Can social media help anti-corruption drives? A Nigerian case study

Tolu Olarewaju, Staffordshire University

Corruption can have a crippling effect on a country’s economy. This is why African businesses have described ending corruption as “priority number one”.

Take Nigeria, where the basic infrastructure deficit is huge but funds to improve its infrastructure always seem to end up missing or misallocated. In addition, projects are started and never finished. As a result the country’s roads, rail and ports are in a deplorable state.

Nigerians also suffer from persistent electricity shortages. They lack pipe-borne water and proper sanitation facilities. Housing provision is a problem too.

The country has spent billions of US dollars to resuscitate its power and transport sectors. But it has very little to show for it. Nigeria is not alone. Researchers often report that infrastructure spending is regularly used by public officers and government officials across the continent to misappropriate funds.

Tackling corruption is notoriously difficult. Once it’s embedded in a country’s systems it’s difficult to weed out. But a fresh approach is being pursued in Nigeria – with some startling results. Ordinary citizens are mobilising the use of technology and social media to produce evidence that’s used to hold officials to account.

Our research set out to discover whether the use of technology and social media by ordinary citizens to monitor infrastructure projects could result in more infrastructure projects being completed – and could also lessen corruption.

A version of this approach has been tried in countries like Peru and South Korea. Nigeria seems to be the first – at least on the African continent – to monitor infrastructure projects in this way.

Our research found, for example, that the camera feed showing the construction of the second river Niger bridge, and similar schemes by Tracka gave citizens the power to monitor infrastructure projects. It also increased transparency and could be used to hold the government and engineering firms that build infrastructure to account.

But we also found that there were challenges. For example, citizens needed data and power to monitor infrastructure projects. Neither was always available.

The approach

Monitoring projects has been used by firms and the government as a way to provide more transparency.

For example, research from Uganda shows that corrupt government officials were less able to siphon money for their own enrichment when citizens knew where money was supposed to go and could therefore monitor spending; the diversion of funds fell by 12% over six years.

Research from Kenya also showed that public monitoring of government projects reduced corruption by 20%.

In Nigeria, we investigated infrastructure projects that were monitored by citizens and compared these to infrastructure projects that weren’t monitored. We found that there was a positive link between citizens using technology and social media to monitor infrastructure projects and better completion rates and standards for the infrastructure projects.

Generally, when government officials and infrastructure building engineering firms knew that they were being monitored, they didn’t want to get caught out. In certain cases, citizens were able to engage with the ministry of works and their state governor and use social media to engage in discussions about the project.

By taking pictures of the proposed infrastructure sites and tagging their state governors or representatives in regular posts about the infrastructure projects, civic participation was encouraged. Although there was no often response in the first instance, the high visibility generated by social media and the threat of losing forthcoming elections often resulted in the infrastructure projects being completed. But this was only for projects that citizens could monitor – and there are too few of these. Even we struggled to find many.

Our investigations also revealed that frequent offline and online discussions created awareness about the infrastructure projects and helped citizens to suggest projects that would be useful for their communities.

Challenges to this approach

This approach is not without its challenges.

For example, citizens needed key information to monitor infrastructure projects properly. This included the type, cost, key stages and duration of the projects. Only then would they be able to compare what was actually happening before their eyes to what had been budgeted for so they could alert the relevant authorities as soon as there were discrepancies.

Mobile network technology and access to social media platforms are also needed to make this work.

There were also social and cultural issues. Some citizens didn’t want to engage with social media and technology for personal reasons. In addition, when evidence of corruption was reported by citizens, some saw this as a politically motivated attack. The result was that they lashed out instead of trying to solve the corruption being exposed.

Other challenges included:

  • a lack of clear penalties for individuals involved with monitored infrastructure projects that not completed, or not completed to a decent standard;
  • a lack of follow up by the relevant anti-corruption authorities; and
  • not enough being done when there were clear cases of standards not being met.

Implications

Technology and social media can be used as effective tools by citizens to monitor infrastructure projects. But this isn’t enough on its own. It can only be effective if budgets are also made fully visible.

This would enable citizens to know what they are monitoring and what to look for. Citizens would be wise to demand such transparency: honest governments will have nothing to fear.

This points to the need for a comprehensive approach to tackling corruption. This would need to include transparency and offline and online citizen engagement. In this context, technology and social media could be used as complementary tools.

If African governments and infrastructure building engineering firms on the continent are really concerned about corruption and want to show that they have nothing to hide, they can use this approach to gain more trust from the citizenry.The Conversation

Tolu Olarewaju, Lecturer in Economics, Staffordshire University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Can digital really revolutionise health and education in the Global South?

Post written by Elizabeth Stuart, executive director of the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on inclusive technology. Originally published here

One of many puzzles in development is that increasing spending on health and education doesn’t necessarily deliver expected results.

