Protecting civic space requires courage—and lots of it

Authored by Lauren L. Finch: Storytelling Lead at MobLab on the 10th of May 2019. The original article can be accessed here

One main takeaway of International Civil Society Week? Advocacy campaigners need to bravely and boldly self-reflect, experiment, open up and let go.

Last month, I attended International Civil Society Week in Belgrade, an event hosted by our partner CIVICUS and Serbia-based Civic Initiatives that gathered more than 900 people from all over the globe to talk about shrinking civic space.

Condensing five full days into a main takeaway is tough, but after a few weeks of reflection on all those rich and passionate conversations, it would be thus:

To build an equitable, peaceful and sustainable world, we in the social change sector are going to need courage — and not only in the way you’re thinking.

It takes courage, of course, to advocate for change when your opponents not only disagree with you, but seek to persecute or criminalise you. Regressive forces all over the world are gaining ground, and as a result it’s riskier than ever to campaign for fundamental rights, progressive reforms or even basic human compassion.

Many of our colleagues demonstrate this sort of courage every day working in restricted environments, and they deserve our immense gratitude, respect and support.

But based on what I heard and observed at ICSW 2019, we’re going to need to find the strength to be bold and brave in other, no less critical areas too.

Courage to leave our comfort zones

“The power of togetherness” wasn’t just the gathering’s catchy theme. Many of the challenges we face, including shrinking civic space, are complex and enormous in scale, which means we aren’t going to solve them by ourselves talking to the same old folks.

We have to design actions that reach beyond our bubble of supporters and invite people to the table who bring new perspectives. We have to be more nimble and welcoming in our coalition-building, instead of getting bogged down in formalities and ideological purity. We have to stop playing it safe and learn to live with a bit of discomfort.

Courage to experiment and fail

When we do things the way they’ve always been done and find that the traditional approach no longer serves us well, our response shouldn’t be to stick with it. “That’s the way it is” is an attitude that makes us ineffective at best, and at worst can perpetuate exclusionary practices — and how can we demand inclusive societies if we ourselves don’t stack up?

We must create spaces — on all levels, from organisation and movement to the global social change community — that applaud experimentation, encourage sharing, respect on-the-ground insights, and lean into failure as an opportunity for learning. New problems require new solutions.

Courage to ask how and why

That critical eye we rightly cast over powerful institutions and groups? We must learn to turn it inwards to ensure that our strategies are up to the task of actually creating and sustaining change.

  • Why will thousands of retweets help advance human rights?
  • How has our organisation fostered trust with local communities?
  • Why are we the best messengers for this action?
  • How will this campaign build power?
  • Why are we making that assumption?

Otherwise, we risk getting caught up in the flashy, one-off actions that look good in reports — 600 signatures, 3,000 likes, 10,000 protest attendees — but lack much transformative impact because we didn’t examine with enough depth the systems that we’re aiming to shift.

Courage to open up and let go

What helps organisations stay resilient and mobilise successfully? Valuing participation. When we are accountable and invest time, care and trust into relationships with people, we receive time, care and trust in return. In a closing civic space, that support is critical.

Building that trust means creating space for supporters to lead, which in turn means loosening the grip on brand. It also means we have to move away from “activism behind closed doors” and start practicing meaningful transparency — including speaking in accessible, non-jargon-filled language.

Courage to believe, truly believe, in a radically positive future

We can’t simply tell people what not to do. We must create campaigns rooted in empathy that offer tangible ideas about what it means to live in an equitable, peaceful and sustainable society — and live those same principles within our own organisations.

Otherwise, we doom ourselves to react from the defensive. It’ll take a movement of people to achieve a better world, but we’ll never build one if we can’t offer an inspiring, values-based vision to rally around.

All of these things can be scary. Humility, transparency, participation and experimentation are powerful tools for effecting change, but they also come with a touch of insecurity, vulnerability and messiness that can feel jarring.

But the social change community has proven themselves time and again to be a brave bunch, speaking out for what is right even when it’s not popular. The stakes are high, and the well of courage required already exists. Let’s tap into it.

