Category Archives: Wikiprogress

OECD Forum 2013 – What is the Greatest Challenge We Face Today?

Held in Paris each May to coincide with the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, the OECD Forum has emerged as a major international stakeholder summit. 

Leaders from all sectors of civil society gather to debate the most pressing social and economic challenges confronting society. Together with current and former heads of state and government, Nobel Prize winners, top CEOs, leaders of key non governmental organisations and trade unions, and prominent members of academia and media
… YOU TOO can play your part in helping shape responses to global challenges.

The big question at this year’s OECD Forum is 

what is the greatest challenge we face todayjobs, inequality, economic growth?’ 

Over the course of two days, panels discussed Promoting Inclusive Growth, Rebuilding Trustin economic and social interactions, Fostering sustainability and Inequality.

This blog gives you a brief overview of the Forum. 

You can find out more on the Forum, here or follow #OECDwk or for twitter updates.

Tuesday 28 May

10:00-10-30am: OECD Better Life Index presentation and the launch of the BLI in Spanish

10:00-12:00  Three Parallel Sessions
  • The 21st Century Production Revolution 
  • What’s Up with Banks?
  • SMEs – Backbone of the Economy

Lunch Time Debates

13:45 – 15:15   Three Parallel Sessions
  • The Asian Century 
  • The Unemployees 
  • Old Politics, New Politics 

15:15 – 16:45  Three Parallel Sessions
  • Austerity vs Growth: A False Dilemma
  • The New Societal Contract 
  • From School to Work 

17:00-18:30  Two Parallel Sessions
  • Trade in Value Added: The World Factory
  • Out with the Old, In with the New

18:30   Reception and Video Competition Award – See one of he videos below. 

Wednesday 29 May

9:00 – 10:30  Three Parallel Sessions
  • Addressing Inequalities for a More Inclusive Society (follow @Wikiprogress live tweeting)
  • Too Big to Pay Tax? 
  • Women of Influence (follow @Wikigender live tweeting)

10:30-11:00 – Keynote Address by Ministerial Council Meeting 

11:00 – 11:40 – Presentation of the Economic Outlook 

11:45 – 13:00 – Economic Outlook Debate – Growth and Jobs 

Lunch Time Debates

15:00 – 16:30  Two Parallel Sessions
  • The African Renaissance
  • The Enterprising State

16:30 – 17:00 – Forum Closing Session

See the full list of 100 plus speakers, here.

A great deal was packed into the two days so we hope this article helps you to  identify your areas of interest and navigate your way through the different sessions.

Wikiprogress has a page on the Forum, click here!

We hope you enjoy finding out about the 2013 OECD Forum

Before you go check out this video on the OECD’s Better Life Index!

The Wikiprogress Team 

Highlights of the week: Governance and more!

Welcome to another Week in Review! This week’s post includes a ‘Resource Governance Index’, a ‘World Health Statistics’ report and World Telecommunication & Information Society Day.

State of Civil Society Report 2013 by CIVICUS calls for an enabling environment for civil society, it includes nearly 50 contributions from experts and civil society leaders from around the world.  These experts highlighted good practices and challenges on the horizon for citizens and civil society globally. 
“57% of the world’s population live in countries where basic civil liberties and political freedoms are curtailed” State of Civil Society Report 2013

The 2013 Resource Governance Index Report measures the quality of governance in the oil, gas and mining sector of 58 countries. The RGI scores and ranks the countries, relying on a detailed questionnaire completed by researchers with expertise in the extractive industries. According to this year’s study there is a major governance deficit in natural resources around the world, and the deficit is largest in the most resource- dependent countries, where nearly half a billion people live in poverty despite that resource wealth.

Wikigender Special Focus: Women and Elections – As part of our focus on Governance, Wikigender is currently spotlighting the critical role that women have to play in elections to have their voice heard, both as voters and elected representatives. This ‘Special Focus’ looks at the role of women in elections, drawing on articles from various situations around the world.
World Health Statistics 2013 – this report contains WHO’s annual compilation of health-related data for its 194 Member States, and includes a summary of the progress made towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and associated targets.  