To turn this on its head: Madagascar, Bangladesh and South Africa all have similar child mortality rates, but South Africa spends 19 times more than Madagascar and 13 times more than Bangladesh on healthcare.

Indeed this apparent paradox is one of the reasons why so many countries rushed to be part of the World Bank’s Human Capital Project, as they sought answers to precisely this question.

The Pathways to Prosperity Commission’s latest report is in part an attempt to provide a way through this puzzle by asking: what can technology do (if anything) to improve effectiveness and efficiency in health and education?

And because we’re a commission on inclusive technology, we also looked at whether tech can increase equity of access and outcomes.

This is what we found: there are lots of sensible reasons to be deeply sceptical about technology in this area. History is littered with pilots that worked for a while, but weren’t sustainable, such as the One Laptop per Child initiative in Peru, which 15 months after it started, had no measurable effects on maths and reading scores, in part because teachers hadn’t been trained on how to incorporate the laptops into their teaching. And this isn’t limited to developing countries: there are also cautionary tales from the US.

In other words digital can’t be just seen as a simplistic fix to analogue problems.

But, where policy makers started with a proper understanding of problems that need to be resolved, and assessed delivery obstacles and constraints by analysing the whole system, rather than just asking why a tablet in a classroom is not delivering results, we found clear evidence that technology is already significantly boosting outcomes

In India, a study of a free after-school programme that introduced Mindspark, a digital personalised learning service, showed improvements in mathematics assessment scores of up to 38% in less than five months.

In Uganda, the web-based application MobileVRS has helped increase birth registration rates in the country from 28% to 70%, at the very low cost of $0.03 per registration – thus helping decision-makers track health outcomes and improve access to services. And mental health patients in Nigeria who received SMS reminders for their next appointment were twice as likely to attend as patients receiving standard paper-based reminders.

But – and this is where it gets even more exciting – we also found evidence to suggest that in the near future, digital technologies will offer the promise to transform not just results, but the entire system.

For example, careful and deliberate low-cost data collection will make it possible for health and education systems, supported by digital technologies and artificial intelligence, to continuously learn and improve both standard practice and decision-making by creating feedback loops at every level. Projects such as BID (Better Immunization Data) in Zambia and Tanzania give us a glimpse of how, with the right tools and training, frontline providers can use data to improve their work.

By capturing and processing large volumes of individual data, technology will make personalised diagnosis and intervention possible in both health and education. It takes skill, training and time for a doctor to develop a personalised treatment plan or a teacher to personally coach a student, but algorithms can use test scores and patient records to design and implement individual plans at little cost.

Systems could also become more proactive to ensure services get to the people that need them most. In the health sector, this is starting to emerge in programmes that use community data to identify high-risk patients for active outreach. In education, it will allow more precise targeting of pupils whose learning is lagging.

Source: World Bank (2019d), Gapminder (2019), Pathways Commission analysis. Note: This figure uses data from 2013. Expenditure is adjusted for purchasing power parity, and is reported as 2011 international dollars. The size of a circle represents a country’s population.

 

And digital technologies also offer the means to explicitly focus on those who are left behind by current service delivery models. In Mali, a proactive community case management programme initiated by the NGO Muso contributed to a remarkable 10-fold decline in child mortality; the success of free door step health care is amplified with a dashboard and devices for community health workers. In Uganda, a portable ultrasound device, called Butterfly iQ allows healthcare workers to use their mobile phone as a scanner, anytime and anywhere.

But these visions will not come to fruition automatically. For most, the right digital infrastructure will need to be in place. This means access to electricity and the internet and digital skills, as well as clear rules for data governance and privacy will be essential. New regulations, protocols and rules will need to be established to guard against privacy violations, data misuse and algorithmic bias. And most importantly, even the most effective system will not frontload outcomes for the poorest if there is no deliberate effort to do so.

Urging caution on deployment is perhaps counterintuitive for a tech commission, but having seen many of the quick fix mistakes of the past we know for sure what doesn’t work. But what we also know is that, done right, and delivered at scale, technologically-enhanced health and education systems and the right digital connectivity, could unlock benefits that could be genuinely distributed to all – and that would be revolutionary.

This article was originally published on the From Poverty to Power blog

The man with a tablet for making aid to African countries better

Struck by failings in the implementation of health projects, a Mozambican entrepreneur has turned to tech for a solution.

The Guardian reports this week that Dayn Amade, founder of Maputo-based technology company Kamaleon, is calling for the World Health Organization and aid groups to reassess how people on the African continent are educated about disease prevention.

“Aid efforts are being hampered by a failure to educate people on the question of why prevention is needed, and by organisations’ ability to tailor messages to local communities,” he said.

Amade is the creator of a digital platform called the community tablet, an interactive platform through which people can be educated and informed about issues impacting their lives. The device, which runs on up to six large, solar-powered LCD screens and is transported on a trailer, can be attached to anything from a car to a donkey, enabling it to reach even the most remote or isolated rural communities.