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

Training Citizen Journalists and “Building Community Power”

The original article “Training Citizen Journalists and “Building Community Power”: SLCJI Launches in Canton, NY” was authored by John Collins on the 15th of October 2018.

On an early fall weekend, a diverse group of North Country residents gathered on the campus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, to inaugurate an innovative new experiment in grassroots journalism: the St. Lawrence Citizen Journalism Incubator.

Designed to provide community members with the opportunity to receive training and support for conducting their own independent, investigative journalism projects, the SLCJI was created by Weave News with the collaboration of North Country Public Radio, The Hill News, and Nature Up North. A St. Lawrence University Innovation Grant provided initial funding for the project.

More than a dozen North Country “Investigative Storytellers” were on hand for the SLCJI’s first-ever training event after having their project proposals approved by the SLCJI steering committee.

THE KEYNOTE LECTURE: “LOCAL STORIES TO BUILD COMMUNITY POWER”

The weekend began with a Friday evening keynote lecture by Fiona Morgan, a freelance consultant whose work focuses on building stronger local media ecosystems through better public engagement. Morgan, who previously headed up the journalism program at Free Press, began by acknowledging that the ongoing “crisis in local news and journalism,” driven by consolidation in the media sector and the erosion of traditional business models, is coinciding with “a crisis in our democracy, where our systems of checks and balances appear to be in peril and our political culture is deeply divided.”

While the term “citizen journalism” is much-debated and has its limitations, Morgan argued, it can help call our attention to the essential idea that “journalism is essential to citizenship, and vice versa.”

Referring to a conversation she helped organize in North Carolina between local journalists and community members, Morgan emphasized that when given the opportunity, local people are eager to collaborate in the essential work of journalism:

Something happened then that’s happened every time I’ve been part of a conversation with local reporters who demonstrate a willingness and ability to listen and respond to people’s needs: the community members asked: How can I help? What can I do? What can we do together? This question, How can I help?, never fails to move me. I’ve been a reporter, and I know how hard and unrewarding the work can be. I also know how much impact it can have, and that quality reporting makes real change and accountability possible.

Drawing on the model that animates the SLCJI project, Morgan defended the idea that community participation in journalism can benefit everyone. “Does embracing public participation in journalism mean giving up professional standards? No, it doesn’t,” she contended:

It means we find a role for people to play, a real and substantive role, and we rely on them to perform it. It is absolutely true that journalists, trained in practices of verification, possess skills that are undervalued and badly needed at this moment. Yet I often wonder why those of us who know this also speak as though these skills are non-transferable. Surely they can be shared and spread, making smarter readers and sharers of information in the process?

When citizen journalists are brought into the work journalism in this way, she concluded, they can play a fundamental role in building “community power” and a more democratic, participatory media system.

DEFINING THE QUEST

To get the Saturday training event going, Morgan led a “pro-action cafe” session designed to help the Investigative Storytellers sharpen their project ideas. One by one, the Storytellers stepped to the microphone to introduce themselves and the questions driving their projects. Community members then had the opportunity to sit with the Storytellers and consider Morgan’s first prompt: “What is the quest behind the question?” Subsequent prompts encouraged dialogue regarding the kinds of voices and information that might be missing from the story being investigated.

Stories being pursued by the Investigative Storytellers include the struggles facing undocumented workers, the local impact of the craft beer boom, the isolation of international students and students of color in the North Country, and the health of the Grasse River.

LEARNING THE SKILLS OF JOURNALISM

During the afternoon, attendees had the chance to attend workshops led by SLU professor and The Hill News advisor Dr. Juraj Kittler (Story Format and Structure), NCPR reporter and assistant news director David Sommerstein (Getting Inside Your Head: Great Storytelling With Audio for Radio and Podcasting), and Nature Up North director Dr. Erika Barthelmess (Environmental Storytelling With Nature Up North).

Following the workshops, the cohort of Investigative Storytellers gathered with Morgan and members of the SLCJI steering committee for a discussion of ethical issues in journalism. The day concluded with a workshop focusing on how to build a project “roadmap.”

“I am proud and happy to be part of [the SLCJI],” said Connie Jenkins, one of the Investigative Storytellers. “The weekend talk and workshops were inspirational as well as helpful in shaping/refining our ideas. It’s exciting that so many people came forward to help tell these stories and explore the news.”