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day  (WTISD) is on 17 May – The purpose of  WTISD is to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. Make sure you follow the #WTISD for updates!

Finally, don’t miss World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development – The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and raise awareness about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion.

We look forward to checking in next week to bring you more highlights from the world of well-being and progress.

Robbie Lawrence
The Wikiprogress Team
WikiprogressWikgender and Wikichild

Can good governance solve youth unemployment?

This article by Robbie Lawrence, highlights how young people are very much part of the solution to youth unemployment. This post is part of the Wikiprogress Governance and Civic Engagement Series

“Education is our top priority but, once educated we want to be trained, enabled – and funded – to take action to address the challenges faced by our generation through youth-led development. We want, in Gandhi’s words, to ‘be the change’ we want to see in the world…” World Youth Congress, Hawaii, 1999

On the same day that the Bank of England upgraded its economic forecast, stating that inflation is expected to drop within the next two years, the Trades Union Congress reported that UK unemployment figures grew by 15,000 in the first three months of 2012 to 2.52 million. Rising employment numbers in the latter months of 2012 had offered a level of respite for the British government following a bruising financial year, however, today’s findings show that joblessness is still extensive.

The issue remains embedded among young people, with jobless rates soaring towards the one million mark and standing at 21.2% across the country. The TUC is concerned that while employment prospects for older workers have been improving, those for young people are far worse, and have deteriorated further since mid-2010. The damaging effects of unemployment on young people are well documented, and there is an increasing risk that the UK’s current 15-24 year olds will suffer lasting damage to their earnings potential and job prospects throughout their lives.

Global figures are equally gloomy. Over the last few years we have been inundated with statistics on the deteriorating situation in Europe (particularly Spain) for young job seekers and in Africa well over half of 15-24 year olds are currently out of work. According to a UN led report released last week, the weakening world wide recovery has further aggravated the youth job crisis and as a result the problem will continue growing over the next five years. The International Labour Organization’s ‘Global Employment Trends forYouth 2013: A generation at risk’ estimates that 73.4 million young people (12.6 percent) are expected to be out of work in 2013, and by 2018, this will have reached 12.8 percent.

Graph taken from ILO Report 2013

The report stipulates that young people face persistent unemployment, a proliferation of temporary jobs and growing discouragement in advanced economies; and poor quality, informal, subsistence jobs in developing countries:

“The economic and social costs of unemployment, long-term unemployment, discouragement and widespread low-quality jobs for young people continue to rise and undermine economies’ growth potential,” ILO – Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013 report.

Despite vocal concern around the issue, it seems that governments and organisations have struggled to find an effective means of combating youth unemployment. The recent World Economic Forum in Davos touched upon the subject on a number of occasions with some leaders suggesting that a global fund for unemployment be implemented. Yet there have been murmurings among critics that such steps are simply inadequate when faced with the ‘tidal wave’ of jobless young people sweeping the world’s nations. Lynda Cratton of the London Business School believes that in a similar way to global warming, the sheer complexity of the challenge renders it almost impossible to solve.

Following the release of ‘A generation at risk’ the ILO’s assistant director-general for policy José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs stated, ‘These figures underline the need to focus policies on growth, massive improvements in training systems and targeted youth employment actions’. 

Two recent Wikichild Spotlight reports look at tackling youth unemployment through effective governance.

– Developed by UNICEF and Save the Children, Children’s Rights and Business Principles provides a comprehensive framework for understanding and addressing the impact of business on the rights and well-being of children. The Children’s Rights and Business Principles are built on existing standards and practices and helps to explain the opportunities for business of investing in children.  

– First published in Nairobi last year, UN-HABITAT’s State of the Field in Youth Development sheds light on how youth are positively impacting communities around the world. As part of wider series, this particular report stresses how young people can be beneficial to communities, and how local, national and international governments can implement, engage and support youth and youth led initiatives.