Dayn Amade
Dayn Amade, founder and CEO of Kamaleon, brings internet access to remote areas. Photograph: Courtesy Kamaleon

You can read the full story here

Content and photos Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Another successful year for Africa Integrity Indicators!

This article was first published on the Global Integrity website here

 

Global Integrity is pleased to announce the release of provisional data for the seventh round of its Africa Integrity Indicators (AII), available here.

This provisional data is available for public comment until May 31, 2019. We invite interested stakeholders to examine the data and share any feedback that can help increase its quality and usefulness. Don’t be shy – We value your input!

Preliminary findings

Below are some of our preliminary findings, but stay tuned! In the upcoming weeks, we will be starting a conversation to better understand how our data could help support your work.

The independence of the judiciary is under threat: In several countries, notably Ghana and Kenya, governments have taken steps to hamper the independence of the judiciary.

Bypassing public procurement guidelines: While regulations are supposed to control public procurement, there is a surge of contracts awarded without competition in Liberia, Benin and Mauritania. In Kenya, allegations of corruption in public procurement are increasing.

Crackdown on the publication of information: While some countries made progress towards open publication of information (notably Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, with substantial improvement from last year), more countries regressed, experiencing more censorship and/or self-censorship of media organizations and citizens’ online content (social media, blogs, etc).

What is the Africa Integrity Indicators Project, anyway?

Every year since 2013, the Africa Integrity Indicators project assesses the state of governance and aspects of social development across all 54 African countries. It produces qualitative data through 102 indicators in 13 categories addressing transparency and accountability, as well as social development.

The Africa Integrity Indicators data is a stand-alone assessment published by Global Integrity. It presents snapshots of evidence for each indicator, providing a score, the justification, and supporting sources.

Our goal is simple: to build accurate and reliable data, with an interface that enables the data to be examined at the country level (say, by tracking a country’s progress over time with regards to one particular indicator), and at the subject level (say, by comparing different countries’ performance on one indicator).

We want our data to empower actors at the national and regional and international levels working to advance governance reforms, and to foster a discussion on how governance challenges can be tackled.

We also strive to be rigorous and transparent; you can find our methodology here.

What’s new this year?

Previous rounds have addressed both “in law” and “in practice” indicators. In this round, we decided to focus solely on the “in practice” indicators. This is because prior rounds have highlighted “implementation gaps,” or the lag between the adoption of regulations aiming to improve certain issues, and the actual improvement on the ground.

So this year, we are prioritizing citizen’s experience in practice. (Don’t worry, we’ll include updates on the laws every three years to make sure we capture big changes and continue to provide a basis for assessing the implementation gap, a measure which we continue to feel provides an important starting point for understanding whether and why gaps persist, and what might be done to close the implementation gap).

How is our data unique?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can you use our data?

Our work has been used by several institutions. Data that we collect against a number of questions feed into the Ibrahim Index of African Governance and into the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) by the World Bank. Through the WGI, the data also provides the Millennium Challenge Corporation with information that informs its decisions about country eligibility for Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts.

But you can use our data, too!

Our dataset is a practical entry point for research, advocacy and action:

  • Transparent: our methodology and sources are transparent, and data is open source;
  • Efficient: for each indicator, scores make it quick and easy to identify patterns across countries and across time;
  • Action-oriented: indicators are based on fact-based and country-specific qualitative research, which provides insight on what should be priorities for reforms.

This article was first published on the Global Integrity website here

Join the conversation!

We want to hear from you. Check out our preliminary data and give us your feedback. You have 2 months to help us improve our work!

If you have comments on specific facts and narratives or if you have suggestions related to the accuracy of our research, please contact us at aii@globalintegrity.org.

If you have general comments and suggestions about the usefulness of the data, how you use it, and how it can be improved, please submit your feedback in this form or the aforementioned email address. You can also connect with us on Twitter (@GlobalIntegrity).

Overcoming Hurdles to Citizen Activism for Fiscal Governance

By Shaazka Beyerle and Davin O’Regan. Originally posted here

 

Policy and programs seeking to advance transparency and accountability in public budgets have tended to focus on the state apparatus. Whether it be new laws that require greater openness or punish malfeasance or entirely new commissions and regulatory agencies to strengthen checks and balances, many initiatives focus internally on the state – the civil service, the courts, the legislature, or the executive.

These efforts are critical for enhancing accountable fiscal governance, but they are insufficient for producing lasting change or surmounting some of the tallest reform hurdles. Oftentimes they are simply subverted or coopted by persons in power. As a result, they have limited ability to reduce corruption, which in turn means they cannot stem the continued loss of government funds necessary for public investments nor the political destabilization and potentially violent conflict-inducing effects of an increasingly aggrieved and frustrated citizenry.

