TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | December 3, 2019
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In case you missed it…

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Women first
Image credit: Reuters via BBC

Mama Cash – the international fund that supports feminist activism – has called for increased funding for feminist organizations to respond to the burgeoning unfunded work in this sphere. It seems TAI members, Hewlett Foundation and Open Society Foundations, have been listening. Together with Wellspring Philanthropic Fund and Fund for a Just Society they have created a new $20m fund for women’s causes around the world. We hope women’s funds will encourage use of transparency, accountability, and participation (TAP) tools where appropriate to further women’s rights and livelihoods. To that end, we encourage their partners to look at this VOICE funding call for marginalized groups in a mix of African countries to test the value of TAP tools and approaches. 

Meanwhile, a new report suggests that US non-profits can be doing more to boost diversity (probably not a need limited only to the US). Perhaps NGO leaders can find inspiration in a set of reflections from the recent Pathways to Power symposium on Shifting Power. These include Mariana Sandoval Ulloa’s reporting on having difficult conversations to shift the power (one small part of which can be pushing to shift the dynamics of grantee-donor conversations – as per our Smarter-Grantmaking Guide).


Governance in real time

Is data availability and digitalization enabling more real time good governance? Alan Gelb, Neeraj Mittal, and Anit Mukherjee suggest it might – offering insights on using data for public service delivery and accountability. Perhaps noting similar trends, OGP Co Chair. Robin Hodess argues that open government and privacy need not conflict and suggests there may be a role for OGP in fostering stronger data governance. Such innovation might be realized first at city level. As ‘Smart Cities’ become a thing, read some background on a few challenges regarding data storage and user privacy.

Facebook is no strangers to high-profile data breaches, and to help clean up their reputation, they’ve made a 5-year commitment to use their data to help meet the SDGs. Might that even help wealthier countries get on track? A new report states no EU countries are set to meet the SDGs by 2030, while the OECD and UNDP find mixed progress on development partnerships to meet the SDGs, not least as “There are insufficient government data available…” Maybe they should read up on Cepei’s recent convening where they discussed how to “strengthen statistics for sustainable development.”


Tax, trust, and facilitation

Perhaps not the catchiest slogan but they mark a shift in the World Bank’s approach to country tax support. Last week, TAI sat in on a presentation of the Bank’s new framework for country tax engagement. Read the frameworka useful critique, and a response. We are excited to see political economy angles properly integrated (see TAI’s own commissioned Civil Society and Tax report for more on that front). Hopefully the framework can be put to immediate use as the World Bank has called for developing countries to better prepare for economic crises, advocating for efficiency in revenue collection and spending.

Election fever in the UK has seen a flood of spending promises, but also differing approaches on tax among the parties. Intriguing to see the Labour Party manifesto adopt many pieces outlined in Tax Justice Network’s Manifesto for Tax Equality and dive into the debates on shifting to unitary taxation of multinationals. Both Open Democracy and the Tax Justice Network (TJN) offer in-depth analyses and infographics as to how this could work and implications for revenues.

On the corporate front, encouraging to learn that Fortum Oyj has signed on to The B-Team’s Responsible Tax Principles.


Not all lenders are equal

TAI is in Nairobi this week discussing implications of rising debt with NGOs from across Sub-Saharan Africa working on different aspects of public finance. One topic of discussion – what makes this debt crisis different from the last? The different composition of lenders is part of it, not least the dominance of Chinese lending this time round. Check out this map showing the countries most in debt to China.

Another area of concern – the implications of servicing debt for national budgets. So interesting to read about International Budget Partnership’s forum with the Nigerian Budget Office Federation to discuss fiscal realism – how credible a nation’s budget is in light of debt and revenue projections. Among topics of discussion were budget credibility vs performance and managing government owned enterprises. In that vein, IBP also has some fresh research on the role of legislatures in amending budgets.

Returning to lending, the Asian Development Bank has released two versions of its new Accountability Mechanism Framework for project investments across the region – one for all financial intermediaries, and one specifically for Chinese institutions. Natalie Bridgeman-Fields at Accountability Counsel explains how there came to be two versions and highlights what’s good and what is missing in the framework.
The accountability mechanism may prove a useful tool for communities affected by extractives industries investments in Asia. As the world moves (slowly) away from fossil fuels, for example with the transition to electric cars, we still need good governance for extraction of the minerals underpinning new technologies, which can still be a very dirty business as a case in Indonesia brings home all too starkly. Similarly, gold miners seeking to boost a Nigerian post-oil future also pose governance challenges.

Large scale infrastructure investments can also be highly problematic for rich and poorer countries alike. The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative offer insights to reinforce infrastructure governance in high-income countries using case studies from Argentina, Lithuania, Scotland, and additional research from the UK and Denmark to delve into common project issues and show how they can be resolved to deliver better quality infrastructure, on time and to budget.


