TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | July 16, 2019
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In case you missed it…

What if… testing fail to learn
A welcome chance this week to explore learnings around the hard business of promoting social accountability. First, dig through the process of four cases undertaken by the Partnership for Social Accountability Alliance in Southern Africa around rights-based public resource management in health and agriculture. Committees play a key role here and it’s interesting to compare to the processes of public information sharing and consultation to improve maternal newborn and child health under the experimental Transparency for Development (T4D) project. What happens when a project doesn’t achieve its desired goal? Is it a failure or can it be a positive springboard for future endeavors? Even when the experimental finding is null – as in this case – James Rasaiah points to valuable learnings on how health care could be delivered. TAI members (some of whom funded the project) will be reading this T4D series with interest.

Last week, we unpacked the differences between PDIA, PEA, DDD and more. It seems that social accountability wonks are just as fond of their acronyms as the political scientists. Joy Aceron, introduces us to one of the more fun ones – BuB – Bottom-Up Budgeting, and again brings us back to the difficulty of achieving ultimate objectives. In this cases, years of programming in the Philippines helped create a procedural mechanism for civil society participation but was unable to improve government responsiveness. 

Meanwhile, Community-Driven Development (CDD) has long been a buzz word for institutions such as the World Bank, but 3iE’s synthesis study questions the effectiveness of programming – again the gap appears between engineering participation and achieving ultimate impacts. Bobby Anderson argues that the benefits of CDD are real – the problem more with unreasonable lofty expectations, such as hopes of boosting social cohesion. Yet, what investment is justified if expectations are lowered?


Long read

The “Tokenization” of the eParticipation in Public Governance: An opportunity to Hack Democracy by Francisco Martinez. Buzzword heaven as blockchain, “smart citizens” and “eDemocracy” all come together. Apparently this could mean a new citizen governance model with greater public participation. Sigh.

More than a game

What can a game predominately played by middle schoolers teach us about our society? A lot apparently. Peter Wells of Open Data Institute discusses the risks and harms of data trusts to new institutions drawing on insights from the use of Pokemon Go.

Another potential negative of the utilization of data is the role of biometrics and how they are stored and shared. Zara Rahman stirs the conversation by discussing how civil society could circumvent such a problem while advancing collective advocacy.

Governments and contracted service providers routinely collect data in their day-to-day administrative operations – much of it underutilized. As those attending the UN High-Level Political Forum debate data and development, Jenna Slotin reminds us that ‘unsexy data’ has an important role to play in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Examples include better utilizing info like birth and death records, land ownership certificates, and access to government services.


At what cost?

Talking of achieving the SDGs, many worry that economic constraints hinder poorer countries hopes of progress – hence the push to strengthen domestic resource mobilization. Yet it can be hard navigating not just domestic pressures that might lead a government to think twice on say a wealth tax, but also a tilted international playing field. Christine Lagarde had made the IMF a surprising recent champion of tax reform and fighting corruption – noting that developing countries collectively lose about $200 billion a year to multinationals’ profit manipulation. It remains to be seen if her successor will be as forceful. In the meantime, Tom Cardamone points to trade misinvoicing as an equally significant source of losses to poorer countries (drawing on the GFTrade tool). Time for a different kind of trade war, this time on trade fraud?

Talking of tax reform – the French upped the ante in the battle to shape digital taxation with a 3% tax on tech giants sales. As discussions on multilateral solutions pick up pace at the OECD, Andres Knobel worries about corporate capture of reform processes and lays out 6 points for effective reform, starting with giving low income countries a meaningful role in the decision making.

Not that some firms aren’t sensitive to their tax reputation. We’ve seen the B Team’s responsible tax principles and now 50 British firms have been Fair Tax Mark certified. TAI is intrigued by conversations on whether the model could be expanded to other jurisdictions.


Feeling the heat

Of course, reputations can fast turn. Adaro energy is one of Indonesia’s biggest coal companies and a previous winner of the ‘Golden Taxpayer award’ for abiding by local tax regulations. Yet Global Witness now reveals that the company has been moving vast amounts of profits into a growing network of offshore companies. Staying in the region, Myanmar’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative multistakeholder group has released two reports detailing millions of dollars in lost revenues due to loopholes in forestry sector rules.

From land to sea – does anyone have a submarine? Oversight now needs to extend to the deep seas where regulation is murkier still. Greenpeace revealed that 29 exploration licenses covering 500,000 square miles of seabed around the globe have now been issued to companies who intend on extracting minerals at potential risk to fragile ecosystems.

Meanwhile in Zambia, the government is planning a law to give local firms a fairer share of the $4 billion market in mining goods and services. Sounds appealing locally, but experience of local content requirements in other countries suggest vigilance will be key as such requirements are ripe for capture. Talking of political capture? Interesting to see a court in Nigeria demand seizure of $40 million in jewelry (and a gold iPhone) from a former oil minister.


‘Can’t scream any more’

Social activism is physically and mentally exhausting. In Africa, feminists are often faced with the dilemma of advancing gender equality or safeguarding their mental states. Jessica Horn suggests that accessible care practices are needed in order to ensure that their voices are not lost.

Switching continents, though 23 Latin American countries have laws securing the rights of citizens to information, research shows that it is not enough as perpetrators of corruption are usually not held accountable. UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Luis López-Calva, discusses the problem while recommending a solution, including the promotion of information literacy. This point is underscored by experiences in Tunisia where a variety of CSOs recently united to combat a long history of electoral corruption.

How do evaluators explicitly embed equity into their lens of evaluation? The TCC Group seeks to provide a response to this question and others surrounding equity and evaluation in their publication titled ‘Equity and Evaluation: Models of How Equity Can and Does Impact Evaluation’.

Essential listening:

Who wields power in human development? Should the development community address inherent power dynamics more deliberately? Patrick Fine of 360 and Paul O’Brien of Oxfam America attempt to answer these questions. Listen here or here.


TAI Spotlight

Immediate and decisive action is needed to protect journalists | Luminate
Similar to last week’s article from Nishant Lalwani on reflecting on the assassination of Maltese Journalist, Daphne Galizia, Lalwani lays out three key steps governments must take to defend journalistsKeeping Open Society Alive in Sarajevo | Open Society Foundation
Following a trip to Sarajevo, a city previously under siege during the Bosnian war, Alexander Soros discusses the role of OSF in promoting democratic principles in the country and the room while advocating for more work to be done.
Initial Evaluation Report for OnNigeria | MacArthur Foundation
As part of MacArthur’s “Big Bet” OnNigeria Program, they’ve just released their initial evaluation findings for program grants totaling $57.21 million through 112 grantees.
Fiscal Sponsorship ins and outs | TAI
A reminder of our recent series on why fiscal sponsorshipwhat to look for in a sponsor, and the potential to expand the model beyond the US
*Don’t forget to check out the Open Gov Stories Global Podcast Series with Open Gov Hub. It goes behind the scenes to explore why social changemakers do the work they do. Listen to more than 20 stories from people in the TAP field – new ones to come each month. Plus you can record and add your own.