Reform, however, is not always the result of technocratic tinkering and innovation but can be driven by popular, broad-based citizen action. Whether it be labor or environmental policies or various human and civil rights issues, social movements deploying various nonviolent tactics have consistently demonstrated the ability to achieve genuine – sometimes transformative – shifts in policy and government performance. The underlying dynamic involves grassroots organizing to amplify citizen voices and wield power.

Can such bottom-up citizen initiatives be fostered to advance fiscal governance? Based on a series of interviews and focus group engagements with transparency and accountability reform advocates in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ukraine conducted as part of a United States Institute of Peace (USIP) project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, activists recounted two major challenges in mobilizing grassroots citizens for fiscal governance, and some lessons from our own initial research approach revealed a third challenge.

Challenge 1: Fiscal governance issues are technical and not immediately accessible for average citizens

The topic itself is arcane and technical, and therefore not immediately accessible for average citizens. As one activist in Kenya noted, there already is quite a bit of information on budgeting and spending available in Kenya, but “the question is how do you channel these things in an understandable ways that then create the [popular] action that is required” to pressure for more reform. In Ukraine, an anti-corruption advocate lamented that a new technological initiative to increase access to budgetary details of one oblast administration “gave citizens a tool to control budget funds but the other problem is that people don’t really understand it.” Another Ukrainian activist echoed the same sentiment, saying that the “end user [i.e., citizen] doesn’t really understand new anti-corruption terms and we have to explain in detail.”

Surveys of individuals’ experiences with bribery and corruption in Europe and Central Asia reinforce this notion of a substantial learning curve to actively mobilizing citizens in efforts to improve transparency or accountability. In most countries, difficulty in reporting incidents due to a lack of knowledge of how, where, or the associated costs to do so were consistently cited as the top reasons individuals did not report bribery or corruption, more so than fear of retaliation or a sense that there would be no consequences for the perpetrator.

Challenge 2: Maintaining mobilization after bursts of activism

Activists in Nigeria, Kenya, and Ukraine also cited sustainability as a challenge. Fiscal transparency and accountability are ongoing struggles, and maintaining mobilization after bursts of activism is difficult. A scandal might briefly grab headlines and galvanize popular support around the investigation of a specific individual, but it is hard to prolong citizen participation in the budgetary process or to monitor outputs and projects. Likewise, disillusionment can set in after grand victories that do not immediately result in perceptible accountability gains, such as the 2010 constitutional referendum in Kenya or recent electoral transitions in Nigeria. In Ukraine, many citizens were encouraged by the slew of dramatic, positive reforms that emerged following the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014, but, one activist noted, by 2018 “people began to lose confidence in reforms and that these reforms are being implemented effectively…there are doubts regarding how it is all going and whether it’s the right way or not.”

Challenge 3: Transparency and accountability activists rely heavily on support from external actors

Many of the activists and organizations we encountered were heavily reliant on financial assistance from external actors. Our research sought to understand the effects of this support on the impact and effectiveness of transparency and accountability campaigners. To do so we endeavored to interview and engage domestically funded organizations and activists and compare their experiences and approach to foreign funded groups. It proved difficult. Attempts at snowballing from foreign funded groups as well as outreach to in-country representatives of external actors produced few candidates. We did try reaching out to labor organizers and activists within religious organizations, given that these often have reliable domestic resources, but they typically did not work directly on transparency and accountability issues. Some independent or newer activists were referred to us, but they also did not always work on these issues, and some actually did obtain grants or foreign support over the course of our research.

Although our research has not yet concluded, a few factors seem to be at play. In some countries, there may just be limited activism around transparency and accountability that isn’t reliant to some extent on foreign funding, or such activism may be of such a different nature that it would be difficult to compare to externally financed organizations and groups even if we were able to identify and research it. Alternatively, initial groups and key informants we contacted may be so detached from domestically resourced movement actors that snowballing was not a viable technique for reaching them. For instance, there have been notable citizen- led and -funded efforts in other countries, such as the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan’s experience in India, discussed by Nikhil Dey in a previous Fiscal Futures post.

How can activists overcome these challenges and mobilize citizens?

First, take cues from the grassroots. As was the case with the Indian Right to Information movement profiled in the aforementioned blog post, the entry point is not rallying the public around abstract fiscal transparency issues and technocratic measures, but linking these directly to immediate problems. “We would like to have proper toilets, fit to be used by humans, disabled people and children,” declared Bukela Gincana, a social audit volunteer in South Africa. Insufficient, substandard sanitation afflicts marginalized communities and can lead to gender-based and communal violence. Up to 50 people share one toilet, many with no locks, and women have been raped at night, reported residents in Wattville, a collection of informal settlements in Cape Town. From 2015-2016, the Social Audit Network (SAN), Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the International Budget Partnership South Africa, and citizens engaged in two social audits focusing on sanitation service outsourcing. SJC, a “membership-based social movement” also launched a campaign to include the poor in budget decisions. Nonviolent tactics ranged from research, community organizing, education/training, engagement with locals/sanitation workers/officials, and advocacy, to physical inspections, protests, stunts, and citizen-state public forums. Finally, residents flooded the municipality with 3,000 formal submissions concerning the draft Cape Town budget, a creative mass action combining institutional and extra-institutional pressure.