Both reports look to brand young people as ambassadors of change. ‘Children’s Right’s and Business Principles’ recognizes that children are among the most marginalised members of society, yet when provided with the agency to participate, they have shown that they can offer vital alternative viewpoints and make effective contributions. Similarly, ‘State of the Field’ emphasizes the need to have faith in the power of young people to contribute constructively to the good of society. It seems that both publications hope to change the attitude of governing bodies towards young people by showing that they themselves have placed youths at the center of their own projects. The ‘State of the Field’ report lists countless examples of how initiatives led by young people have positively benefited society.

Youth unemployment is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing governments this century and will worsen as populations swell and education becomes more readily available. However, the two publications featured provide hard facts about how the integration of young people in a country’s workforce can catalyse economic prosperity. With the development of more projects similar to the ones mentioned in the ‘State of the Field’ it seems that we can go someway to combating the problem.   

Robbie Lawrence 
Wikichild Coordinator 

From the Bottom to the Top: One Step to Improving Global Sanitation

This article by Robbie Lawrence, Wikichild Coordinator, considers how global sanitation can be improved in the context of the International Federation of Red Cross’s ‘Getting the Balance Right’ report. This is part of the Wikiprogress #Health Series. 
“Communities in rural areas and urban settlements must be empowered to increase their resilience through access to safe water, improved sanitation and effective hygiene promotion.” Getting the Balance Right, International Federation of Red Cross, 2013

This post follows on from Wednesday’s blog on the dangers of diarrhoea by focusing on the disease’s chief causation: poor sanitation. Currently 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes ( An estimated 2.5 billion do not have access to basic sanitation and 1.1 billion of those people practice open defecation. This is not only degrading but a severe health risk as fecal matter-oral transmitted diseases cause at least 1.5 million deaths per year in children under the age of five (Getting the Balance Right). As Gary White and Matt Damon so bluntly put it, by the time you’ve read this paragraph, another child will have died from something that is eminently preventable.  
In the same way that inequality has reared its head in the post-2015 discussions, forcing global leaders to consider how poverty reduction might be carried out more equitably in the future, it is evident that we need to address water and sanitation issues. The “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012” report by the WHO and UNICEF highlights that, although the MDG target of halving the number of people globally without access to improved water source will be fulfilled by the MDG 2015 deadline, the target for sanitation is unlikley to be met.  
More often than not aid donors and development agencies have aimed at providing clean and safe water supplies rather than making sanitation a priority. As it stands, sanitation only receives 12 percent of global aid put towards combatting water and sanitation related issues. In the short term this trajectory make sense, since water is usually in more immediate demand, however, if diarrhoea and other hygiene related illnesses are to be dealt with, access to sanitation facilities must be increased. The ‘Getting the balance right’ report emphasizes that ‘neither water nor sanitations is more important: both elements are required to maintain and improve health and dignity.’ argues that the inability of philanthropic efforts to efficiently deal with the problem of poor sanitation has been a problem in the past. Even the money that has gone towards solving the issue has largely missed the goal of providing relief for those most in need. The organization recognized that if local communities were to make progress, independent of donors, then they must be viewed and view themselves as the owners of the project. Community ownership is the linchpin of’s philosophy. Without an active engagement from communities from the start of a project to its completion there is a strong likelihood that previously entrenched social norms such as public defecation will continue.
The ‘Getting the Balance Right’ report delivers a similar message, and uses a number of examples of community-based initiatives that have succeeded in improving sanitation. In Eritrea, a country where only three percent of its rural population has access to sanitation, the IFRC and the EU implemented a program focused on mobilizing and educating women in hygiene knowledge that reached a total of 145,000 people in 120 villages. By empowering these local women and providing them with  information, the program motivated them to become promoters of sanitation within their own communities. The website also lists various bottom to the top initiatives that have shown remarkable success rates. An Emory University review of a community based ventures in Lempira, Honduras reported that 100 per cent of the project sites were still operational after 10 years with 98 per cent of respondents satisfied with the system.
Since poor sanitation is now firmly in the crosshairs of policy makers and aid groups, it seems that the and IRFC have laid out a fairly effective framework for combating the problem. Changing intrinsic social norms from the routes of a community appears a far more effective means of catalyzing change than large, trickle down cash injections. The flow of international water aid must of course be rebalanced towards sanitation, but organizations, governments and NGOs need to go further and ensure that it reaches the right groups and individuals. The stark reality of IRCF’s report brings to light the vital role that sanitation plays in human health and dignity:  
“Let us speak clearly; the single largest cause of human illness globally is faecal matter. A society – regardless of how many clinics or water supply points it has – can never be healthy is human waste is not safely disposed of.” Getting the Balance Right

Robbie Lawrence

Childhood Pneumonia and Diarrhoea KILLS!

