the assessment.

On the final issue, a small team of experts of which I was part, was invited to contribute to the SoLD discussion and to work more specifically on IDEA’s methodology for assessing accountability in service delivery which was piloted in Lesotho, Bolivia and Indonesia in 2011 and which will be revised on the basis of these experiences in early 2012.

Renée Speijcken, Researcher, UNU-MERIT / Maastricht Graduate School of Governance.

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Reflections on Globelics 2011

BUENOS AIRES: The Global Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation, and Competence Building Systems (GLOBELICS) is an international network of scholars who apply the concept of ‘learning, innovation, and competence building system’ in developing countries, emerging economies and societies in transition.

This year the Globelics conference was held from 15th-17th November in Buenos Aires. Considering the large number of presentations and variety of research topics, the conference was well organized and the hosts did a splendid job to make the Buenos Aires conference a memorable one.

The event was like a walking bibliography of innovation studies and development, with many big names being present there. As in previous years, UNU-MERIT had a strong presence at the conference, and all our researchers, alumni and former visiting fellows made it feel like a family reunion.

Our director Luc Soete delivered one of the keynote speeches and then a group of UNU-MERIT senior scholars, researchers and PhD fellows presented their research, including Pierre Mohnen, Jacques Mairesse, Shyama Ramani, Micheline Goedhuys, Michiko Iizuka, Jojo Jacob, Francisco Aguayo,Salih Cevikarslan, Radhika Perrot, Alejandro Lavopa, Shuan SadreGhazi, Ezequiel Tacsir, Lilia Sturbin, Giorgio Triulzi and Daniel Vertesy.

What was interesting in this year’s conference was a special track on social and sustainable aspects of innovation, which were discussed under the theme ‘Inclusive Innovation’. In Latin America, with increasing inequality, ‘social warming’ has become a hot topic. IDRC Canada, which was one of the sponsors of the conference also organized an invitation-only workshop after the conference to discuss a new research agenda on Innovation for Inclusive Development. From UNU-MERIT, Shyama Ramani, Michiko Iizuka and Shuan Sadreghazi took part in the workshop.

It was also announced that next year’s Globelics conference will be held in Hangzhou, China, which the Chinese delegate referred to as ‘Paradise on Earth’.

Shuan Sadreghazi, PhD Fellow, UNU-MERIT

UN conference in Morocco: Empowering citizens to fight corruption

‘Corruption is personal, not only to me, but to everyone’Carman Louise Lapointe, Under Secretary General for Internal Oversight Services of the United Nations (UN OIOS)

MARRAKECH: With a personal short story from Canada, Carman Lapointe sparked a lively debate among officials, academics and journalists from over 30 countries on how to engage citizens in the fight against corruption in service delivery, and so ensure more effective and accountable development and governance.

Across six sessions and one working group scheduled over two days, 75 participants debated and exchanged the latest and most innovative approaches, technologies, experiences and insights from research and reality in anti-corruption and accountability.

The aim was to produce a joint list of recommendations for the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption which was running in parallel on the floor above us in a convention hall in Marrakech, Morocco.

What was my role?
I was invited by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an international NGO from Stockholm with whom I work on the issue of democratic accountability for improved service delivery. From this conference we expected an opportunity to meet and exchange views with leading academic experts, NGO representatives, policy makers and implementers in the area of anti-corruption and accountability which would inform and inspire our work. Yet the outcome of the workshop was mixed.

Despite the best intentions of the conference organizers, the format did not really showcase technologies and innovative interactive approaches. The agenda was over full, there were too many presenters in each session and timing was too tight, resulting in hardly any time for real interaction and debate. Individual presentations were mostly interesting but sessions as a whole lacked coherence and reference to their described objectives.

Still, the benefits of this kind of meeting are not always found in the official part of the programme. The real value lies in the moments around the main sessions, the moments waiting in line for registration and security checks, at meals and coffee breaks or shuttling between venues.

Fringe benefits
Here the real learning manifests as we bump into each other and start casual conversations that often end up in fascinating discussions in which views, insights,  research findings, experiences,  contact details and even our annoyances, are exchanged.

It was in these moments that I learned about some new and interesting approaches to analysing anti-corruption and democratic accountability, got some useful references and tips on how to involve citizens in e-governance and learned about what it means to fight corruption in one of West Africa’s most unstable countries. Here then I found what I was looking for, and some of these aspects will definitely inspire future work.

Some days later, another time and place, I find myself in a line again. Behind me is a man making a huge fuss; an officer comes forward and the man is taken aside; then clearly visible to those closest to the scene, he takes out his wallet and hands money to the official. He skips the line and is attended to in a separate office. After a few seconds we see him leave with a smile. One thing comes to mind right now: ‘Corruption is personal, it happens not only to me, but to everyone’.

Renée Speijcken, Researcher, UNU-MERIT / Maastricht Graduate School of Governance

Interview: Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene

MUMBAI: V.Ganapathy is former Special Correspondent for The Hindu newspaper and now an Advisor to the Friend In Need Trust. We wanted to know why he attended the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene, why these issues are important for India and other developing countries, and what he thought were the highlights of the conference. Read on below for his impressions and insights.