A more recent example comes from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. ReAcción, a youth-led hybrid civil society organization, has been mobilizing students for several years to map and monitor disbursements for public school infrastructure from FONACIDE (National Public Investment and Development Fund) in order to impact corruption and channel funds to marginalized schools prioritized by the Ministry of Education. After David Riveros García, reAcción’s founder, encountered difficulties building anti-corruption awareness amongst high school students, in 2013 he and friends latched on to public discontent over FONACIDE’s weak transparency and monitoring mechanisms and ensuing scandals.

Second, it may not be love at first sight. Even when their grievances and problems are central to the civic initiative, citizens won’t be clamoring to jump on the fiscal transparency bandwagon. Apathy, low self-confidence, and sometimes fear can be common obstacles. Nonviolent action initiatives cultivating collective responsibility, collective ownership, and collective identity help to overcome these challenges. ReAcción underscored to fellow students that they should be FONACIDE’s beneficiaries; corruption affected them and their schools; and they could make an impact. High-schoolers had a role in planning and decision-making, and through peers learned useful skills not only for monitoring but also for their own development, including dialoguing with elites, data visualization, and computer programming.

Third, spice it up. To get citizens involved in fiscal transparency, civic initiatives have added contextually-relevant culture, humor, fellowship, and social recognition into communications, skills,  leadership-building, engagement, and nonviolent tactics. In Wattville, community volunteers canvassed fellow residents. They wore easily recognizable in T-shirts with slogans such as, “Sanitation is dignity” and “Sifuna Ukwazi Iqiniso (We Want to Know the Truth).

Fourth, invest in education. IBP not only helped to gain documents from Cape Town’s municipality, it carried out local trainings in public finance, budget analysis, and procurement. The fiscal governance field can also support capacity building in effective grassroots engagement. At present, there seems to be an over-emphasis on “sustaining mobilization” and an under-investment in community-organizing, movement building, and leadership.

Fifth, develop incremental goals with tangible outcomes. According to scholar-practitioner Marshall Ganz, “without clear outcomes, neither leaders nor participants have any way to evaluate success or failure, to learn, or to experience the feedback essential to motivation.” How does this play out for fiscal transparency? Over two years, the Cape Town social audits yielded new toilets, improved employment conditions for janitors, citizen input into the subsequent tender document, and more generally, improved citizen-state communication. Moreover, in 2018, SJC, SAN, IBP, Planact, and the Wattville and Thembelihle communities joined forces to expand social audits to ten informal settlements. The objectives are not only to improve fiscal governance and direct sanitation service, but to change government systems. In Paraguay – through annual mapping and visualizations of the administrative process, cross-data research and visualizations, and monitoring of selected schools – reAcción’s volunteers contributed to increasing FONACIDE’s transparency from the Ministry of Education down to Ciudad del Este. Recently, reports Riveros García, the General Auditor’s report sent to President Abdo Benítez included the youth group’s 2018 Annual Report on the management of FONCIDE funds.

Fiscal governance poses unique challenges for activists. Annual budgets, government accounting, and procurement regulations are unlikely to turn average people to the streets. But dedicated efforts to punch through these more abstruse procedures and link them to citizen’s immediate well-being can help mobilize popular support for fiscal responsibility.

Shaazka Beyerle is a Senior Research Advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Davin O’Regan is Senior Program Officer for Nonviolent Action at the U.S. Institute of Peace. They oversee several research initiatives that examine the impact of foreign donor support for activists and social movement organizations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ukraine, Guatemala, Zimbabwe, and Burma.

World facing a global compassion deficit finds new CIVICUS report

Civil society organisations providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees are being targeted as the world faces a crisis of global compassion.

This alarming trend is one of the findings of the State of Civil Society Report 2019, an annual report by global civil society alliance CIVICUS, which looks at events and trends that impacted on civil society in the past year.

In one cited example, the Italian government prevented a boat operated by international medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from docking in Italy, leaving it stranded at sea for a week with more than 700 passengers, including unaccompanied minors. In the USA, organisations were prevented from leaving life-saving water supplies for people making the hazardous journey across the desert from Mexico.

“Civil society, acting on humanitarian impulses, confronts a rising tide of global mean-spiritedness, challenging humanitarian values in a way unparalleled since the Second World War,” said Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General.

“We need a new campaign, at both global and domestic levels, to reinforce humanitarian values and the rights of progressive civil society groups to act,” added John.

