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Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Transparency, Accountability, and Technology
Plan International
The recently launched Sustainable Development Goals have kicked off a renewed development agenda that features, among other things, a dedicated emphasis on peace, justice, and strong institutions. This emphasis, encapsulated in Goal #16, contains several sub-priorities, including reducing corruption; developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions; ensuring inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making; and ensuring access to information.  Indeed, the governance-related Goals merely stamp an official imprimatur on what have now become key buzzwords in development. Naturally, where there are buzzwords, there are “tools.” In many cases, those “tools” turn out to be information and communications technologies, and the data flows they facilitate. It’s no wonder, then, that technology has been embraced by the development community as a crucial component of the global accountability and transparency “toolkit.”

Freedom in the World 2016
Freedom House
The world was battered in 2015 by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. These unsettling developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

2016 : What do you consider the most interesting recent (scientific) news? What makes it important?  
Human intuition is a notoriously poor guide to reality. A half-century of psychological research has shown that when people try to assess risks or predict the future, their heads are turned by stereotypes, memorable events, vivid scenarios, and moralistic narratives. Fortunately, as the bugs in human cognition have become common knowledge, the workaround—objective data—has become more prevalent, and in many spheres of life, observers are replacing gut feelings with quantitative analysis. Sports have been revolutionized by Moneyball, policy by Nudge, punditry by, forecasting by tournaments and prediction markets, philanthropy by effective altruism, the healing arts by evidence-based medicine. This is interesting news, and it’s scientific news because the diagnosis comes from cognitive science and the cure from data science.

Freedom by the Numbers
Foreign Policy
It's January, which means we’ve just learned that freedom around the world is declining. This — for the tenth year in a row — is the conclusion of an annual report released earlier this week by Freedom House, the venerable human rights and democracy organization. Freedom lost ground in 72 countries in 2015, the report somberly concludes. This is the largest such number over this gloomy ten-year period, during which the percentage of the world’s population that lives in “free” countries declined from 46 to 40 percent. These annual “Freedom in the World” reports, which describe and numerically rate the state of freedom in every country on earth, inevitably generate buzz, and this year will be no exception. And it’s not just the media.

Orchestrating Change: Catalyzing the Next Generation of Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration for Sustainability
“Collaborations have played a key part in bringing us to where we are now—i.e., on the cusp of much more transformative change. But how, and to what extent, can they help achieve the full and final transformation that’s needed?” In the wake of the SDGs and COP21, there is more need than ever for cross-sector collaboration to drive progress on sustainability, but there are also real questions about how far and how fast it can take us, and how much of it any given organization can effectively sustain. Our latest report, Orchestrating Change, grapples with these questions and offers a vision for a new generation of multi-stakeholder collaboration, with the aim of helping companies and other organizations better plan for and cope with the increasing demands of collaboration, and bring sustainability much more rapidly to scale.

Strong, independent media critical for good governance
Do not envy U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Gayle Smith, who recently took the helm of one of the world’s largest development organizations. Violent extremism is on the rise. The largest number of refugees since World War II are fleeing intractable wars in the Middle East, Africa, Central America and elsewhere. Humanitarian crises caused by droughts and natural disasters are likely to persist. Widespread corruption continues, undermining the legitimacy of governments. Over a billion people still live in extreme poverty.

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