TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | July 9, 2019
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In case you missed it…


Fight for the right to write


13% and 0.3%. The percentage of the world population with access to free media and the percentage of global aid dedicated to media funding. Good news then that the UK and Canada are hosting a conference on media freedom starting tomorrow, drawing much needed attention to the repression on independent journalism. Nishant Lalwani of Luminate (TAI member and sponsor of the conference) lays out the importance of greater protectionsand lays down a challenge to the international community to create a new global fund to support media groups – a feasibility study is underway.

Among the cases Nishant cites is that of courageous investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered for her exposes of corruption in Malta. To better understand the risks she ran and why, listen to the new BBC drama adaptation of her life and work. What role does a free press play? Laxmi Parthasarathy explains, drawing on the work of Global Press.

Meanwhile, curbs on media are among the factors making minorities increasingly vulnerablein Pakistan. Civil society groups there may want to compare notes with those in Poland, who have also faced growing restrictions since the right-wing populist Law and Justice Party came to power. How to respond? There are some approaches showing promise. Magdalena Pekacka emphasizes the importance of solidarity among CSOs, as well as finding ways to work with more progressive local government actors. We may see signs of the latter already in Istanbul and Ankara following the wins for opposition leaders Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas. They are already turning to transparency to build trust with voters – and they seem to be tapping latent demand for public accountability. How else to explain around 300,000 people tuning into to watch the livestream of a public tender for the purchase of steel pipes for the capital’s sewer system at the end of June? “Citizens will see that the taxes paid to the municipality will not be squandered,” notes Yavas in Ankara.

Yavas’ push to connect revenues to spending in the public eye would have gone down very well at the Addis Tax Initiative conference in Berlin last week. The role of civil society and the public writ large was more to the fore – not least through release of some new TAI sponsored research (see Spotlight below). Beyond that, TAI was interested to see growing recognition and discussion of linking taxes to spending – important to help justify the push for more revenues, and also new attention to equitable outcomes from the tax system. Why does that matter? Remind yourself of the importance from the blog we featured last week. The organizations co-authoring that blog will have been intrigued to see a new report also making the connection to the SDGs – ECLAC’s Fiscal Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean 2019.


Paradise gone wrong

One of the fiscal problems facing the Latin American region is tax evasion –estimated at $335 billion by the ECLAC team. There is a fair chance that some of those evaders are making using of the British Virgin Islands that is home to more than 400,000 offshore companies with a total asset of $1.5 trillion in assets. Local elites are insistent on fending off the transparency movement. Stephanie Baker of Bloomberg chronicles the legal battles between the local regulators and foreign lawyers. How long can they resist a trend to limit use of the money launderers’ vehicle of choice?

Switching continents, Global Financial Integrity are estimating that Indonesia lost US$6.5 billion to trade misinvoicing in 2016 alone, while Riza Aziz, a producer for the “Wolf of Wall Street” is now in financial hot water himself, recently charged with embezzling $248m from the Malaysian government into Swiss bank accounts. He is the third member of the former first Malay family to be accused of misappropriating funds.


Ignore governance at your peril

Financial investors tend to get limelight when things wrong doing is exposed, but how can they influence more “good doing”? We missed this when it first came out, but Robert Eccles and Svetlana Kilmenko argue in Harvard Business Review that the view that investors don’t care about environmental, social and governance factors is outdated. Some of these firms are so big they can’t afford to let the planet fail and the firms they invest in are having to demonstrate they are looking beyond just financial considerations.

What happens when your whole business model appears out of whack with global survival? A recent study indicates that a global boom in natural gas pipelines is putting the energy industry on a “collision course” with some of the Paris climate goals. Recognizing not all investors are about to abandon the industry, Karen Graham discusses the potential effects and outlines a series of solutions to reduce the ecological footprint of the natural gas industry.

Turning to natural resources more broadly, those charged with resource management tend to underplay governance factors at their cost. TAI has been listening to discussions of revenue and contract modeling this past week, and so we’re intrigued that this new interdisciplinary study makes the case for integrating attributes of governance into quantitative assessmentsas they can help decision makers develop more nuanced and dynamic natural resource management programs.


Essential Listening:

Members from civil society recorded a podcast on the importance of embedding the principles of diversity and inclusion within all forms of civil society and at all levels. Listen here.


Sifting the acronym soup

Political scientists sure love their acronyms, not least those pushing adaptive approaches. Having difficulty distinguishing between your TWP, DDD, PDIA, and PEA? Don’t worry, Heather Marquette comes to the rescue, clarifying the important differences. Want to go from the terminology to the practice? Then check out new case studies of attempting adaptive programming around empowerment and accountability in Myanmar, Nigeria and Tanzania – all funded by the UK Department for International Development (and TAI member).

Thinking of fostering effective partnerships? Nonso Jideofor shares what they have learned on how to go about. He pinpoints their learning on the importance of centering their expertise, style of work and understandings of different contexts.


$5 for your soul?

As companies crave and amass data on all of us, how much do consumers really value their privacy? Apparently not much. According to a recent study by Angela Winegar and Cass Sunstein, the median American consumer is willing to pay just $5 per month to protect their data.

Apart from potentially misjudging the monetary value of data, many people also claim ownership of their data in a way as basis for claiming compensation when it is shared. Cameron Kerry and John Morris Jr. argue that the concept of data ownership is unhelpful. The trick is to find a path to legislation that protects the abiding interest individuals have in their information and enables the social benefits that flow from information sharing. For more on the elements that will enable sensible governance of data, Luminate’s Martin Tisné lays out where next for data (and digital) rights – see TAI Spotlight below.

Turning back to data enabling public benefits, Clive Thompson calls for more data to help us understand how we are destroying the planet and fight back. He argues that if technology investors are serious about changing the world socially, investing in obtaining data could be the right way to start. However, any tech saviors might first want to listen to Joi Ito. He explains the problems that come with tech people who want to solve problems.


Long read
The Rule of Law: A Critical Building Block for Good Governance and Economic Growth by Conor M. Savoy

The paper hopes to provide an overview of how donors have traditionally approached the rule of law, what the problem is from an investment climate perspective, an overview of U.S. support for rule of law, and, finally, recommendations going forward.


TAI spotlight: Mobilizing CSO support and learning from evidence series

Mobilizing civil society support for domestic resource mobilization | TAI
In this blog, Sam Sharp, argues that donors can effectively support civil society efforts on tax reforms by getting political.
Learning from evidence series | TAI
This series comprises a variety of practice- and policy-relevant learning products for funders and practitioners alike from evidence briefs to more detailed evidence syntheses.
Upholding our data & digital rights | Luminate
Martin Tisné highlights three working hypotheses the organization will focus on over the next few years.

*Don’t forget to check out our newly launched 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 and add yours!

Calls: Proposals, speakers, papers, courses


On the calendar