Apr 2nd, 2013 4:29 PM UTC
By Dr Sipho Moyo
Last week, ONE’s team on the ground in Bali continued to lobby the members of the High Level Panel (HLP) on our Open for Development petition and the preliminary results of the You Choose campaign from Malawi, South Africa and Zambia.
Almost 120,000 ONE members from around the world have signed the Open for Development petition so far, and another 150,000 Africans have given their ideas on what development should look like in their countries. We presented both the petition and the results to as many members we could find. In particular, I was particularly pleased and delighted to speak to Co-Chair of the High Level Panel, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, regarding ONE members’ actions.
After explaining to her the transparency and accountability mechanisms we’re proposing in the next set of development goals, I was able to briefly tell her about some of the preliminary results we’re finding from the You Choose campaign survey.
As we promised to take the voices of our African members to the High Level Panel and other world leaders, it was important to demonstrate the connection between ONE’s goals for transparency and the consultations and outreach we’ve done on what Africans want for their development.
President Sirleaf understood and even made the connection with ONE and Save the Children’s event at the HLP meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, back in January.
She was also pleased to hear that ONE’s You Choose survey is being adapted to contribute to the UN’s My World process of soliciting citizens’ views on the future of development.
In addition to President Sirleaf, I was able to speak to and present our petition and findings to all of the African members of the HLP. I also spoke to Minister Gunilla Carlsson of Sweden and Minister Justine Greening of the United Kingdom, who was representing Prime Minister David Cameron.
After all the remarks and encouragement, I was particularly struck by what my friend and ONE Board member Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria had to say. After receiving ONE’s petition and reports, she commented that “this is an important process which shows that African citizens want to be engaged on matters that affect them.” Minister, we couldn’t agree more.
Mar 25th, 2013 12:06 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
“A cat has a lot in common with a politician. When it’s hungry it’ll come and rub up against you, and then the rest of the day it just sits there”. – Michael Soi
Michael Soi is a Nairobi based artist whose pieces provide a personal reflection and satirical commentary on contemporary social, economic and political trends in Kenya. ONE’s Hannah Elansary got the chance to talk to Michael about his art.
When did you start painting ?
I began creating art from my childhood because my dad is also an artist. I took it seriously after high school when I went to art school and graduated in 1996 and officially began my career as an artist.
What is the biggest inspiration for you work?
My biggest inspiration is the city of Nairobi
Painting revealing Nairobi night life. Photo credit: edcrossfineart.com
Who is your audience?
My audience is mostly the people of Kenya and anyone who has lived in Kenya long enough to understand the dynamics of the society. I want them to look at the man in the mirror.
Why is it personally important for you to paint about corruption and other struggles?
I do work that revolves around corruption because it is a big problem in Kenya, which seems to have interfered with the development of this country. Impunity is how government deals with this issue making it very difficult- I dwell on issues that a lot of artists will choose not to address.
Why do you think people refer to your work as controversial?
Because I touch on issues that they do and don’t want put out there. I talk about corruption and commercial sex work. Kenyan society is one that loves to bury its head in the sand.
Do you listen to any music while you work?
Yes! I listen to Manu Chao. I love his music and what it represents. I listen to a lot of weird music!
What is the goal of your artwork?
To create a visual diary where in the next 15 to 20 years, young people will look at my work and see where Kenyan society has come from.
Michael is currently working on a new series of paintings called I Love Nairobi. His work has been selected for group and solo exhibitions in Africa, Europe, the UK and the US, so look for his art at a gallery near you. Or find out more on Michael’s Facebook page.
Mar 15th, 2013 4:41 PM UTC
By Lauren Pfeifer
Lauren Pfeifer, ONE’s Transparency and Accountability Research Assistant, shares Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s call for transparency and accountability mechanisms in the oil industry of Ghana.
Renowned Nigerian economist and member of ONE’s Board of Directors Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala advised Ghana on the importance of building transparency and accountability mechanisms into the DNA of its fledgling oil industry. Speaking at the John A.Kufuor Global Development Series in Accra last Friday, Okonjo-Iweala said, “My sisterly advice is that you should be uncompromising on issues of transparency and accountability in the sector.” By building transparency and accountability mechanisms into the sector, Okonjo-Iweala hopes Ghana can avoid the pitfalls of a sudden influx of revenues from natural resources.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the John A.Kufuor Global Development Series in Accra. Photo credit: www.guardian.co.uk
Currently serving her second term as Finance Minister of Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala cautioned Ghanaians Friday to the subtle shifts that she witnessed after Nigeria began exporting oil. After the discovery of oil in Nigeria, its well-diversified economy shifted, non-oil sectors contracted, and an entrepreneurial spirit was sapped as energies were shifted to “chasing government contracts, rather than productive investment,” she said.