The Storytellers will have several months to carry out their projects, and each will work with a mentor from the steering committee along the way. The first year of the SLCJI will conclude with a public event in April at which Storytellers will present the results of their work.

The Case for Increasing Accountability in Development

Article originally authored by Khadeeja Hamid on the 18th of May 2018, accessible on the Weavenews site

The most recent mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar sheds light on the UN system’s failure to prevent and respond to the tragic predicament of this Muslim minority group.  While some parts of the UN system characterised the situation as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, others, namely the in-country UN team led by the UN Resident Coordinator, chose to remain silent. Analysts have classified the UN’s shortcomings in Myanmar as “self-made”, blaming system-wide incoherence and the much-criticised Resident Coordinator system which entrusts the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the responsibility of appointing the senior-most UN diplomat or the Resident Coordinator in any country.

However, as we reflect on the UN’s failure in Myanmar, it is important to recognise that this trade-off between development and human rights – often seen as a trade-off between access (to host countries, counterparts, funds, etc.) and advocacy – is not unique to the United Nations; on the contrary, it is common to most development organisations. When faced with the dilemma of engaging in advocacy at the expense of losing access to funds and even in some cases access to the host country, most organisations choose the latter. I argue that this is an inevitable outcome of organisations’ failure to effectively institutionalise robust accountability regimes that would do more than prioritize upward accountability, placing equal emphasis on inward, horizontal and downward accountability.

The literature on organisations characterises upward accountability as a process where the accountability demands and interests of the most powerful players, such as host governments and donors, are prioritised over those of beneficiaries or the target individuals and communities of an organisation’s programmes. While the dominance of such a hierarchical accountability regime in a field that is supposed to be more democratic and egalitarian is far from desired, overemphasis on this kind of accountability can undermine the effectiveness of development programmes and interventions. There are several reasons for this.

First, such an accountability regime imposes burdensome structural and reporting restrictions on organisations, diverting their limited resources away from target communities to other actors. This effectively prevents organisations from forming long-term meaningful relationships with the most marginalised sections of the population that they claim to be serving. In the case of Myanmar, one wonders if the deplorable situation facing the Rohingya could have been prevented or even mitigated if the UNDP,  the primary agency tasked with eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities and exclusion, had spent more time cultivating meaningful relationships with members of the most marginalised communities within Myanmar, including the Rohingya.

Second, organisations that practise upward accountability face financial and operational sustainability challenges that lead them to utilise the “successful” implementation of development programmes as an avenue to extend existing contracts or to secure new ones that would bring in more funds to the organisation and ensure its sustainability. This creates a culture of overemphasizing successes and underreporting failures.

Inherent to the issue of overemphasising success is also the issue of how development programmes are monitored and evaluated. While most evaluations of development interventions tend to be summative (carried out at the end of the intervention), the majority of organisations will utilise some sort of system to monitor and measure the trajectory of their interventions. However, most of these monitoring systems have a preoccupation with narrowly defined deliverables and delivery (a measure of how much of the programme budget has been expended) and fail to take a critical look at how beneficiary communities are interacting with the designed interventions. In the rare case that an intervention is followed up with a summative evaluation, often times organisations fail to incorporate lessons learnt effectively into new cycles of programming. Such missed opportunities lead to perpetual repetitions of failed programmes and approaches and undermine an organisation’s credibility amongst communities.

One may argue that at the heart of this problem is the issue of who organizations consider to be their most important stakeholders and their own perceptions about these stakeholders. An honest exercise in search of answers to this question will reveal much about the power-laden nature of development and the dialectic process of negotiating and renegotiating power relations between various actors in society, relations that are inherent to development itself.

An accountability regime that places emphasis on downward, inward and horizontal accountability is an attempt to reckon with the above reality and to balance unequal power dynamics within the development industry. Operationally, downward accountability requires organizations to define individuals or communities that they aim to serve as primary stakeholders and to allow these stakeholders to have a say in the practices of the organisation. Similarly, inward accountability engages members, staff and volunteers to hold an organisation accountable to its own values, while horizontal accountability involves being accountable to peer organisations in order to encourage higher standards and to share best practices.

