TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | From Defense to Offense?
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In case you missed it…

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From defense to offence?
Image Credit: Chief Executive
 

TAI joined strategy discussions of the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society last week and some fascinating explorations of how to take on identified drivers of shrinking space including unchecked corporate power, securitization (national security trumps all), and regressive anti-democratic forces. Taking a longer-term view, the hope is to shift to ways to open up civic space. To that end, Michael Edwards offers two solutions. First, address the disappearance of opportunities within the civil society for people of different political views and identities to debate, strategize and organize with one another. Second, invest in public spaces of all kinds in which people can meet each other and ‘not draw the knife’. On the need to reconnect communities and institutions, Independent Sector’s Dan Cardinali says governments need to restore the trust that allows civil society to flourish by emphasizing the values that have long bound us together and by adopting the newer values of shared power and racial equity.

Meanwhile, repression remains all too evident where you are an anti-corruption investigator, environmental defender, or human rights activist (see Long Read below). At least 30 environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2018 and the tally could worsen this year – four dying between September and November alone. On the digital front, we’ve reported on Pegasus malware in past Weeklies, now Aljazeera reveals exactly how some governments are using it to hack journalists’ phones around the world. NGOs are being used as pawns in geopolitics, not least as China announces sanctions on U.S.-based nonprofit organizations, in retaliation for new U.S. legislation that supports Hong Kong’s protesters.

As digital selves are ever more exposed, Privacy International wants you to think about all the ads you see online and how technology companies use your data. For instance, their research showed that about 42 percent of free apps on Google Play could share data with Facebook even if you don’t have an account. Yet the challenges of sharing data in this politicized era offer no simple answers. Just words of caution and concern.

One tension is the balance of individual versus government action. Regulators have a role and the European Union is launching a fresh inquiry into the Google’s data collection practices after it fined the company more than €8billion on a similar offence. However, John Thornhill cautions that while Europe’s leaders are right to worry about big tech, the people, not governments, should exercise digital sovereignty. His fellow commentator Rana Foroohar – continuing her series on big tech – reaches the conclusion that governments need to prohibit the tracking and microtargeting of individuals.  At the very least, governments may also want to pay more attention to the way data collection excludes the most vulnerable as a British research body says  ‘huge power imbalances’ exist in terms of data governance and usage. If that is true in OECD countries, imagine the risks in lower income settings.

LONG READ: People Power Under Attack
CIVICUS highlights the state of civic freedom in 196 countries. The report shows fundamental roll-back in freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are backsliding across the world, and only 3 percent of global population is living in countries with an open civic space.

 

New context same message  transparency doesn’t necessarily lead to accountability
The new gig and data economy giants may have gained their market dominance through disruption but now seem to be facing similar asks to long established players in other sectors, most obviously in a push for greater transparency.

Manifestation one: interesting to see Uber release its first report on customer safety and revealing a rather eye-opening 6,000 reports of sexual assault and 19 murders among people using or associated with its service in 2017-18. However, the firm is clear that it does not consider itself liable as its drivers are independent contractors, so no immediate path to accountability.

Manifestation two: baby steps to learn from the consumer goods shift to transparent labeling (be it on provenance or nutrition). In this case the Interactive Advertising Bureau is exploring a Data Transparency Label, with the aim of making it easier for advertisers to find the information they need to decide which data to buy and from whom. They offer a primer on how such a label could help reduce some of the risks inherent with using data one doesn’t own.

One front where we are still pushing for the transparency, is on digital tax. Campaign group Fair Tax Mark call out the ‘silicon six’ internet and tech companies of “aggressively avoiding” $100 billion (€90.8 billion) in global taxes over the past decade, while Alex Cobham wonders if the OECD tax reform will stand the text of time as the US places tariffs on French goods in response to the French digital service tax. Perhaps some hope longer term as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) launches a new tax transparency reporting standard. Compared to the OECD approach, the GRI provides for reconciliation of the country by country reports with companies consolidated financial statements.

 


Participate in the TAI photo contest to promote conversation around transparency and accountability issues.
 
To the barricades!
Alex Cobham offers a bigger picture view this week as well. In his new book, The Uncounted, he reveals how we haven’t just underestimated inequality, but let it flourish out of sight. The politics of uncounted people and financial assets allows greater levels of inequality to persist than we realize and fundamentally weakens the social contract between state and people.

We suspect that Martin Wolf at the Financial Times would likely agree with the analysis as he lays out an agenda to reform today’s “rigged capitalism,” by taking on the lack of competition, putting debt finance on a par with equity, reforming the corporation to broader purpose, addressing inequality and refurbishing democracy including via “public funding of parties, complete transparency of private funding and also far greater use of consultative forums.” It is surely a sign of the times when the required reading of finance is calling for radical reform.  Further evidence of a shift in urgency and tone, too, in their call for US to end its status as the “largest dirty money haven in the world.” Edward Luce urges adoption of financial transparency as a challenge to the world’s autocrats.

Meanwhile, Nigeria prepares to release its first Beneficial Ownership Register for the Extractive Sector on December 12. Find out how this will impact the country’s extractive sector. (We’ll report back if the register does go live next week.) Also, discover what else the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is doing as it launches the RemTrack app to track and enhance transparency and accountability issues, and commits to supporting the industry to achieve its remediation process.

As Equatorial Guinea announce a $1billon need to diversify its energy sector, we wonder if there is room to implement transparency and accountability measures.  Meanwhile, a year after it was subpoenaed by the US government over possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, mining giant, Glencore is facing another corruption charge – this time around, in the United Kingdom. The FBI testified before the Senate Foreign relations committee about the dangerous effects of illicit mining and transnational crime organizations in the western hemisphere. The agency blames inadequate country laws and poor capacity to regulate the mining industry as a major contributor to this menace.