Ghana’s Petroleum Revenue Management Act has been widely praised because the legislation specifies how petroleum revenue should be collected and allocated. Okonjo-Iweala implored policymakers and leaders to strengthen it further by institutionalizing transparency in contract negotiations. She encouraged the Ghanaian government to prepare thoroughly before entering into negotiations with foreign oil companies and to invest the profits in public infrastructure.
Okonjo-Iweala also stressed the importance of regional cooperation, especially with regard to infrastructure and trade. She noted that several key building blocks for development – good economic policies, good governance, and investment in infrastructure and skills – are falling into place, making the time ripe for regional development. “With these building blocks in place,” she said, “we can create a platform for the private sector to grow.”
The discovery of Ghana’s oil reserves in 2007 – now known as the Jubilee Field – is estimated at between 800 million to 1.8 billion barrels, and is expected to generate over $1 billion yearly in export revenue over the next 20 years. The new oil wealth has the potential to provide Ghana with the revenue needed to drive development and reduce poverty.
Feb 25th, 2013 2:18 PM UTC
By Alan Hudson
As David Cameron’s speech to the World Economic Forum at Davos made clear, plans for the G8 Summit are taking shape. In addition to tackling the threat of extremism and terrorist violence, and addressing issues around agriculture, food and nutrition at a pre-G8 event, the key issues on the agenda are trade, tax and transparency – government transparency and corporate transparency.
On tax and transparency, a number of issues seem to be competing for attention on the G8 agenda. These include: transparency about the revenues that companies pay to governments to extract oil and other natural resources; transparency about land deals; transparency about tax matters; transparency about who owns and controls shell companies; transparency about budgets; and transparency about development assistance. Alongside these proposals are others to ensure that the information unleashed by various transparency initiatives is user-friendly and that civil society groups and others are able to make use of that information to hold governments and companies to account.
Faced with a plethora of proposals and initiatives, there is a need both for some prioritisation and for a clear and compelling narrative about how the various initiatives will work together to drive progress against poverty and preventable disease. For ONE, this is fundamentally a narrative about linking resources to results, with transparency and information the main storyline.
Here’s how the story might go.
On resources, the G8 countries commit: to make faster progress on implementing the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) to meet their aid transparency commitments; to support robust EU laws on extractives transparency, help to develop a global standard on extractives transparency and, where relevant, sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI); and, to establish public registries of beneficial ownership.
On budgets and spending, the G8 countries: support BOOST – a World Bank initiative to make information about budget revenues and expenditures more accessible; endorse and implement the principles of the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency; and, support the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) so that there is transparency about how public resources are spent on infrastructure projects.
On results, the G8 countries support another World Bank initiative – the Service Delivery Indicators initiative – which looks to improve the information that is available about how health, education and other services are delivered in developing countries. Straddling the resources and budgets and spending categories, the G8 should also support better and more open contracting.
In addition to these asks at different stages of the chain from resources to results, we are also asking the G8 to take action to make the chain as a whole work better, first by making sure that data is made available in accordance with emerging standards for open data, and second by investing in the capacity of civil society, the media and other accountability institutions to use information to hold governments and companies to account.
This is an ambitious but achievable agenda. Backed by such a narrative, the G8 can deliver a coherent package of measures that, by enabling people to access information to hold their leaders to account, will help to ensure that all resources – aid and developing countries’ own resources – are used effectively to fight poverty, rather than squandered or siphoned away. This is a compelling story. We hope it’s one that the G8 will take up and use to communicate and deliver the policy changes that are needed.
Feb 8th, 2013 6:54 PM UTC
By Joseph Powell
There is big news today on both sides of the Atlantic for campaigners – including ONE – in the Publish What You Pay coalition for transparency in oil, gas and mining. The major Norwegian oil company Statoil has withheld their support from last-ditch attempts to overturn the new US rules on transparency, and a former Shell executive has declared his support for similar laws in Europe.