This article, by Ousmane Aly Diallo, Wikiprogress Africa Advisor, is part of the Wikiprogress Health Series. Wikiprogress Africa aims to  provide a platform for knowledge sharing on measuring progress and well-being in an Africa context. 

We know what works against pneumonia and diarrhoea – the two illnesses that hit the poorest hardest. Scaling up simple interventions could overcome two of the biggest obstacles to increasing child survival, help give every child a fair chance to grow and thrive, Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.

The Lancet recently published a series of papers on Childhood Pneumonia and Diarrhoea in collaboration with the Aga Khan University of Pakistan, in April 2013.  The series demonstrates that it is possible to eradicate the prevalence of these two diseases among children through a comprehensive strategy involving all the stakeholders and highlights the barriers that have enabled children’s death from it.

Pneumonia and diarrhoea are low in incidence in the developed world but remain serious health concerns in the developing world. Childhood Pneumonia and Diarrhoea are particularly lethal in the developing world; nearly 90% of the children who died from these diseases are from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to a recent World Health Organization report.

Assessing  the global burden of childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea in the world,  Walker and Alii’s paper show that these two diseases remain the leading infectious causes of death in children younger than 5 years, and caused an estimated 700 000 and 1·3 million deaths, respectively, in 2011. 

According to the study, more than half of the burden (56% of severe episodes of diarrhoea and 64% of severe episodes of pneumonia) is upon 15 countries and among this category, 10 of them are Sub-Saharan Africa’s ones: Angola, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. Most of these deaths could have been prevented through vaccines and other means of prevention according to this study. Besides, undernourishment constitutes another obstacle to these children’s survival. Any program to tackle childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea should include a facet on improving child nutrition.

Lack of national leadership in the fight against these diseases and a lack of financial resources are important bottlenecks. This, coupled with the inadequate training of health workers, and a lack of health indicators, are key obstacles that need to be addressed to lower the morbidity rate of pneumonia and diarrhoea among children and to improve their survival rates, for these authors.

The second paper on “Interventions to address deaths from childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea…” shows that scaled interventions could save 95% of diarrhoea and 67% of pneumonia deaths in younger children (under 5 years) by 2025. But to reach that goal, the emphasis must be put on community-level healthcare as it is the best way to reach the most exposed populations. 

This series show that childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea are serious health concerns in many developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, but that they could be eradicated through prevention (immunisation campaigns) and effective intervention. In its subject and objectives, this series echoes the recent publication by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea. This plan aims to reduce by 75% (with 2010 levels as reference) the incidence of severe pneumonia and diarrhoea, as well as the death from both these diseases among children under-five. It also aims for a 40% reduction in the global number of children under five who are stunted since undernutrition is one of the key risk factor for children suffering from pneumonia and diarrhoea. There’s a global commitment to ending child death from preventable diseases and these two Lancet publications show that this objective is reachable if all means are galvanised.

Childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia are deadlier in low-income countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia than in the developed world. Closing the gap is one of the ultimate aims of the Lancet series as shown through different models, it is an objective that is within our reach.

To find out more about Wikiprogress Africa, click here

Ousmane Aly DIALLO
(Wikiprogress Africa Advisor)

A Promising Future for Child Nutrition?

This ProgBlog article by Robbie Lawrence, WikichildCoordinator, is part of the Wikiprogress Health Series.

