TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | October 15, 2019
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How do you leverage $1.1 trillion?

Within TAI we are talking more and more about how to leverage the might of the global investment community to reinforce good governance. One way is to have them push firms (and governments) they invest in for greater transparency. Another is to be transparent themselves, so good to see Norway’s $1.1 trillion pension fund become more activist and committing to publish all its voting instructions ahead of shareholder meetings for firms it invests in by 2022. Understanding the ins and outs of the financial system is not easy for outsiders, so it’s encouraging that France is pushing for more transparency on borrowing and lending of stock and the Bank of International Settlements has started to publish “data on cross-border financial flows…even for opaque off-shore centers.” Despite this, Gillian Tett worries that the shadow banking system is still just that – too shadowy. 

We have a deal proposal!!!

The intricacies of international tax reform made some front pages this week as the OECD released its proposal for digital tax reforms designed to help level the playing field. The proposal is eliciting more consensus than some thought possible and should result in the likes of Google paying more, but not agreement on who benefits and to what extent, as a dive into the Twittersphere will reveal. For example, see Tax Justice Network’s Chief Executive Alex Cobham’s thread highlighting concerns. Will the OECD publish its analysis and assumptions?

Of course, corporate influence will still be live and well in shaping tax debates. The race to the bottom may still have no visible bottom. Take the case of the US this week, where the Treasury is weighing rolling back rules that help prevent US firms offshoring for tax avoidance

The digitalization of tax audits means corporate tax directors risk discrepancies in audits given they are not using the same tools/algorithms as revenue authorities.

Essential Listening

Who pays taxes and why

An individual’s age, gender, and location can affect their willingness to pay taxes – globally women tend to be more tax compliant than men, why is it the opposite in Africa? OECD’s Grace Perez-Navarro offers insights based on new tax morale research.

Off budget bonanza

Barely a quarter of extractive industries revenues in Myanmar went direct to the national budget accounts in 2016/17 based on the country’s fourth EITI report – see this infographic from NRGI for more insights. Meanwhile the Nigerian EITI calls for oil metering to avoid dependence on industry self reporting on production volumes, and Uganda forms a multi-stakeholder group as a stepping stone to EITI compliance.

Social participation is something new for us.” Some frank talk from mining giant Vale as it struggles to rebuild trust after the Brazilian dam disaster earlier this year.  “…we used to believe creating jobs and taxes was enough. That’s no longer enough. Our license to operate will come from a permanent dialogue with society.”

Meanwhile, how do you manage relations with a community over a decision not to extract? We will need to get better on that front. As climate concerns take hold, the African Development Bank considers if and how best to let the continent’s resources stay in the ground.

Long Read #1

Rachel Maddow’s take on big oil, Russia’s resource curse and a willingness to undermine democratic practices in order to maintain the money flow. No surprise she highlights the need for extractives transparency.

One size does not fit all

Sylvie Delacroix and Neil Lawrence of International Data Privacy Law argue that one size fits all definitely will not work for data governance regimes. Rather they are argue for bottom-up data trusts and a world where “data subjects” can chose a trust and switch between then as needed.

Sticking with the data in trust theme, what about corporate data beyond that on individuals? Paul Forteza, a member of the French Parliament and Marianne Billard argue ‘data from companies should be a common good‘ and call on companies to be more transparent with their data.

That seems unlikely if the era of self-regulation continues. The debates at the AI Now convening this past week reminded us of some of those risks yet suggest a growing push back on harmful effects – see this visual of developments in 2019 (US centric) though it reminded us of Oscar Willliams’ concern that big tech is funding the very groups shaping ethics of big data uses and AI.

In what ways can data help report on SDG indicators? Data for Good Exchange (D4DX): Data Science for SDGs, brought together data scientists, academics corporations, practitioners and civil society to provide tangible answers to the question. A potential example? The ‘SMART Fiduciary Tools’ being applied to monitor World Bank Projects in Yemen. Insights might also come from implementation of the US government’s Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data (OPEN) Act – still very much a work in progress.

Donor control disorder

Dan Honig tells donors to take a pill and try to let go of obsessive monitoring and control impulses.  Instead they would do better to let local leaders lead whether in government or local civil society.  

TAI is digging into first draft of our own evaluation, which will help shape our strategy update in the spring. In the meantime, we are also helping support Open Government Partnership’s evaluation process being led by Oxford Policy Management (funded by TAI members Hewlett Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and DFID).

Speaking of evaluating, CARE International have looked at what makes for an effective advocacy campaign. Being committed and persistent it seems, and supporting advocacy efforts after a project had ended.

Long Read #2

Three Eras of Digital Governance

Jonathan Zittrain recounts the evolution of digital governance and what it might resemble in the future.

Polarize to immobilize?

From Turkey to India to the UK to Brazil, political polarization seems the order of the day. Tom Carothers helps us understand the spread of this phenomenom. So what to do? Open Democracy argues that society must do away with a winner-takes-all- mentality.

Of course, shifting social norms is not easy. They often constrain behavior change. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Diana Chigas at Tufts University offer a new reference guide on social norms for addressing corruption and fragility.

In other news, we now have a global map which illustrates financial transparency reform from 2000-2015 (thanks to researchers at ACE Global Integrity), the US Treasury took advantage of global reach under the Magnitsky Act to sanction members of the Gupta family re corruption networks in South Africa, and OpenCorporates won its court battle and affirmed its right to hold a copy of Quebec’s company register.

Finally, Daniel Neale digs into free trade zones and finds they have become a haven for illicit transactions and an avenue for companies to defer tax payments. What might be we do about it? Push every country with zones to pass comprehensive legislation in line with global standards, such as the Financial Action Task Force best practices



Democracy Fund: Sr. Associate, Strategy & Learning – Ongoing

The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Student Social Innovation Challenge – October 15

Craig Newmark Cyber Journalism Fellowship – November 1

TAI Student Fellowship – Spring 2020 – November 10

Small Charities Challenge Fund for UK registered NGOs and Charities – November 28


Global Symposium (COPGS) on Citizenship, Governance, and Accountability in Health – October 15-18, 2019 (New Delhi, India)

What Works Global Summit 2019: Building Evidence – October 16 – 18, 2019 (Mexico City, Mexico)

7th SAMEA Conference: Shaping M&E for a sustainable future – October 21 – 25, 2019 (Gauteng, South Africa)

2019 Philanthropy Summit:  Philanthropy at a Crossroads – October 29, 2019 (California, United States)

Global Perspectives 2019 – October 29 – November 1, 2019 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

Global Partnership for Social Accountability – Global Partners Forum 2019 – November 19-21, 2019 (Washington DC, United States) 

ODI Summit 2019 – November 12 – 2019 (London, United Kingdom)

The Story Conference – November 27 – 29, 2019 (Melbourne, Australia)

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)