At ONE, we’ve been pushing for laws in the US and Europe that would lead to the publication of all payments from extractive companies to every government where they do business, on a project-by-project basis. This will help empower citizens in resource-rich but poor African countries with the information they need to hold their leaders accountable for money coming in. However, some of the largest oil companies have chosen to fight these efforts, including through a lawsuit filed by the US industry body – the American Petroleum Institute (API) – against rules that implement the “Cardin-Lugar” amendment to the 2010 Wall Street Reform Act.
Today our partners Global Witness have published a letter from Statoil, a major New York Stock Exchange-listed Norwegian oil company, indicating they do not support industry attempts to overturn these rules. They said: “Statoil has not supported the lawsuit initiated by API; in fact, Statoil has explicitly withheld support for the litigation. As you know, we have not taken an active stand regarding the lawsuit, but chose to communicate our view on the new rule to the SEC, internally in the API and in other relevant fora.” Statoil’s decision deserves considerable praise and we are encouraging ONE members to tweet them a well done message using their handle @statoilasa. We are now calling on other companies to similarly distance themselves from the pro-secrecy API lawsuit, and cease attempts to weaken the proposed European transparency law.
In a new article for The Guardian, Alan Detheridge, a former executive with the oil company Shell, also pushes back against attempts to kill or weaken the new transparency rules in the US and Europe. He writes: “Oil companies, including Shell, are trying to convince European governments to weaken the proposed reporting by pushing for exemptions and opposing project-level reporting. These same companies are also members of the American Petroleum Institute, which is going to court to try to overturn the US legislation passed in 2010 and thereby turn back the clock on transparency. I hope that European governments will resist this pressure and stand up for transparency. The European rules should require reporting in all countries, and for every project, with no exemptions.”
These two interventions build on the support of former BP Chief Executive Lord John Browne who wrote in the Financial Times in April 2012 that the European “law could transform the lives of millions of people in some of the world’s poorest countries. But it will only work if it requires companies to disclose all the important details of their payments.”
Governments, NGOs and extractive industry companies should now unite around the new global standard – mandatory disclosure in every country on a project-level basis – and ensure that this transparency momentum leads to improvements in people’s lives in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Take an extra step for the fight for transparency and tell the UN High Level Panel to make sure that our next global plan to end extreme poverty is open, transparent and represents the world’s poorest.
Feb 5th, 2013 8:15 PM UTC
By Edith Jibunoh
This week, ONE and Save the Children gathered close to 200 Liberians, including several Liberian ONE members, at a popular event in Monrovia, which included an exhibition and panel on transparency and accountability in the city’s iconic City Hall.
City Hall was packed all afternoon with the young and eager Liberians who gathered at our event, keen to join our efforts to focus attention on transparency and accountability and emphasize the recommendations, just released in a new report, for the UN High Level Panel (HLP) deliberations on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (or as we like to call it, MDG 2.0).
The event was attended by members of the HLP, including co-chair President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister of Finance and the Economy; Ms. Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Development Minister; Ms. Betty Maina of Kenya; Mr. John Podesta, Chair of the Center for American Progress; Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Post-2015 Agenda; as well as members of the HLP secretariat and other Liberian dignitaries.
Involved in our exhibition were a variety of activists, including Ma Annie, who started the Liberian “Peace Huts” to mediate local conflict issues (land, marital and community unrest); Alfred Sirleaf, who started Daily Talk, a community blackboard which translates the news into vernacular and images in order to make news accessible to the illiterate; young Koola Fofana, who talked to mingling guests from her stand, and displayed her work on the President’s Vision 2030 committee, allowing her to channel youth voices into Liberia’s formal development planning. The exhibition also included the big draw for the many youth in attendance: Sweetz and David Mello – two Liberian music entertainers who worked on a song with young kids throughout the exhibition, encouraging them to express themselves and get involved in their country’s development through music.
The exhibition was quickly followed by five lively breakout sessions, where Liberian citizens organized themselves and came up with a range of recommendations for various facets of the transparency and accountability agenda, including the consultation process of how to get better data.
The HLP members were really impressed by the effort that the Liberians put into coming up with concise yet constructive inputs for them to take into consideration and individually commended their work after spending some time going through the exhibitions on display.
