These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Curbing corruption and fostering accountability in fragile settings - why an imperilled media needs better support
BBC Media Action
An independent media is one of the most effective assets we have in efforts to curb corruption and foster accountability. Yet it is deeply imperilled, particularly in fragile states and often poorly understood by the international development sector. This policy working paper argues that unless development strategies begin to prioritise support to independent media, corruption may continue to go unchecked and the accountability of states will diminish.
Africa’s digital revolution: a look at the technologies, trends and people driving it
World Economic Forum
We are at the dawn of a technological revolution that will change almost every part of our lives – jobs, relationships, economies, industries and entire regions. It promises to be, as Professor Klaus Schwab has written, “a transformation unlike anything humankind has experienced before”. In no place is that more true than Africa, a continent that has yet to see all the benefits of previous industrial revolutions. Today, only 40% of Africans have a reliable energy supply, and just 20% of people on the continent have internet access.
What’s wrong with the principal-agent model?
We all agree that accountability of public officials is a good thing, but our understanding of how accountability works could stand improvement. In the current issue ofGovernance, Madalina Busuioc and Martin Lodge challenge the “hegemonic framework” for talking about accountability, the principal-agent model. We persist in using this model, Busuioc and Lodge argue, even though it does not square with empirical evidence of how accountability-related activities actually work. They propose an alternate model, a “reputation-based approach” to accountability, that provides a better explanation of behavior. “Accountability is not about reducing information asymmetries, moral duties, containing agency losses, or ensuring that agents stay committed to the original terms of their mandates. Accountability is about sustaining one’s own reputation vis-à-vis different audiences.”
How to measure prosperity
WHICH would you prefer to be: a medieval monarch or a modern office-worker? The king has armies of servants. He wears the finest silks and eats the richest foods. But he is also a martyr to toothache. He is prone to fatal infections. It takes him a week by carriage to travel between palaces. And he is tired of listening to the same jesters. Life as a 21st-century office drone looks more appealing once you think about modern dentistry, antibiotics, air travel, smartphones and YouTube. The question is more than just a parlour game. It shows how tricky it is to compare living standards over time. Yet such comparisons are not just routinely made, but rely heavily on a single metric: gross domestic product (GDP).
Bad drivers are a good indicator of a corrupt government
Traffic accidents kill 1.25 million people per year, and it’s well-known that those deaths are disproportionately in low- and middle-income countries. Over at CityMetric, writer James O’Malley has added an interesting wrinkle, by showing a correlation between the number of traffic fatalities in a country and the corruptness of its government.
Build up local data to reach global climate goals
Amid the enthusiasm for its success, the UN’s Paris climate agreement, hammered out last December after two frantic weeks of high-level negotiations, left some big questions unanswered. For the first time in UN history, country delegates commited to climate action that will be regularly reviewed and tightened. But only a substantial improvement in national and international infrastructure can turn pledges into reality. The Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) was launched last month as a learning platform for countries to share experiences and best practices. It aims to help bridge the gap between local capacity and global requirements within the Paris agreement framework. In this interview, Michael Jacobs, one of the initiative’s coordinators and consultant with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, explains the thinking behind ICAT and considers the next steps for implementing climate readiness.
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