1) What were you personally involved in ?
As a journalist I was keenly interested in sustainable sanitation practices to keep the environment clean and healthy. The problems created by accumulation of bio-degradable and non bio-degradable waste are mounting everyday due to changes in lifestyle and increased consumerism. I was associated with SWM for over a decade and one of its main concerns was disposal of napkins. Hence I am now involved in safe and hygienic disposal of sanitary napkins in my capacity of an Executive Committee Member of the Menstrual Hygiene Management consortium of Tamil Nadu.

2) Why is this work important in India and elsewhere?
Several studies conducted in India have revealed that MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management) related diseases were high and often it resulted in a high rate of dropouts of girl students in schools during their adolescent period. The Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu have recently launched programs for free supply of Sanitary napkins to lakhs of students in schools to promote MHM. Without proper hygienic and environmentally friendly disposal of Sanitary napkins this program would have disastrous impact on health and hygiene. At present only about 30% of the women in India use sanitary napkins and they are concentrated mostly in urban areas. The Government program is focussing on free sanitary napkins in rural areas. Hence I thought that in rural areas people should be also made aware of safe and hygienic disposal of sanitary napkins to prevent any disastrous impact on the environment when the program is fully implemented.

3) What in your opinion were the highlights of the conference?
It is unacceptable that 2.6 billion people in the world are without toilets and are unable to fulfil their daily needs with safety, convenience and dignity. Recent analysis of programs towards the Millennium Development Goals has revealed that the world will miss the sanitation MDG target by more than 500 million people primarily in Africa, Southern Asia and Eastern Asia. The WSSCC(The Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council) organized the conference for sharing, learning, strategizing and accelerating the 21st century’s sanitation and hygiene issues. The conference helped the participants in understanding the need for location specific regional approach for changing the mindset of the people who were not having toilets to demand toilets. Though funding is not a major problem globally for the Sanitation sector in reality it was found that enough money was not available for taking all out efforts and suitable IEC(Information,Education & Communication) programs to shift sanitation from a target oriented supply driven program to a demand driven program. The need for a variety of models of toilets to suit different countries and communities as per their traditions and cultural practices was better understood. The experiences shared will result in a change in the focus to make world an open defecation free world.
For the first time MHM was given a high priority sector in the programs for improving sanitation and also ensure that women who constitute 50% of the global population could lead a dignified and healthy life by better MHM practices.


Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene: Day Two Snapshot

MUMBAI: The second day of the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene witnessed some compelling themes on behavioural change for sustainable sanitation practices, active initiatives for a pro-poor change in the sanitation and hygiene domain and also about the driving force of leaders in this spectrum. Speakers such as David Kuria (co-founder of Eco Tact, Kenya; presentation on Global Challenges, Local Innovations) and participants alike invoked the need for identification and promotion of social entrepreneurs, for inclusive development in addressing the issues of urban sanitation.

A plenary discussion on the science of behaviour change and social transformation programmes through contemporary case studies (Balbir Pasha-HIV/AIDS) signalled a new dimension of striking social media campaigns in urban sanitation strategies.

I was also drawn to the photo exhibition by the Visual Anthropologist, O. P. Singh on the ‘Urban Right to Water and Sanitation’, which highlighted the urgent need for safe sanitation ‘hardwares and softwares’ in Delhi. He was of the opinion that debates about Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and presentation on behavioural change, marking the key programmes of the second day of the forum, presented sanitation issues in an episodic manner and did not clearly bring out the sundry strata of beneficiaries where each of these issues and associated solutions can be applied.

Lastly, safe sanitation and water go hand in hand, yet the issue of accessibility to water and water management found little prominence today. This should be an essential discussion for later in the conference.

Praveen Kumar, research associate of Professor Shyama Ramani

Changing Behaviour for Safe Sanitation Practices: The Role of the Private Sector

MUMBAI: The exploration of private sector partnerships is clearly important in the drive for behavioural change in safe sanitation and hygiene practices. In this regard, the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene gave a positive impetus through case studies of sanitary napkins and soaps.

Particularly insightful was the Lifebuoy Behaviour Change Journey, a private sector partnership which contributes to tacit behaviour change around core sanitation practices (washing hands, use of soaps for washing hands, and washing hands at important occasions).

Anila Gopalakrishnan, the Lifebuoy Social Mission Manager for UniLever India gave a presentation on ‘Key features on large scale behaviour change programme’ and provided the ‘Big Idea-School of 5 campaigns’. Anila stressed the need to influence children at school, during their formative years, to inculcate sanitation practices as a habit. “Pervading sustainable, robust and safe sustainable practices among children is easier and shows permanence of the same,” remarked Anila.

The Lifebuoy social mission aims to contribute to behavioural transformation of 1 billion people by promoting the use of soap in their handwashing practices.

Praveen Kumar, research associate of Professor Shyama Ramani