President Johnson-Sirleaf reminded the youth that Liberia’s future lay in their hands, while Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala remarked on the alignment of the issues raised by the Liberians and the HLP members. Ms. Gunilla Carlsson congratulated Liberia on the progress made under the leadership of President Johnson-Sirleaf and noted that their recommendations showed the dedication of the citizens to making their country a better place.
Ms. Betty Maina emphasized the importance of holding the private sector accountable alongside the public sector,stating that they also had a responsibility in ensuring that development goals were met, and she encouraged Liberians to demand accountability from the private sector as well.
Mr. John Podesta recognized ONE and Save the Children for the remarkable work we do and spoke of the trip that ONE organized that brought him to Liberia for the first time, where he was able to see firsthand the dedication of Liberian people to their development.
The entire event, which spanned about 6 hours, left all of us involved inspired and struck by the dedication these citizens put into communicating their views on development. We are all so proud to have been a part of the process that gave them a platform to get their views across to those that needed to hear it the most.
What would make the biggest difference in your world? Vote for the issues that matter to you most here, and we’ll share them with the HLP.
Jan 18th, 2013 3:00 PM UTC
By Katherine Lay
Say that your country is blessed with natural resources. Oil, gas, minerals – it has it all. The future looks good. But deep down you worry that the bonanza could turn into a bust – maybe you live in Africa and have seen how windfalls have been wasted before. How do you know that’s not going to happen now? Are there any tell-tale signs of sound management of “commodity wealth”?
Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, recently asked these questions and, in response, offers us a combination of measures that every government should have in place to help citizens get a good deal from their resources.
We’ve looked at four of these measures and how they’re playing out in Africa.
First Measure: Governments publish their extractives contracts
Extractive resources are public assets and decisions about their use should be subject to public oversight. But many African governments are keeping their oil, gas and mining contracts firmly under wraps. This is a problem because confidential contracts prevent citizens from holding political and corporate leaders to account for the deals they’ve struck. Closed contracts may contain unreasonable tax breaks, terms that contravene national legislation or clauses that allow companies to ignore changes in national law. By contrast open contracts help maximize gains for citizens, and are a deterrent to self-serving actions on the part of government leaders. They also increase investment stability for companies by securing balanced deals from the outset.
Contrary to warnings that contract disclosure turns investors away, the countries that have elected to go the transparency route have watched investor interest in their resources grow. After Liberia and Nigeria signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – a voluntary global standard that promotes revenue transparency and open extractives governance – their credit ratings improved and foreign investment increased. Both countries have passed national EITI laws that make independently audited reporting of resource revenue payments and receipts legally binding. Sierra Leone, with its devastating history of mineral wars, is now publishing all its mining contracts online. Guinea’s new mining code mandates the same. Ghana has made its most important petroleum agreements publicly available and has established a Public Interest and Accountability Committee made up of government, corporate and civil society representatives to oversee oil revenue flows. It is also an EITI member, with a national EITI law in the legislative pipeline. Zambia’s parliament is set to enact its EITI law this year. In fact, the majority of member countries of the EITI are African (22 of 37 members), although some key extractives producers – notably South Africa – have yet to sign up.
Second Measure: Rent from the exploitation of extractive resources is saved for bad times and for future generations
Massive offshore oil and gas discoveries in East Africa, from Tanzania to Mozambique, are catapulting countries in the region into global energy players, and will bring in billions in windfall revenues that could transform entire economies. Planned investments exceed the current GDP of some host countries. Barely a month goes by without new discoveries of extractive resources across the continent. These provide unprecedented opportunities for countries to tackle poverty and to ensure more prosperous futures for their citizens. But for this to happen, a substantial share of revenues need to be invested in assets, with a sense of responsibility to future generations, rather than used for immediate consumption. Too many countries have made the mistake of depleting their resources, allowing revenues to disappear through unsustainable spending and consumption, and finding their coffers quickly exhausted.
Although there are mixed views on whether current African producers – even those with relatively strong governance records – are investing revenues adequately or distributing them equitably, there is no doubt that issues of rent beneficiation and the importance of long-term saving is now high on the African radar. Governments are recognizing that beating the resource curse requires prudent fiscal policies with long-term expenditure frameworks that prioritize investment in human capital and infrastructure.