Some practice steps that could be instituted to establish such an accountability regime include:  seeking out flexible funding structures and strategies such as turning to donors that have fewer restrictions; relying on the collective capital of target communities or primary stakeholders to mobilize funds and other resources; creating effective strategies for harvesting failure stories and learning from them; cultivating horizontal linkages between peer organizations that could act as reflection mirrors for the organisation; investing more time and effort to train and familiarise staff with the organisation’s principles, values, code of conduct, etc.; and fostering an organisational culture that encourages staff to talk about the organisation’s own failures more openly with the aim of improving the way development work is undertaken.

The UN’s failure in Myanmar might sound vaguely familiar to many who have also witnessed and heard about the UN’s failures in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 and the more recent Sri Lankan civil war. Within the UN system, the concept of a human rights-based approach to development (HRBA) and the former Secretary General’s human rights upfront (HRuF) initiative could be characterised as attempts to learn from the UN’s past failures and to increase inward accountability.

HRBA is a framework that conceptualises development in terms of human rights, characterising the realisation of human rights, as given in the international human rights conventions ratified by States, as the end and means of development. It also emphasises the legal obligations of states (duty bearers) to fulfil rights and the rightful claims of people and communities (rights holders) to these rights. At an operational level, HRBA encourages practitioners to consider country-specific recommendations from the UN human rights system as a primary starting point for the design of interventions and draws the focus of development interventions to the most marginalised and vulnerable groups.  The HRuF is a recent initiative which reiterates the centrality of human rights to the UN system and seeks a cultural change, an operational change and a change in the UN’s engagement with member states to prevent large-scale violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

Implemented properly, both these avenues, along with the current Secretary General’s efforts to reform the UN development system, including changing the RC system, could go a long way toward ensuring that the global body is smarter in navigating the tensions between advocacy and access and incorporating human rights into the core of its development efforts everywhere.

Failures arising from the trade-off between human rights and development are a signet of the development field at large. The frequency and the scale of the human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by such trade-offs come with an urgent need for development organisations and practitioners to increase downward, inward and horizontal accountability as a way of addressing this issue. Given that organisations at any point will have to balance and negotiate between the interests of their various stakeholders including donors, host governments, and target communities, simultaneously practicing the four types of accountability desired for any effective organisations, i.e. upward accountability, downward accountability, inward accountability and horizontal accountability, will indeed be a challenge. However, it is a challenge worth pursuing.

SALIENT HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES

This article was first published by UN here

SALIENT HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES:
The human rights at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities and business relationships.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework asks companies to focus their human rights reporting on their ‘salient human rights issues’. To learn more, see our short Q&A below, or view our introductory video.

For further explanation of additional key terms used in the UNGP Reporting Framework, please see the glossary.

UNGP Reporting Framework: Salient Human Rights Issues from UNGP Reporting on Vimeo.

1. What are salient human rights issues?

Something that is salient is prominent or important. It stands out conspicuously.

A company’s salient human rights issues are those human rights that stand out because they are at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities or business relationships.

This concept of salience uses the lens of risk to people, not the business, as the starting point, while recognizing that where risks to people’s human rights are greatest, there is strong convergence with risk to the business.

The emphasis of salience lies on those impacts that are:

  • Most severe: based on how grave and how widespread the impact would be and how hard it would be to put right the resulting harm.
  • Potential: meaning those impacts that have some likelihood of occurring in the future, recognizing that these are often, though not limited to, those impacts that have occurred in the past;
  • Negative: placing the focus on the avoidance of harm to human rights rather than unrelated initiatives to support or promote human rights;
  • Impacts on human rights: placing the focus on risk to people, rather than on risk to the business.

Salience therefore focuses the company’s resources on finding information that is necessary for its own ability to manage risks to human rights, and related risks to the business. In this way, it helps companies report on the human rights information that shareholders, investors, governments, customers, consumers, media, civil society organizations and directly affected people want to see.

2. What is the difference from materiality?

Materiality depends on the choice of a particular audience or goal for which things are then judged more or less important. The audience may be shareholders alone or other stakeholders as well. A goal may be profit-making alone, decisions of an investor more widely, or societal welfare generally. The choice of audience or goal then dictates the selection of material issues.