When push turns to shove


We recently featured the Carnegie Europe analysis of what happens when protests die down, including the risk of fizzling out to little long term effect.  It is still too soon to predict a sea change toward more integrity in government, but remarkable to see the murder of anti-corruption investigator Daphne Caruana Galizia finally bring some political accountability over two years after her death. It looks like the Prime Minister may step down soon as more murky connections of business and political elites come to light. Hopefully, this will further inspire those who took to the streets to protest corruption in Kyrgyzstan.

Meanwhile neighboring Cyprus is still intentionally swimming in dodgy money as they continue to offer ‘Golden Visas’ despite repeated scandals. On another corruption note, Samsung’s shipbuilding arm has agreed to pay a $75.5m bribery settlement to the US Department of Justice. The firm admits conspiring with others by providing approximately $20 million in commissions to a Brazilian intermediary, knowing that some of the money would be used to bribe officials at Brazil’s state-owned energy company Petrobras and involving payments made through banks in Switzerland and Monaco.

There’s also still plenty of room to more effectively use data to fight corruption according to the OpenDataCharter team.  They argue that “in order to achieve systemic change, the incentives that encourage corrupt behavior must be confronted” rather than just ensuring data transparency. (Some tie up to the Learning Agenda being followed for use of data in fighting corruption by TAI member grantees in Nigeria.)

Returning to protests, we’ve noted all too many instances of internet shutdowns in the Weekly this year. When people mobilize, shutdowns are becoming an increasingly common repression tactic. Lily Hay Newman explains how exactly they work. Often this tactic is combined with more traditional modes of targeting individuals – another case in point this past week as Egypt detained a journalist from one of the last remaining independent news organizations in the country.

Read here to see what is keeping mis and disinformation specialist Craig Silverman up at night. Find some more resources here on MediaWell, a new platform that tracks and distills the latest research on disinformation, online politics, election interference, and emerging collisions between media and democracy.


Branko Milanovic speaks with Duncan Green on the future of capitalism, equality and more


Don’t think alone

TAI members collectively fund a lot of research and think tanks. We wonder how much of their research gets properly communicated and fulfils its potential influence. With that, here’s some much needed tips on think tanks communications from Helen Dempster at the Center for Global Development.

Helen’s recommendations should be of interest to more activist advocates as well as should these five recommendations on convincing people to act drawing on behavioral science. Read alongside Blueprints for Change – an open library of advocacy how-to’s put together by campaign innovators in order to help progressive organizers and groups up their game more quickly.

Finally, we need to measure effectiveness in order to have stories of impact (or not) to communicate. Techniques to do so continue to evolve (and TAI heard some at the recent American Evaluation Association conference). Here Linda Raftree suggests how we can boost the role of technology in Monitoring Evaluation, Research and Learning.


TAI Spotlight: A critical time for digital infrastructure

Image credit:  AI Now Institute

A critical time for digital infrastructure | Ford Foundation  
In January, the Ford and Sloan foundations announced $1.3M in funding for new research on the sustainability, maintainability, and security of open-source digital infrastructure. Stay tuned as the results of the funded research move toward publication, and bookmark the new website for the fund

Mapping the systems of virtual assistants MacArthur Foundation  
Take a deep dive into this digital “anatonomical” case study by MacArthur grantee, AI Now Institute, which reveals the impact of a simple tech device (an Amazon Echo) on human labor, data collection, and environmental impact. Fun fact, the report infographic recently won Design Museum’s Beazley Designs of the Year 2019 competition (see winning design above).

Get your camera ready – Announcing TAI photo grant | Transparency
and Accountability Initiative (TAI)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what images convey the currency of transparency and accountability? We want to find out. TAI launches a photo competition for professional and amateur photographers of any nationality to use their art to promote conversation around transparency and accountability issues.


Calls and job listings

BetterTogether Challenge for Innovators – Ongoing
Co-Impact Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Managing Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Democracy Fund: Sr. Associate, Strategy & Learning – Ongoing
Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Specialist at ICFJ (Contract) – December 9, 2019
Project Manager, The Henry J. Leir Institute – The Fletcher School – December 9, 2019
IMF Anti-Corruption Challenge – December 20, 2019
TAI Photo Grant – January 13, 2020
$2.5 million support for 32 partner research projects on health, water and sanitation, agriculture, and economic growth in developing countries – February 10, 2020
From Open to Inclusive Government: Global Innovate and Learn grant – February 14, 2020
Amartya Sen Essay Contest 2020: Illicit financial flows – August 31, 2020



Civil Discourse In The Age Of Digital Media And Its Impact On Young Civic Leaders – December 5, 2019 (New York, USA)
Can transparency and accountability empower communities to improve their health care? Evidence from the transparency for development programme – December 9, 2019 (Oxford, England)
Strengthening Human Rights Through Youth Engagement – December 10, 2019 (Washington, DC)
Asset Recovery of Grand Corruption: Lessons from Romania – December 11, 2019 (The Wilson Center, Washington DC)
The Impacts of Civic Tech Conference (TICTeC) – March 24 – 25, 2020 (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Transparency International: 19th International Anti-Corruption Conference – June 2 – 5, 2020 (Seoul, South Korea)
Women and Girls Africa Summit – June 9-12, 2020 (Durban, South Africa)