Sovereign wealth funds can help countries smooth the volatility of resource-driven revenues by lowering the effect of boom and bust cycles resulting from fluctuating commodity prices. They can also help a country diversify its wealth. The continent is currently witnessing a scramble for sovereign funds, reflecting a healthy interest by African governments in saving for future generations and in buffering their economies against financial shocks. As long as these funds are transparently managed and well-structured, they can help keep a country’s economic trajectory firmly on the upswing. Botswana’s long-standing Pula Fund, financed for the most part by diamond revenues, has been a strong source of growth for a country that was one of Africa’s poorest in the 1970s and now finances the university education of over 90% of its students. As oil revenue starts to flow into Ghana’s coffers from newly discovered offshore reserves, the government is eager to reap the profits and pressure to spend is high. But the rapid development of the oil industry and the associated challenges for the government have made it critical to assure investors that a framework is in place to save oil money when energy prices are high. In response, Ghana launched its sovereign wealth fund last year. Africa now accounts for 14 sovereign wealth funds – Angola, Botswana, Nigeria, Libya and Algeria have them in place, and Tanzania will soon follow.
Third Measure: Governments pay off their debt
Debt dynamics have been driving global economic change over the last decade, not least in Africa. Overall, the benefits of debt relief and sustainable debt management are persisting. African governments are servicing their debt and borrowing responsibly. Debt stock ratios – which fell dramatically with debt relief – have risen only slightly since, and “debt-distress” risk ratings prepared by the World Bank and the IMF have improved markedly. The number of African countries rated as high-risk has halved since 2006 (from 18 to 9) and low-risk ratings are becoming the norm (from 5 to 13). Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana and Zambia are all issuing sovereign bonds on international markets and getting high levels of international investor interest as bond buyers seek higher yields than in the US and less default risk than in some Asian economies. Last year, Senegal issued its second sovereign bond, breaking new ground by successfully concluding a joint bond issue and exchange.
But risks remain high, especially for fragile states. Some emerging African economies have exceeded the globally acceptable benchmark of a no higher than 30% debt to GDP ratio, over which debt burdens become over-bearing. The IMF has warned that the build-up of public debt levels in South Africa since the global financial crisis is now a constraint on the government’s fiscal space as additional debt accumulation will likely raise funding costs. South Africa’s debt to GDP ratio for 2012-13 is 40%. Ghana’s ratio stands at 41%. Nigeria‘s ratio of 18% is relatively low, but, in contrast to South Africa and Ghana, a large portion of this debt has been used to plug holes in its budget rather than on capital projects. Kenya continues to be one of Africa’s debt success stories: in 2003, the debt ratio stood at 60%, declining to 40% by 2008 through prudent fiscal policies, economic reforms and sound budget management. Its debt currently stands at 45%, but is on track to return to 40% by 2014.
Fourth Measure: An audit of the government’s budget execution is done on time and made available to the public
The budget audit closes the accountability loop by giving an authoritative account of whether the government’s reporting of how it raised taxes and spent public funds during the budget year is accurate and whether it has complied with financial management laws and regulations. Budget audits are a key deterrent to corruption as they provide a means for public scrutiny during budget evaluation phases and, when published, promote a sense of trust in elected representatives.
The Open Budget Survey rates South Africa one of the world’s top performers, both on audit reporting and broader budget transparency. The government gives citizens a full picture of its plans for taxing and spending, publishing all key budget documents and an understandable citizen-friendly version of the official budget. Budget audits are published on time and online. The country’s budget framework creates disincentives for misappropriation of public funds and formalizes the participation of citizens in the budgeting process, developing a sense of ownership of outcomes through collective decision-making and helping ensure that expenditures are better directed towards pro-poor programs.
Uganda and Ghana – East and West Africa’s top performers – are also producing and publishing comprehensive audit reports, although their timeliness is problematic. Liberia’s audit institutions have been exceptionally active in promoting budget accountability, publishing audit reports on time and issuing press releases to signal their submission to parliament. The audits are discussed with citizens in public hearings and open forums all over the country, and are made available in schools and public libraries. Liberia’s legislature has also enacted a Public Finance Management Law that lays down the budget system to be followed by the government, and approved a law that limits the amount of funds the executive can transfer from one administrative unit to another at its own discretion. But Liberia’s story is not common. An ongoing problem across the continent is the limited time given to parliaments to look over budget proposals and audits, and limited powers to amend or challenge them.