By contrast, salient human rights issues are not defined in reference to any one audience or goal. Salience puts the focus on those human rights at risk of the most severe negative impact. This provides a consistent, predictable and principled means of identifying the appropriate focus of human rights reporting. At the same time, it gives business an effective tool for understanding how human rights issues connect with risk to the business.

When conducting materiality assessments, many companies discount human rights issues due to common assumptions, such as:

  • Assumption of no risk to human rights: an assumption that the company doesn’t and couldn’t be involved with negative impacts on human rights, based on a limited knowledge of human rights and how they can be affected by business activities and through business relationships;
  • Assumption that risk to human rights doesn’t matter: An untested assumption that impacts on human rights are without substantial risk to the company and are, therefore, not material, ignoring the many ways in which such impacts can lead to tangible and intangible costs and loss of value for the business, particularly in the medium to long term;
  • Assumption that past impact defines future risk: An assumption that looking at past impacts will be sufficient for the identification of forward-looking risks to human rights, ignoring risks that might be identifiable from the experience of others in the industry, from other industries, from an understanding of emerging issues and from scenario planning.

Where materiality processes engage external stakeholders to help inform the company’s understanding of relevant issues for reporting, common pitfalls include:

  • Skewed feedback: Processes that engage with stakeholders based on their expertise in areas the company already assumes are material, such that their feedback reinforces the company’s starting assumptions.
  • Under-informed feedback: Engagement processes where stakeholders are not given sufficient insight into the company’s operations, range of business activities and business relationships in order to provide informed advice of where they most salient issues might lie.

As a result of these common assumptions and pitfalls, many companies’ existing materiality processes fail to adequately reflect human rights issues or to identify those human rights that are at greatest risk and are therefore priorities for management and reporting.

3. Why is this distinction between salience and materiality helpful for companies?

Identifying salient human rights issues is critical for any company seeking to understand how the most severe kinds of harm to people might be associated with its activities and business relationships. It is the first stage of human rights due diligence and a vital internal process that gets companies out in front of risks and enables them to address them proactively.

Salient issues are therefore not only the issues on which companies should focus their reporting, but also the priority human rights issues for risk management. Using ‘salience’ means that reporting changes from being a resource drain on companies – an exercise in chasing down data for an external communications exercise – to being an investment in putting in place processes that enable the company to manage key risks to people and to the business.

4. Why is this distinction between salience and materiality helpful for investors?

Materiality processes very often miss significant risks to human rights. Investors can have many interests, but one that unites them is the desire to know that risks are being managed. If a company is not conducting proper human rights due diligence, there may be risks of severe impacts on human rights, and therefore related risks to the business, that are going unrecognized and unaddressed. This explains that examples of severe human rights impacts that we see in the public domain and there were not previously anticipated or managed by the companies involved.

A company that can articulate its salient human rights issues and how it identified them can show to investors and other stakeholders that it is doing human rights due diligence and identifying issues that need active management. That should be a minimum expectation of any investor. Where the company finds risks of severe impacts on human rights, the investor should then expect to have information about how those are being managed. The UNGP Reporting Framework provides the targeted questions for companies to do so.

For more about investor support for the UNGP Reporting Framework, see the investor coalition statement of support.

5. Are risks to human rights separate from risks to business?

Human rights impacts are the most acute social, environmental and economic impacts a company can have on people. Salient human rights issues are in turn the most severe human rights impacts. Impacts that carry this level of severity can be seen to converge strongly with risk to the business, as demonstrated in the many instances where they lead to litigation, reputation-damaging campaigns, disruption and delays to operations, increased costs of managing conflict and other costs or loss in value to the business. This is particularly evident over the medium to long term.

The relationship between salient human rights issues and risk to business is represented in the figure below.
Salient human rights issues

6. Is materiality still relevant for reporting?

Yes – materiality will remain relevant for both broader sustainability and financial reporting. In essence, materiality refers to what is really important or has great consequences, and the various definitions of materiality take differing views on that question. An understanding of how human rights are important in relation to the conduct and success of business has been missing, however, leaving companies and investors exposed to the flawed assumptions and pitfalls outlined above. Salience addresses this gap.