According to the report, in Europe, the USA and beyond – from Brazil to India – right wing populists, nationalists and extremist groups are mobilising dominant populations to attack the most vulnerable. This has led to an attack on the values behind humanitarian response as people are being encouraged to blame minorities and vulnerable groups for their concerns about insecurity, inequality, economic hardship and isolation from power. This means that civil society organisations that support the rights of excluded populations such as women and LGBTQI people and stand up for labour rights are being attacked.

As narrow notions of national sovereignty are being asserted, the international system is being rewritten by powerful states, such as China, Russia and the USA, that refuse to play by the rules. Borders and walls are being reinforced by rogue leaders who are bringing their styles of personal rule into international affairs by ignoring existing institutions, agreements and norms.

The report also points to a startling spike in protests relating to economic exclusion, inequality and poverty, which are often met with violent repression, and highlights a series of flawed and fake elections held in countries around the world in the last year.

“Democratic values are under strain around the globe from unaccountable strong men attacking civil society and the media in unprecedented – and often brutal – ways,” said Andrew Firmin, CIVICUS’ Editor-in-Chief and the report’s lead author.

2018 was a year in which regressive forces appeared to gain ground. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in all countries around the world, civic space – the space for civil society – is now under serious attack in 111 of the world’s nations – well over half of all countries. Only four per cent of the world’s population live in countries where our fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are respected and enabled.

But the past year was also one in which committed civil society activists fought back against the rising repression of rights. From the successes of the global #MeToo women’s rights movement to the March for Our Lives gun reform movement led by high school students in the USA to the growing school strike climate change movement, collective action gained ground to claim breakthroughs.

“Despite the negative trends, active citizens and civil society organisations have been able to achieve change in Armenia, where a new political dispensation is in place, and in Ethiopia, where scores of prisoners of conscience have been released,” said John.

The report makes several recommendations for civil society and citizen action. The report calls for new strategies to argue against right-wing populism while urging progressive civil society to engage citizens towards better, more positive alternatives. These include developing and promoting new ideas on economic democracy for fairer economies that put people and rights at their centre. Notably, the report calls for reinforcing the spirit of internationalism, shared humanity and the central importance of compassion in everything we say and do.

Ends.

For an executive summary of the report, click here.

For the full report, click here.

Further reading:

Access the CIVICUS Monitor here and for more information on the latest CIVICUS Monitor ratings, click here.

About the State of Civil Society Report 2019

Each year the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report examines the major events that involve and affect civil society around the world. This report looks back at the key stories of 2018 for civil society – the most significant developments that civil society was involved in, responded to and was impacted by.

Our report is of, from and for civil society, putting front and centre the perspectives of a wide range of civil society activists and leaders close to the major stories of the day. In particular, it presents findings from the CIVICUS Monitor, our online platform that tracks threats to civic space in every country.

For further information or to request interviews with CIVICUS staff and contributors to this report, please click here or contact: media@civicus.org

Can mining be corruption-free?

Recently, Cape Town in South Africa hosted one of its biggest events of the year: The Mining Indaba.

With two heads of state, 35 government ministers, and the world’s biggest mining companies attending thousands of meetings, and securing millions of dollars’ worth of deals — this conference remains the leading deal-making forum for the mining sector.

A couple of kilometres to the east, the industrial suburb of Woodstock hosted the Alternative Mining Indaba: a considerably less flashy congregation of community groups, church groups, and non-government organisations — including, of course, us, Transparency International (TI).

(Actually, our team worked around the clock attending both conferences and various side-events around South Africa’s beachfront city.)

So why is TI interested in this multi-billion dollar global industry?

It will come as no surprise to most people that corruption affects the extractive industries.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire — or in this case, where there’s money, lurks the risk of corrupt individuals abusing their entrusted power for private gain.

Remarkably, a quarter of all corruption cases in the oil, gas and mining sectors arise at the very start of those extractive projects?

This startling fact motivates us — a network of 20 TI chapters working in some of the world’s most resource-rich countries — to take a closer look at the very start of the mining value-chain: the awarding of mining licences, permits and contracts. If we can improve the system and ensure mining projects are developed on clean, accountable and transparent foundations, then the rest of the mining project is more likely to be corruption-free.

We need to tackle corruption in mining because when corruption compromises an industry as large, impactful and capital-intensive as the extractive industries, everyone loses.

People stand to lose their share of their nation’s mineral wealth, the cohesion of their communities and the health of their environments. Governments stand to lose important sources of revenue for public services such as schools or hospitals, and politicians risk losing the trust and confidence of citizens. Companies also stand to lose the business certainty and community support they need to secure their operations.

TI is working across our 20 country-strong network to shine a light on the often complex and obscure processes governing how mining licenses are granted. We are building coalitions against corruption across government, industry, civil society and community groups; and we are strengthening bonds across our anti-corruption networks to share information, tools and contacts.