Strong accountability institutions – parliaments, audit institutions, civil society organizations and the media – are essential to maintaining a connection between citizens and the public purse, and to ensuring that resource revenues are invested in social sectors that help secure better development outcomes. A broken connection enables diversion of public revenue from the policies they’re intended to finance and the services they’re supposed to deliver. This diversion, whether through misappropriation, embezzlement or plain inefficiencies, thrives when transparency and accountability are weak.
On a positive note, we’re seeing an emerging trend in Africa toward the adoption of practices that make it easier for citizens to follow public money and track spending results. South Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania and Kenya are all members of the new Open Government Partnership – a multilateral global initiative to promote compliance with open governance standards – and they’re showing commitment to strengthening their systems and opening up their practices to public oversight. But many African governments are still resistant to this trend. Whether they can remain so, in the face of citizen pressure to reform and in the wake of mass protests against corruption and the persistent lack of economic opportunities, is the question. As owners of their countries’ extractive resources, citizens are demanding their rights to profit from them. Public information and government accountability for what resources are available, how they’re spent and what results they achieve are the best guarantee that a country’s resource wealth will translate into lasting benefits for its citizens.
Dec 18th, 2012 10:49 AM UTC
By ONE Partners
What can we do to fight corruption? One of the most frequently asked question Transparency International got when we published the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 last week.
The question is especially pertinent in Africa, which only has five countries in the top 50 countries on the index, where lower scores indicate a greater perception of public sector corruption in 176 countries. 90% of African countries on the index score less than 50 out of 100, with Botswana in 30th place showing what can be achieved in the fight against corruption, and Somalia in last place warning what happens if you don’t.
Corruption is a daily burden in Uganda, which ranked 130th out of 176 countries, and has recently faced a major aid scandal. The situation is particularly tense in the health sector. Our research has shown that less than half of staff were available at health facilities. The absence of health specialists inevitably exposes people to paying bribes if they want preferential treatment.
Indeed, 24 per cent of health providers we surveyed acknowledged that taking informal payments in exchange for services is common. 44 per cent reported that service users sometimes offer gifts to health workers. (Our colleagues in Zimbabwe face a similar challenge: nurses once fined women for screaming during labour).
The situation is aggravated by the lack of transparency and accountability, making it harder for citizens to tackle the problem. None of the lower level health facilities we looked at had complete financial records, and most facilities did not have updated drug stock registers.
In 2010 we set out to address corruption problems in healthcare and farming by rolling out several development pacts in central Uganda, similar to those tried by our colleagues in India.
We told communities to pick their own development agenda, then asked local politicians to commit to fulfilling that agenda. People were able to pick the issues that matter to them, and clearly described what they expect their leaders to deliver.
Some of the leaders refused, some signed up. Not surprisingly, more of the latter were re-elected than the former.
Photo: A regional politician signs a pact.
After the pacts were signed, citizens set up committees to monitor progress. Politicians and officials now often give the committees access to their offices to get information.
The result was relentless community pressure for better services. The committees personally counted drugs as they were being delivered. The list of drugs received is posted on notice boards. More staff have been hired, more mosquito nets delivered and more people are visiting the health centre. Parents have learnt to monitor budgets, and are now tracking school budgets too.
The people from my village are happy because they can receive all the basic drugs prescribed to them by the physician at no cost and drug shortages have become history in the health centre – A member of the Kyebe sub-county community
Another priority was government funding for subsistence farmers. The government provide funds to support farmers. Under the scheme, local authorities are supposed to use funds from the state to buy seeds and equipment for local subsistence farmers. The problem is they often buy sub-standard seeds and machinery and keep the difference.
We held review committees attended by both local politicians and government representatives. In the past, politicians had always blamed the other for failings. But when they were all in the same room, it suddenly became harder to duck responsibility.
Photo: Transparency International and community members witness the pact signing
We have managed to give farmers more control over the process. The criteria for selecting farmers who receive support was made simpler and more open. More farmers joined the government support programme, having been made aware of their rights and the selection process was made more open.
Our work continues.
In the north of the country, we are now helping citizens report problems in health care by sending SMS text messages. For example, they warned that malaria nets are not being distributed despite the fact that a health centre that recently received a delivery from central government. Read more on this here.