Companies can apply the concept of salience within a broader materiality exercise, using salience to identify the necessary human rights content of its reporting. For instance, companies using the Global Reporting Initiative’s G4 materiality process for their broader sustainability reporting can use salience and the questions in the UNGP Reporting Framework as they determine what to disclose specifically on human rights, supported by relevant GRI indicators.

When using definitions of materiality that focus on risks to the business that carry a certain level of financial value, salience will still enable the company to identify those human rights issues most likely to pose material risks to the company given the strong convergence between the most severe potential impacts on human rights and risk to the business.

The UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework makes clear that if the specific materiality definition being used sets a threshold that excludes certain salient human rights issues from a report, the company can disclose them elsewhere and refer to where that additional information can be found. This approach mirrors the guidance provided by the Integrated Reporting Framework. By using the Index of Answers for the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, companies can show in one coherent, concise format where readers can find their responses to the Framework’s questions across different locations.

7. How should a company identify its salient human rights issues?

An understanding of a company’s salient human rights issues is built on a process by which the company:

  • identifies the full range of human rights that could potentially be negatively impacted by its activities or through its business relationships:
    • involving all relevant functions and units across the business;
    • informed by the perspectives of those who may be negatively impacted;
  • prioritizes potential negative impacts for attention:
    • primarily based on their potential severity, as defined in the UN Guiding Principles, namely:
      • how grave the impact would be;
      • how widespread the impact would be;
      • how hard it would be to put right the resulting harm;
    • secondarily based on their likelihood, retaining due attention to high-severity, low-likelihood impacts;
  • engages with internal and external stakeholders to explain its conclusions and check whether any considerations have been missed.

If the number of salient issues initially identified is too large for the company to report on concisely, it may use the defining elements of ‘severity’ set out above to reduce the number further, for example, by focusing on those impacts that are most widespread.

Any process to identify salient human rights issues should take into account the perspectives of those stakeholders who may be negatively impacted or with their legitimate representatives. In addition, expert stakeholders – shareholders, NGOs and others – are a key audience with which the company should check its conclusions to see whether any considerations have been missed or potentially salient issues overlooked. Where companies already build in engagement with stakeholders as part of their process to identify material issues, they can use those same conversations to explain their findings about salient human rights issues and how they were identified and to test their conclusions.

Further key considerations when identifying a company’s salient human rights issues are set out in the implementation guidance to section B1 of the UNGP Reporting Framework.

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.

India’s mass movements thrive close to the ground while the state cracks down on dissent

Authored by Rohini Mohan on the 1st of April 2019

Law, police and ideology are all targeting those claiming social, economic and political rights in India. But groups that have big memberships and stay close to their communities are getting results.

Activism is under siege in India. The police meet protest with violence; the law has been turned against Indian activists who seek foreign support; and the government dismisses dissent, democratic resistance and even policy critique as ‘anti-national’. As civil society groups shrink before this storm of repression, it seems that one form of activism is proving most resilient: mass movements with a large grassroots membership. So, what do they need to thrive?

Savitri Bai is an indigenous woman in the western state of Rajasthan and articulate leader in the 30-year-old Association of Single Women Alone (ASWA), a collective for low-income single and separated women in 11 of India’s 29 states. She says they are able to sustain long-term resistance because they build political awareness continuously, through engagement in life, not through one-off projects and workshops alone.

“Most donors don’t understand our work,” she says. “Success for us is a strong unity among millions of single women. Or the growth in a single woman’s self-confidence. It is collective power, and not our income or sewing skills, that makes us strong.” ASWA can work on land rights, minimum wages and social equality, she says, even in “the fearful atmosphere today”.

For the past decade and a half, the social sector in India has been more visible than ever. Initially, it was most prominent in the national effort to claim social, economic and political rights – to community land, fair wages, state transparency, and gender equality. It succeeded in getting the government to write people-friendly welfare policies.

“Success for us is a strong unity among millions of single women. Or the growth in a single woman’s self-confidence”Savitri Bai , ASWA

Almost as soon as such rights were protected by law, however, they were under siege. Today, civil society groups in India are struggling to prevent state and central governments from systematically eroding legal entitlements.