This is a type of corruption that is not often spoken about but has serious impacts on human rights.

“Communities should feel and be part of the transformation,” says Farai Mutondoro, senior researcher for TI Zimbabwe, “in an ideal scenario, their voice is felt, their voice is heard by mining companies […] they have a say in terms of corporate social responsibility and the kind of infrastructure that they want to see.”

A key part of our work involves working with communities to enhance their access to information about mining projects, and to support them to know their rights and have their voices heard. Without transparency or access to this kind of information, communities cannot meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them. Worse still, they can be manipulated and taken advantage of. This is a type of corruption that is not often spoken about but has serious impacts on human rights.

“Transparency is so important to tackle corruption because transparency builds trust,” says Farai, “it ensures there is a social contract between communities and government.” Communities can then hold governments to account “because they have access to information that allows them to do so.”

Nicole Bieske, head of TI’s Mining Programme, found similar sentiments expressed at the Mining Indaba — “mining companies and politicians are reflecting more and more on how to build better relationships with the communities affected by mining operations.”

Nicole spoke at the Mining Indaba about the business imperative for building strong relationships with the communities living near mining projects. Community support matters, and companies must act responsibly if they are to build that trust.

“The great thing about TI’s work is that we are talking to everyone. And business is eager to learn more about how to improve business integrity, governments are listening to ideas to improve accountability, and people want more information about how mining licenses are granted on their land.”

This article was first published here

To learn more about TI’s work to improve transparency in mining, visit our website here.

Government, parliaments, civil society call for greater accountability in health and agriculture service delivery in Southern Africa

Reflecting on the findings of health and agriculture service delivery monitoring in Southern Africa, a cross-section of 87 representatives from government, parliament, civil society and farmers organisations, who met in Lusaka, Zambia from 4 – 7 March, issued a communiqué today. The communiqué calls upon SADC and its member states to improve accountability to accelerate the achievement of regional commitments.

“Social accountability is a prerequisite for the delivery of quality social services, and ultimately for the achievement of food security and good health for all people of Southern Africa,” said Mr. Barney Karuuombe, Manager: Parliamentary Capacity Development (PCD), SADC PF, addressing the meeting on 6 March.

The final communiqué of the meeting urged the SADC National Parliaments and the SADC Parliamentary Forum, among other recommendations, “to promote awareness of the regional health and agriculture commitments at both the national and regional levels and ensure oversight of the same through appropriate mechanisms.”

 “What happens in one country in our region, affects all of us. It is our responsibility as citizens to ensure the regional agreements which our governments sign are realistic and representative of our aspirations. We must then hold them accountable for their realisation,” explained Ms. Gertrude Mugizi, Coordinator of the Regional Learning Programme at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM).

 In response to the new SADC Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Strategy (2019-2030), the meeting communiqué calls for “SADC Member States to commit 5% of their national health budget for implementation of the SADC SRHR Strategy (2019-2030). Additionally, local government authorities, where relevant, should at least commit 10% of their own sources for the facilitation of the implementation by local health departments.”

“As adolescents and young people of the region, we demand that nothing should be developed for us, without our involvement. Nothing for us, without us. If governments commit to delivering sexual and reproductive services for youth, we should be able to access these in our communities,” a social accountability monitoring (SAM) champion from Zambia, Mr. Ng’andwe Ng’andwe, told the delegates.

In the area of agriculture support for smallholder farmers, the communiqué stated “[we] urgently call upon SADC Member States to support innovative research and development as well as the implementation of alternatives to hybrid seeds and chemically intensive agriculture such as (i) integrated pest management (ii) use of community-based seed systems (iii) improvement of soil fertility through increasing soil organic matter and to (iv) facilitate the diversification of farmer support programmes and the redirection of funds towards the adoption of agroecological practices.”

 “We need farmer support programmes that respond to the needs of smallholder farmers in the region. The FISPs undermine our sustainable practices by only providing hybrid seeds and synthetic fertilisers. What we need is support for us to better use our own seed systems and adopt sustainable agroecological practices,” explained Zambian smallholder farmer and member of ESAFF Zambia, Ms. Mary Sakala.

The Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance held two events – a Regional Learning Forum and Regional Budget Summit – from 4 to 7 March 2019 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia. The Regional Learning Forum explored examples of good practices and working models in promoting social accountability in service delivery in the region.

The Regional Budget Summit, held in partnership with the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF), focused on the findings of ongoing national and local level social accountability monitoring across four countries – Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia – and how these impact on the realisation of regional SADC commitments in health and agriculture. Participants also reflected on the critical oversight role of parliamentarians and parliamentary committees in ensuring the accountable use of public funds.

The PSA Alliance is a consortium led by ActionAid together with PSAM, ESAFF and SAfAIDS, and supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has been implementing a social accountability project in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia since May 2016. In each of the four countries, the multi-stakeholder project has provided training to build the capacity of state officials and parliamentarians to more effectively manage public funds, as well as support for civil society organisations, smallholder farmers and the media in holding their leaders to account.