Looking beyond natural resources, Gerhard Anders writes on how anti-corruption agencies in Africa struggle to operate independently. While these agencies have numerous problems with producing evidence in the courts and enough resources, Anders argues that institutional independence hasn’t saved them from political influence.

 

Garbage in, garbage out

Image Credit: Integrated Learning Strategy 

One pathway to accountability is greater citizen vigilance, but if we’ve learned one thing it is that such citizen engagement should not be taken for granted.  So it will be interesting to track who monitors the information being published on a new open contracting portal created by Development Gateway and Argentina’s roadworks office. Information will be compliant with the Open Contracting Data Standard that might aid comparability to road contracts in other jurisdictions.

Citizen participation is obviously essential to the effectiveness of participatory budgeting, but as Jason Lakin notes, if “performance information is going to make any difference, it should be selected and decided upon through a public process” and the resulting data provided needs to be accurate. If not, we are back to garbage in leading to garbage out. Emerging evidence based on participatory budgeting in over 150 communities in Ukraine further suggests the importance not just of levels of civic activism but of local self-government transparency in order to gain any traction. Of course, enabling environmental factors for such processes make a difference, too, and it is somewhat chilling to see participatory budgeting approaches struggling in Brazil, their birthplace. Time for realism on how far such approaches can get us and the risks of politicization.   

ESSENTIAL LISTENING: Can understanding psychology help rise above populism?
Listen to this podcast by the Civil Society Futures and Innovation Podcast on understanding how audiences interpret and react to populist and civil society messages.

 

Flip the funding terms
Will we see grantees walk away from funders who don’t share the same values with them? Nathaniel Heller hopes so if we want a more meaningful and inclusive philanthropy. Last week we noted important new resources for women’s’ funds, and Alliance Magazine’s Charles Keidan makes the case for a feminist consciousness as an important lens for impactful philanthropy (Check out the new issue dedicated to the topic).

Talking of impact, Vu Le writes on the harmful effect of Impact-Per-Dollar on nonprofit effectiveness – more reason why Foundations should give unrestricted funding and stop putting pressure on nonprofits to be frugal.

Lastly, take a deep dive and get insight into innovative approaches to fundraising, philanthropy, and nonprofits’ finances and find out ways funders can be co-strategists

 

TAI Spotlight: Busting silos and building solidarity
Busting Silos and Building Solidarity | Open Society Foundation
Amardeep Singh, Senior program officer for the National Security and Human Rights Campaign of Open Society-U.S, writes on the success of the Solidarity Summit over the years. According to him, “the theory of change undergirding the summits is that shared transformational experiences lead to transformational relationships, which over time lead to transformational change.”

Three Secrets Behind the Ouagadougou Partnership’s Magic | Hewlett Foundation
The Ouagadougou Partnership has broken new ground in mutual accountability for advancing women’s reproductive health across nine Francophone West African countries. Janet Holt, Program Officer for Global Development and Population program, reveals the reason behind the success of the Ouagadougou Partnership and how to harness the strong foundation that has been built to go even further.

On Reforming Philanthropy, Capitalism and Technology | Ford Foundation
Darren Walker in an interview with Financial Times Moral Money’s Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Gillian Tett revealed his prescription for reforming philanthropy, capitalism and technology. “The current form of philanthropy needs disrupting, just as the current form of capitalism needs disrupting because, at their roots, they can do more to make the world a
fair and just place,” says Darren.

Media Lab for Journalism Launched | Luminate
Luminate’s media lab project to support press independence, Baraza Media Lab for Journalism, was officially launched last week Thursday in Kenya. The media lab will serve as a hub for media practitioners and foster building relationship within the media, citizen and civil society. Get more insight from Baraza Lab curator, Christine Mungai and follow the hashtag #WeAreBaraza on twitter on how the initiative will shape the future of journalism in Kenya.

Evaluation Partner Terms of Reference | Transparency and Accountability Initiative
TAI is seeking expressions of interest from consultants or firms to conduct an evaluative assessment of whether and how TAI funder members have contributed to shaping and advancing a global agenda for greater beneficial ownership disclosure and transparency (see more details in the call section).

 

Calls and job listings

Job postings at International Budget Partnership (M&E positions too) – Ongoing
BetterTogether Challenge for innovators – Ongoing
Co-Impact Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Managing Director of Programs and Learning – Ongoing
Democracy Fund: Sr. Associate, Strategy & Learning – Ongoing
IMF Anti-Corruption Challenge – December 20, 2019
TAI Seek Evaluation Partner  – January 9, 2020
TAI Photo Grant – January 13, 2020
$2.5 million support for 32 partner research projects on health, water and sanitation, agriculture, and economic growth in developing countries – February 10, 2020
From Open to Inclusive Government: Global Innovate and Learn grant – February 14, 2020
Proposal Submission for the 2020 Summer Evaluation Institute – June 7-10, 2020
Amartya Sen Essay Contest 2020: Illicit financial flows – August 31, 2020

 

Calendar

Strengthening Human Rights Through Youth Engagement – December 10, 2019 (Washington, DC)
Asset Recovery of Grand Corruption: Lessons from Romania – December 11, 2019 (The Wilson Center, Washington DC)
Walking the Talk – December 11-12, 2019 (World Bank Headquarters, Washington DC)
The Impacts of Civic Tech Conference (TICTeC) – March 24 – 25, 2020 (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Frontiers of Social Innovation: People, Power & Resources: The Redistribution Wave – 12-14 May 2020 (Stanford University, California, USA)
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)