They’re having to do this while fighting for their own survival. The police in most parts of the country have turned hostile to community action. They refuse permission for demonstrations, like they did until the very last moment in Delhi when almost 100,000 farmers from across the country marched to demand equitable agricultural policies. They beat and shoot demonstrators, like they did in south India’s Thoothukudi district when they fired at over 20,000 people protesting against alleged pollution by a copper factory, killing 13. Battles for fair income, land entitlement and access to water are becoming harder than ever to wage in rural areas, so farmers, fisherfolk, women and indigenous groups are marching by the thousand from their villages to cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The stronger they rise, the harder they are beaten back. Dozens of activists, especially those working with marginalised groups like indigenous communities, Dalits, manual labourers, and victims of religious violence have been arrested on charges of acting against the state.

                                      The effect is a clear crackdown on those challenging the state

The deepest blow of all has been to funding. The government has weaponised an old law that seeks to monitor the flow of foreign exchange for public-interest work by getting local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to apply for licences to receive funds from international donors. The draconian law was passed during India’s Emergency in the 1970s, to prevent political meddling by foreign players. Today, it has been dusted off to put dozens of major international donors like Compassion International, HIVOS Netherlands and Greenpeace International, which have been a dominant source of social funding in India, on a national security watchlist. Thousands of applications from Indian NGOs for licences or renewals are being rejected. In the four years up to 2017-18, foreign funding has plunged 40%.

Government officials claim that the legal tightening is to weed out corrupt outfits and those that do not file their returns. The effect, however, is a clear crackdown on those challenging the state on issues from ecological conservation, religious equality and the rights of indigenous communities, to disability rights and animal cruelty.

Meanwhile, the new state narrative that defines protest or criticism as unpatriotic has dented the perception of NGOs within the country and, in turn, their ability to raise funds domestically. As the crackdown has grown and the funds have dried up, it has left much of Indian civil society distracted from fieldwork, fearful of legal fees and rudderless.

Weathering the storm at the grass roots

This hostile environment means that the strongest, most secure and effective groups are mass membership-based collectives – called sangathans in Hindi. These are movements with many members, built through grassroots mobilising, most often among low-income individuals from some of the most marginalised communities in the remotest parts of the Indian countryside. Ironically, they seem best able to withstand the assault on human rights work because they can spread their risk across thousands of members. They have strong local leaders from within the community, working on meagre honorariums and tiny membership fees, with skeletal staff and small administrative costs.

“The donor has to be in it for the long haul – one-time projects or intermittent funding won’t cut it” Seema Nair, consultant

Moreover, by working at the grass roots, they have created political awareness in communities that is not attached to time-bound projects or programmes alone. These groups face personal financial difficulties and the might of the state too, but are able to bounce back.

Seema Nair, consultant for South Asia at the Fund for Global Human Rights, which supports many mass movements in the region, explains that the Fund’s work requires “an acute understanding of power and power struggles… The donor has to be in it for the long haul – one-time projects or intermittent funding won’t cut it.”

The funding framework of most agencies is linear – continued funding depends on continued success – but the reality of mass movements is more complex. “For every ten steps forward, things might move, say, four steps backward.” Staying with a movement for decades, as the Fund has with ASWA, means seeing it grow not only in number, scale, reach and impact, but also in evolving the members’ understanding of their own mission.

Women alone

Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, as ASWA is locally known, started with defining ‘women alone’ as abandoned or widowed women, who are often ostracised in Indian society. The collective slowly included unmarried women, then separated and divorced women. Once ASWA knew who it spoke for, it was able to push the Indian government to count single women as a similarly defined category in the census. According to the latest census of 2011, there are over 60 million such women in India. Now, when they demand social security benefits like pensions, maintenance amounts for children and implementation of land and property rights, it will apply to this whole group.

Women dancing to music and celebrating during the Behen Dooj festival last October
‘Lone’ women dancing during the Behen Dooj festival last October | ASWA. All rights reserved.