Nov 15th, 2012 5:08 PM UTC
By Katherine Lay
A Development-Driven Consensus to Improve Africa’s Natural Resource Governance
Africa’s natural resources are an untapped catalyst for massive socio-economic growth. With accountable leadership, responsible investment and the right regulations in place, the natural resource sector can spur Africa’s development trajectory into the stratosphere.
This was the conclusion of participants in the BBC’s Africa Debate on 26th October, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 8th African Development Forum. Both the debate and the forum tried to answer the same question: can Africa overcome its natural resource curse and manage its abundant resource endowments for the benefit of its people rather than the bank accounts of political and corporate elites?
After alerting members to the upcoming debate, ONE received a record number of comments and tweets responding to this question. Your concerns focused on the critical problem of corrupt natural resource management by both governments and multinational corporations, and your emphasis on the disconnect between state and society on resource policy and practice made clear that the relationship of accountability between governments and citizens has broken down.
Participants in the Africa Debate highlighted these concerns. They reached a swift consensus: mismanagement, graft and corporate tax evasion in the natural resource sector are robbing citizens of the revenues needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to deliver essential services that remain non-existent for people across the continent. The gap between rich and poor in Africa is growing, and will not be bridged unless accountable governments and companies commit to an equitable pro-poor development approach to natural resource exploitation rooted on strong political will, visionary corporate leadership and an empowered civil society that, together, build partnerships for change.
The African Development Forum also produced a consensus. Its 800 delegates endorsed a formal Consensus Statement suggesting better ways in which Africa can use its natural resources for people-centered sustainable development. It’s a consensus that recognizes that although Africa has shown strong economic growth over the last decade, it still faces the challenge of translating this into effective poverty reduction, quality social services and opportunities for political and economic participation. With the number of youth in Africa set to double by 2045 – and with 27 percent of them currently unemployed – harnessing the natural resource sector to create jobs isn’t just crucial for social cohesion and stability, it also generates a virtuous cycle of productivity, innovation and growth.
We need solutions that tap into this productivity and that build platforms for citizen participation in resource governance. Solutions like the Africa Mining Vision, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and other instruments that create a rights-based, transparent and accountable natural resource sector in Africa, and that encourage both governments and companies to improve rather than destroy the social wellbeing of the continent’s citizens.
This Consensus Statement is timely. More reserves of oil, gas and minerals are being discovered each day. Over the next decade, billions of dollars will flow into African countries previously starved of financial capital. These revenue flows must be transparent and regulated through open natural resource governance processes. Secret contracts, tax avoidance and illicit financial outflows from Africa are in no citizen’s interest. You’ve stressed it in your comments and tweets, participants in the Africa Debate echoed it, and delegates to the African Development Forum committed to it: we need to follow the money to make sure that natural resources are transformed from a curse into a catalyst for growth.
Thank you to everyone who submitted questions and comments!
In case you missed it, you can listen to the debate on the BBC website.
Nov 2nd, 2012 1:00 PM UTC
By Adrian Lovett
A world in which 870 million people are chronically undernourished is not best served by small thinking. That’s why it is entirely fitting that in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, David Cameron sets out a vision to make this the generation that eradicates absolute poverty. What seemed a few decades ago to be an idle pipedream is now tantalisingly possible, with a surge of political will and resources in the coming years. The fact that Cameron has articulated this goal, when economic austerity and cynicism with politics makes some view such ambition with scepticism, is a very good sign. He knows such a goal is achievable and appears ready to play his part to make it happen.
But Cameron has done more than set a lofty goal. He has articulated a distinct approach to poverty reduction – the ‘golden thread’ – which argues if societies are to move from poverty to prosperity, they need to have the right institutions and governance arrangements in place, with people empowered to face the challenges and seize the opportunities that they face in their daily lives.
So far, so good. The notion may be open to misinterpretation by some, but the ‘golden thread’ combines conviction and common-sense. So if genius, as Thomas Edison remarked, is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration, the Prime Minister can probably tick off the first half of the formula. But to realise the potential of the smart approach he champions in pursuit of the big vision he has described, he and his team now need to break a sweat.
The leadership challenge is to flesh out the ‘golden thread’ with ambitious policy changes and a diplomatic plan to sell them on the world stage. Neither of these challenges is straightforward but Britain is in a unique position to deliver on them in 2013, thanks to a series of leadership moments where extreme poverty will be centre stage. Each of them will require a carefully constructed alliance of leaders from across the world, from governments, multilateral institutions and civil society. If Cameron can meet five tests in 2013, he will have a justified claim to a place in the history of the fight against poverty.