For more information on the project ‘Strengthening Social Accountability and Oversight in Health and Agriculture in Southern Africa’, please contact Chrispin Chomba, +260211257652, safaids@safaids.co.zm, SAfAIDS Zambia or Maureen Zulu, +260974757586, maureen.zulu@actionaid.org, ActionAid Zambia.

The PSA Alliance consists of: PSAM – Public Service Accountability Monitor, Rhodes University – www.psam.org.za; SAfAIDS – www.safaids.net; ESAFF – Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum – www.esaff.org; and ActionAid – www.actionaid.org. The PSA Alliance is online at http://copsam.com/psa or @psaalliance (Twitter / Facebook).

 

Practical guide on using video to combat corruption out now

How video can empower communities and be a tool for change

“Three hundred people have been invited?” I repeated, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice. “Yes, it’s mainly going to be local leaders and decision makers, as well as representatives of local citizen groups and journalists…”

This community screening event — organised by a group of local women — was turning into something much more ambitious than expected. “Have you ever put on an event like this?” I checked, hopefully. “No nothing like this,” she said. “We want to get people talking together and thinking about the impacts of corruption on women here, and get them to commit to actions that will change this situation”.

This was the culmination of a project in which 11 women from south west Madagascar created films highlighting injustices that deprive women of land. InsightShare had been training them to use a powerful communication tool to tackle endemic corruption and deeply ingrained cultural norms, that held that women should not own land.

What if there was a tool that could help groups work together better to create change — whilst still having some fun? Perhaps it’s not fun all the time, but there can be great joy in the solidarity of struggling together to make a difference, and this tool does tend to generate a lot of laughter.

And what if that tool could be used by literate or illiterate, educated or not, putting everyone on the same playing field? Wouldn’t it be great if that tool could be used to open ears and minds, to help other ordinary citizens, chiefs, business leaders and politicians move out of their bubbles and into the realities of those they rarely meet, let alone listen to? This creates a deeper understanding of issues and motivation to tackle them.

These are some of the magic ingredients of the participatory video process. It is within all of our reach and looks very much like the smartphone in our pockets.

Everybody has a video cameras these days, but crucially participatory video is about a collective process: working together to explore, prioritise and investigate community concerns, issues and experiences. Facilitators help the group to learn simple video-making skills through games and exercises. Participants work together to plan and produce their video collectively, screening-back regularly to their wider community to test ideas and refine messages. Participants own the video and control the content, allowing direct control over how they are represented. The resulting videos are used to communicate with chosen audiences, sharing stories, building a new image of what can be and working together with all key actors to make that happen.

Participatory video is used around the world to empower communities and hold those in power accountable.

Today, InsightShare and Transparency International launched a guidebook on how to plan, produce and create impact with participatory video. Combatting Corruption Through Participatory Video: A Guide for Practitioners is the result of 10 years of collaboration between the two organisations on projects with citizens worldwide, and it’s free to download now.

The project in Madagascar was the final road test before launching the guide.

The local team of trainees filmed over 120 stories of women who had experienced corruption or been victim of cultural practices that leave widows and divorcees destitute and put thousands of children at risk.

(Image: InsightShare)

“One of the biggest barriers to women speaking out against corruption is shame.” — Participatory video trainee team statement after an analysis of all the collected stories

Bénédicte was one of these women, and she shared her experience for the first time. The other trainees carried out a process of empathic listening combined with roleplay to help her bring her story into words. She described how her husband had paid corrupt officials to change the title deeds of their house and that one day she and her daughters came home to find a locked door and a bailiff telling them to leave. Bénédicte, together with her peers, decided scene by scene where they would shoot, what to say and who should be included in her film.

At first Bénédicte was scared to share her message, but her confidence grew. Hundreds of people came to community screenings to watch her story and the testimonies of other local men and women. The local team then facilitated talking circles where everyone could share their perspective, their emotions and what actions they would take.

Watch Bénédicte’s story in this video. For a playlist of four participatory videos focusing on land and corruption click here

The participatory video women’s group have all they need to carry on their work, screening the videos around the region, making new ones and gaining support from local judges, senators and prefects, as well as traditional leaders and chiefs. The winds of change are blowing in south west Madagascar and the work with participatory video is highlighting the role of corruption and harmful cultural practices in oppressing women’s rights.

As for Bénédicte, having heard the testimonies and stories of so many others and feeling supported by this broader network of women, she said: “I decided to take my ex-husband to court and fight this out. My daughters deserve to share in the property that I developed over so many years with him.”

Participatory video enabled each group to investigate and document their issues. With this tool they can reach stakeholders and decision-makers, inform them and pressure them to be accountable.



This article was first posted by Chris Lunch on the Voices for Transparency website