Author Archive

Which way does the compass point on accountability and transparency?

August 9, 2013
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COMPASS 2015 Research Session in the Philippines

The debate is raging (in some circles) about what should come after the MDGs in 2015 but amongst all this discussion the voices of those who really matter – those experiencing poverty or marginalisation – are not always present. To try and address this CAFOD has just finished an in-depth research project exploring people’s experiences of poverty and exclusion over the past 15 years, as part of the wider Participate initiative with the same aim. The COMPASS 2015 research project explored people’s experience of poverty and exclusion over the last 15 years involving 1,420 participants in Zimbabwe, Uganda, the Philippines and Bolivia. A central issue that emerged was how development projects and services are delivered and who benefits. Concerns about how governments and other actors involved, such as INGOs, were accountable and the transparency of the process were high on people’s agendas.

Poor governance structures which lead to political patronage, corruption or the disproportionate favouring of those in more privileged positions affect the poorest and marginalised the most. Those are the people who rely most on services or development programmes and  cannot afford to find alternatives

But how to reverse these trends and ensure greater accountability from those who are delivering services? Amongst many possible measures are feedback mechanisms, the participation of communities, freedom of information and protection for those who speak out are important steps to build a better system.

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The best job with the “worst” job title

August 22, 2011

Recording a discussion on advocacy

We are currently recruiting for a new Advocacy Accompanier. When one donor representative heard the job title her reaction was ‘Wow that is possibly the worst job title in the world’.

So when we came to put together the job description for this post we thought long and hard about it.

It goes without saying, we cannot compete with Peace Dividend Trust’s groundbreaking job descriptions (“Ability to quote entire episodes of Arrested Development from memory”).

We went through lots of possibilities – advisor, facilitator, capacity building officer – but as Rosalind Eyben argues, labels have power.

We eventually came back to “Accompanier” after reading a post by Paul Farmer in Foreign Affairs:

Reflect, for a minute, on the limits and the potential of the activity that used to be called “charity” or “foreign aid” but that I prefer to call “accompaniment.” (more…)

On the importance of trust

July 1, 2011

An example of a state building trust: Government advertising in Liberia

IDS held their latest ‘Dangerous Ideas in Development’ Seminar in the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday evening. It was titled Handle with Care: Delivering Aid in Volatile Environments.

During the discussion Dan Smith, Secretary General of International Alert, talked about the importance of trust between governments and their citizens. In 2000 government officials warned communities in Mozambique of the coming floods. However those communities who did not have trust in the government did not leave – meaning they could not reach higher ground when the waters did come.

Joanna Wheeler of IDS also talked about the relationship between states and citizens. She noted how all too often this dynamic got lost when we think about fragile states. They are not blank slates for state building but have many forms of civil society  – and it is this relationship between the citizen and the state that is important. She also stressed how, given the chaotic and complex nature of fragile states, there will tend to be setbacks in any route to development. Helping to strengthen civil society structures to weather this will be important.

Trust came up again when the discussion turned to the decision by the British government to ring-fence the aid budget. The success of fundraising events such as Comic Relief show the public’s support for development but in order to maintain support for aid it is vital to maintain the public’s trust that their money is being well spent.  (more…)

Monitoring advocacy in a complex world

June 29, 2011

In the process of measuring change

At the moment there is an increasing focus on how NGOs measure their results and show impact in order to ensure we are being as effective as possible. This has many benefits but hits particular difficulties when NGOs are trying to bring about change through influencing policy structures.

Ironically this area of work can have some of the biggest impacts – in Bolivia we have seen communities’ incomes rise by 250%, partly by work to persuade local authorities to immunise domestic animals. However often what these impacts will be within the life of an advocacy project cannot be definitely defined via a logframe in advance. Changes are often unpredictable, take a long time and are not entirely within the control of the organisations pushing for them.

How to increase the measurability of advocacy work is an issue that CAFOD has been looking at for some time. Recognising that change through policy influence does not always happen in a simple or predictable way, our method of monitoring the effectiveness of our work has to reflect that reality.

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Apples and Oranges … and special circumstances

April 11, 2011

By Flickr user Biking Nikon OGG

One of the key issues at last week’s  UN climate change talks in Bangkok was how to measure what countries are actually doing to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets.

For the uninitiated, you would think the way forward is for every country to put their targets (which are legally binding in the case of developed countries) for reducing GHG emissions on the table. Next, agree a system for counting the amount of gases (in gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) the targets represent. Finally, compare this aggregate amount to the cuts that science says are needed to ensure that the earth’s temperature does not rise to a dangerous level – defined in the 2010 Cancun agreements as below 2 degrees of warming.

However, nothing is ever that simple in the complex world of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, as Bangkok proved yet again.

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