Building the collective from the ground up has also helped the women see that restrictive social customs – which include limits on remarriage, the codes on colours that widows can wear, the barrage of unwanted sexual advances and the perception of unmarried women as ‘loose’ – all emanate from the institution of patriarchy, says Ginny Srivastava of the Rajasthan-based NGO Aastha Sansthan, which is a founder member of ASWA.

Close to home

While ASWA works in 11 states and focuses on the issue of single women’s rights, other collectives work on a clutch of issues in more limited regions.

“The job of collectives is not to set up schools – that’s a short-term solution that cannot reproduce itself.” Paulomee Mistry, director, Disha

Disha, an Ahmedabad-based NGO, focuses on only seven tribal districts in the western state of Gujarat, but covers a variety of issues with which the predominantly indigenous population in the area battle. Established in 1985 to challenge the everyday tyranny of forest department officials over tribal people in the region, Disha has since built dozens of community-based collectives, each focused on a different question: land rights, access to forest and community land, fair labour and minimum wages, access to water, child rights and youth leadership.

“Community-based organisations empower the poor to participate in mainstream political and economic processes,” says Paulomee Mistry, director of Disha. “Collectives are social institutions. Their job is not to set up schools – that’s a short-term solution that cannot reproduce itself. They make a tribal person able to pressurise a district official to set up a school in the tribal village.”

Today, Disha works in 1301 villages, and has over 500,000 members. Over 85% of its staff is tribal, and members pay an affordable annual membership fee of 50 rupees (73¢). The collective is well-known in Gujarat for its massive rallies, long marches and non-violent protests. It has helped transfer over 125,000 hectares of land to more than 68,000 indigenous cultivators, and played a crucial role in the enactment of a forest rights law in 2006. Since nine out of 10 families in their region migrate for work, the collective focussed on building its bargaining power to raise minimum wages for labour in Gujarat. It has successfully protested and negotiated for government-funded construction work to hire local workers and to build assets like wells and canals to help the community. It has also persuaded state exhibitions to hire local craftsmen.

What donors need to know

“Funding agencies must understand how human agency is built, and how leadership comes from the strong motivational force of peers,” says Ginny Srivastava. “It takes time, patience and community, and it is not linear.”

“Our human resource is our asset,” says Paulomee Mistry. Disha’s rallies are funded by the community: people bring food from their farms, families cook, local shops pledge rice and lentils, members travel themselves in buses and bullock carts, and Disha may pay only to print pamphlets. “We don’t need much money, just about a million rupees [about $15,000] a year to pay some staff, half of which comes from membership fees,” she adds. “For the rest, we do need donors. But it must be a long-term commitment: they must understand the rhythms of our work” Disha has had a relationship with the Fund for over 12 years. “Through it all, we got to decide our own priorities. It has been a balance between a hands-off trust and readiness to aid us where we are weak,” says Mistry.

“The community leader will always prioritise the case of domestic violence or sexual harassment over the monthly expenses report – as she should” Seema Nair, consultant

Leaders in collectives like Disha and the ASWA are politically aware and engaged individuals, knowledgeable about their region and community, but they are also members of communities that have struggled to get to education, health and stable employment. Save a few youngsters, says Mistry, few of Disha’s leaders are skilled in documentation or maintaining a website. In ASWA, many women are unlettered, and can’t keep accounts books.

“The community leader will always prioritise the case of domestic violence or sexual harassment over the monthly expenses report – as she should,” says the Fund’s Nair. This does not diminish them or their work. “Mass movements can’t afford graduates in social work. The donor might then talk about what is the ‘capacity lack’, what sort of talent they need. You may focus on helping them strategise building their second-line leadership, or maybe it’s research they need before they challenge policy. There is no formula – donors have to be as flexible and responsive as the members need.” Nair, for instance, worked with ASWA to build continuity and choose top leaders through elections. She says she knew that the women had truly internalised the democratic process when the collective held meetings for its members, most of whom had never given much thought to voting, on how to evaluate and choose a good leader.

Mass movements might be the most resilient answer to state hostility to those seeking their rights, but they need funders and supporters who understand how they function. To effect sustainable change through the united strength of grassroots movements, donors must see themselves not as financiers, owners or strategists, but as allies of the collective.

The original article can be accessed here

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.