The first test is to maintain the UK’s commitment to meet the internationally agreed spending target of 0.7% of gross national income on aid. Well-spent British aid transforms lives around the world. Reaching 0.7% means that by 2015 British taxpayers will have supported 16 million children to go to school and paid for vaccinations that will save 1.4 million lives. The UK government should ensure that investment in agriculture is a priority, building on recent commitments to reverse the decades of underfunding for a sector that is the primary occupation of the majority of people living in poverty.
Second, Cameron should use his role as co-chair of the United Nations panel on what will follow the Millennium Development Goals to set an ambitious new set of global poverty targets. The first set of goals from 2000 agreed that extreme poverty should be halved by 2015. World leaders must now set a course to eradicate extreme poverty entirely – and plot the clear steps towards that destination.
Third, the G8 in June must be a moment of clear policy delivery on the ‘golden thread’. The last UK hosted G8 secured important increases in aid and debt cancellation to help directly fund the fight against poverty. In 2013 aid remains an important part of the picture, but as more and more countries attract investment, exploit their natural resources and expand their tax base, Africa’s development prospects increasingly rest on its ability to harness domestic resources for the benefit of all.
There are several ways the G8 can uniquely support this process, advancing transparency in order to empower citizens to take charge of their own destiny. They must act on natural resources, which have too often been a wasted opportunity for developing countries. Cameron’s call for Europe to at least match US legislation requiring extractive companies to publish what they pay governments, broken down to individual projects, is welcome.
The UK should also go a step further by signing up to the voluntary Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and ending the double standard of asking developing countries to sign on without being members themselves. But the G8 should also agree a package of measures to ensure that newly liberated data about financial transactions between companies and governments is effectively used. Civil society and anti-corruption bodies need to be supported – financially if needs be, through a G8 ‘Follow the Money’ Fund – and government revenue authorities beefed up. The same institutions will benefit from progress on budget transparency, which the G8 should support by endorsing fiscal transparency principles and public procurement efficiency measures. Transparency around other issues including large scale land deals and tax should also be increased, with rules that enable politicians and companies to hide their ill-gotten gains behind a wall of secrecy re-written too. Only then will the illicit financial flows that drain Africa of precious government revenue begin to slow down.
The fourth test is galvanising momentum for world leaders to follow through on bold commitments that will ensure there is enough food for everyone. Cameron has multiple opportunities to lead in 2013 and make sure these promises are kept. As well as the G8, meeting, he announced yesterday that the UK will host a summit next year to focus global attention on agriculture and nutrition.
The New Alliance launched at this year’s G8 to lift 50 million out of poverty through agricultural investment should be expanded to more countries and backed by funding pledges that run until at least 2015. It should also include an accountable partnership on nutrition between developed and developing country governments and the private sector. The Maputo commitment made by African governments to ring-fence at least 10% of national budgets for agriculture will reach its tenth anniversary in 2013 – the summit can also be part of an accountability moment on that promise. Backing African leadership with investment in fully vetted, costed country-owned agriculture and nutrition plans will truly help the continent not merely to survive but to thrive. This must be a core component of a ‘golden thread’ that gives people the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty.
The final test, which underpins all of the first four, is whether the British government will devote the necessary time and resources to make all of this a success. The ideas and vision are in place but good intentions alone cannot deliver. Have the Cabinet and embassies around the world been drilled into action, with a common determination across all offices of state to pursue an ambitious agenda with drive and discipline? What is the plan for hitting the phones, getting on the road, twisting arms and offering deals to get a result next year? How exactly will Downing Street use each of the thirty-odd weeks between now and the British G8? What plans are being made to leverage British aid at a string of vital multilateral replenishment moments, ranging from the Global Fund to the African Development Bank? These are the questions that will ultimately decide if the ‘golden thread’ fulfils its potential as a means to tackle the causes of poverty.
Citizens and civil society have a big part to play. There needs to be a concerted effort to engage and enlist the public in the next stage – perhaps the decisive one – of the journey towards the end of extreme poverty. That campaigning energy must push the British government, and others, to go the extra mile and make the most of this impressive roster of opportunities in 2013. No one can afford to look back in a year’s time with regret. Least of all David Cameron.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
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