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TAI Weekly| June 26, 2018
By TAI
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Highlights

  • The most and least transparent aid donors
  • Lessons for improved grantmaking
  • Women, blockchain and AI against corruption
  • Global updates on corporate transparency
  • Anti-NGO bills and online censorship
  • The cost of data and freedom of information

In case you missed it…

The most and least transparent aid donors

The 2018 Aid Transparency Index is out. Who is the most transparent of them all?

The Asian Development Bank and the UNDP receive the highest marks (TAI associate member DFID ranked 3rd). China’s MOFCOM and UAE’s MOFAIC are at the bottom of the list but encouraging to see them participating. Overall, the findings indicate progress compared to the 2016 results – 93% of the 45 development organizations in the index publish to IATI and half publish data on a monthly basis. The biggest barrier to transparency? Lack of political will. But why should we care? George Ingram summarizes the key points on why aid transparency matters in addressing global development challenges, many of which resonate with Michael Jarvis’ points on the value of transparency in philanthropy.

Lessons for improved grantmaking

Learning for improved grant making is a cornerstone of our strategy and TAI members have been quite busy the past week. See DFID’s performance review of its governance programming in Nepal and Uganda. Meanwhile, there is a new analysis based on 29 European countries around the question: Does Good Governance Foster Trust in Government? Both useful reading for those heading to either USAID or World Bank governance conferences in DC this week.

Hewlett Foundation shares how they embed organizational principles in their grant practices and Jennifer Wei explains how funders can better support grantees to become high-performing organizations. MacArthur Foundation highlights the impact of donor collaboration in their education portfolio (are there lessons for the TAP space?) Of course, learning is a two-way street. The Center for Effective Philanthropy compiles funder reflections (including from TAI’s Ford Foundation) on how donors learn from grantees.

Julia Coffman from the Center for Evaluation Innovation is worried that the philanthropy sector is “getting too tactical too soon.” She notes that, “Rigorous learning is not simply a technical problem solved by having the right tool, the right template, or even the right data. It is a practice, a way of thinking and working, a set of capacities and habits.” Coffman shares five habits (plus tips on how to build them) to support a learning culture within the organization.

Our additional learning resources – 3ie’s what makes a successful advocacy program (based off a review of 56 impact evaluations) and the Global Philanthropy Report – a comprehensive analysis of global philanthropic practices and trends. Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s tech team seeks to figure out “how to create a strong technical culture within philanthropy, which hasn’t really been done before”. Hopefully they’ll be open to learning from what other philanthropies have tried (e.g. ON’s coming review of ten years of civic tech funding).

Women, blockchain and AI against corruption

Block chain, AI and women are bad news for kleptocrats (and good news for us!) So claim Chandan Jha and Sudipta Sarangi – their analysis of 125 countries reveals that corruption is lower in countries with higher participation of women in politics. They claim, “This research underscores the importance of women empowerment, their presence in leadership roles and their representation in government.” Is Montenegro headed in the opposite direction? Recently, the country’s government removed Vanja Calovic Markovic (who also heads an anti-corruption NGO) from its Agency for Preventing Corruption, citing “conflict of interest”, which she is questioning. Spain’s anti-corruption game plan? Develop AI and blockchain technologies such as registering and tracking transferred crypto-asset transactions.

Will US pressure help curb corruption in Africa? The US Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence urges Uganda and Kenya to disrupt illicit financial flows from South Sudan. One thing we know won’t help: censorship. In China, a Stanford study found that corruption complaints from the public against lower management in one city are censored from reaching senior authorities.

Global updates on corporate transparency

A blow to American lobbyists against the Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption provision comes from the British government (see the case of Exxon Mobil). A UK government study found that extractive companies required to report finances in countries where they operate “did not report any substantial costs associated with this reporting,” and that “this type of reporting does not disadvantage company business interests, including their relationships with governments”. Still, on transparency, Adam Kanzer shares his conversation with TJN’s Alex Cobham on whether the B Team’s Tax Principles raise or lower the bar for tax transparency. In Nigeria, Anne Chinweze and Rob Pitman talk about 4 ways on how the government can make petroleum contracts transparency a reality. The country-by-country reporting of tax data in the EU is back on the agenda so perhaps there would also be some progress there. And more broadly, Ian Gary speaks on the role of donors and IFIs in promoting transparency and EITI has released a guide on tools and recommendations for civil society in leveraging EITI to improve governance in the extractives sector.

Ukraine made a bold (and welcome) step in making its national beneficial ownership data available to the global public. But civil society has identified weaknesses in the system that prevent clarity on beneficial ownership in the extractives sector. Will Indonesia fare better?

Watch: How journalists can collaborate to tell stories about tax avoidance | Simon Bowers | TEDxGlasgow

Anti-NGO bills and online censorship

Civicus claims the relationship between civil society and the government of Macedonia is improving. That bright spot is overshadowed by news from elsewhere. Civil society organizations and UN Special Rapporteurs have expressed grave concern over a draft law on associations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which they feel would restrict civil society activities under the guise of security. Same goes for Nepal, which is set to approve a new policy that limits the activities of INGOs and requires local NGOs to seek government permission for foreign funding, among other things. Over in Hungary, the Open Society Foundations released a legal analysis of the “Stop Soros” package” of proposed laws. One possible response? Channel the energy of community foundations as urged by Tamás Scsaurszki.

How to defend rights in hostile contexts? JASS and the Fund for Global Human Rights explain the importance of power, movements, gender, and narratives. Perhaps a new EU fund for democracy and solidarity will help?

Online censorship and restrictions by the government are on the rise as we see in the Mekong region, Latin America, and China. And how do citizens fight back? Turkey citizens use VPN technology, which worked in China until the government started to crack down on its usage. Now, Chinese activists are developing applications to circumvent the Great Chinese Firewall. Jack Backlin sees free speech debates as a struggle for power among three forces – nation states, private Internet infrastructure companies, and the “speakers” such as media, CSOs, hackers, and trolls. He argues we need to minimize risks of collateral censorship while protecting the public from digital surveillance and manipulation – “different models of regulation are appropriate for different parts of the digital infrastructure.”

The cost of data and freedom of information

Global think tank EYQ looks at global mega trends including populism (and the need for a new social contract). The report highlights the need for government regulation to manage the consequences of technology and data such as algorithmic bias, and privacy issues. Take the case of China that has plans to become the world’s largest data producer, but whose data privacy policies are lacking, as Deng Yufeng’s exhibit demonstrates. Following challenges around its digital id Aadhar program, India is drafting a bill to protect data and privacy. They might want to look at Europe’s proposed PSI Directive: A good baseline for future open data policies?

Long read of the week: MIT GOV/LAB Political Behavior of Development Curriculum

Need a long summer reading list? Or considering a lit scan on any number of citizen participation or accountable governance topics? Check out this MIT GOV/LAB curriculum. 

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