“In June, the Prime Minister will host the Nutrition and Growth event ahead of the G8; we hope Mr Cameron takes this timely opportunity to pledge significant investment in nutrition programmes and show real leadership in improving children’s futures, as well as those of their communities and their countries.” David Bull, UNICEF UK

Wikichild is currently focusing on nutrition as part of the wider Wikiprogress spotlight on health this month. On Monday, UNICEF released ‘Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress’ which reports that significant advances have been made in the fight against stunting – the long term effect of hunger and malnutrition. Citing successes in eleven countries – Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania and Vietnam, the report shows that stunting and other forms of undernutrition can be brought down by improved understanding of the problem and the implementation of practical measures that target pregnant mothers and children in the first two years of their life.
According to UNICEF, one in four of all children suffer from stunting because they haven’t had the right nutrients in the critical 1,000-day window following conception. Malnutrition, through lack of both macronutrients and certain micronutrients has long-term negative impacts on brain and nerve development and function, including mental activity, and the acquisition of skills needed to interact well socially. This impairment is often reflected in lower IQs and poorer performance at school (Save the Children). The damage done to a child’s body and brain by stunting is irreversible. It brings down performance at school and later at work, and heightens children’s risk of dying from infectious diseases.
‘Improving Child Nutrition’ builds on UNICEF’s earlier report ‘Tracking Progress on Child and Material’ by highlighting new developments and showing that attempts to improve nutrition programs are working. An estimated 80 per cent of the world’s stunted children live in just 14 countries spanning across Africa and Asia, and by working in communities within these nations, UNICEF and other organizations have reduced stunting by applying a series of steps including, improving women’s diet, early and exclusive breastfeeding and providing minerals and appropriate food to new mothers.
These programs all have common elements: political commitment, national policies and the presence of trained community workers to deliver information and aid. To use two examples of their success; we can look at Ethiopia, where stunting has been cut from 57 percent to 44 percent in the first decade of this century through the implementation of a national nutrition program, and at the Maharashtra state in India where the percentage of stunted children fell from 39 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2012 due to the support of frontline workers. 
Such progress is undoubtedly promising, and presents a unique opportunity for future global frameworks to further alleviate the problem of undernutrition. UNICEF itself acknowledges that there is still a great amount of work to be done if the World Health Assembly’s new global target of reducing the number of stunted children under the age of five by forty percent by 2025 is to be achieved. 

More recently, inequality has been a hot topic on the Wikichild, Wikiprogress and Wikigender platforms so we are well versed in the hidden realties that large, all encompassing goals such as this can mask, but it is encouraging that new approaches are targeting individual countries and communities, allowing accurate data systems to be developed that can describe and monitor changes in the circumstances of different population groups.
Furthermore, tools like the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (released last week) provide greater transparency and public accountability by measuring what governments achieve, and where they fail, in addressing hunger and undernutrition. Even Duncan Green has commended the HANCI, stating that ‘it could become one of the more useful annual league tables’, as it forces governments to be ‘slapped’ if they underperform. 
Nutrition should remain at the center of the global development agenda leading up to Post 2015. The evidence laid out in UNICEF’s report and the momentum generated by their successes shows that improving child and maternal nutrition is an achievable necessity for global progress.

Wikichild Coordinator

Nutrition and Obesity Week in Review

This Week in Review blog is part of the Wikiprogress Health focus. See the full range of health articles on Wikiprogress

The theme of this Week in Review is nutrition and obesity as part of wider focus on health during April. Highlights from this review include: IDS UK’s new Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index, a collaborative report from PBS News Hour and the OECD on obesity in America, a joint paper on global malnutrition from UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank and more.
*The Institute of Development Studies’ new Hunger and nutrition commitment index is a measurement of political commitment to tackling hunger and malnutrition in 45 developing countries. The index was created to provide greater transparency and public accountability by measuring what governments achieve, and where they fail, in addressing hunger and undernutrition.
*PBS News Hour has released its first commentary in a collaborative series with the OECD, which explores how health care and health policy in the latter’s member countries compare with the US. New data reveals relatively promising figures with obesity rates slowing in the America, England, France and Korea. However, these encouraging trends show that obesity has become one of the biggest threats in developed countries and increasingly so in emerging economies, as today’s article from the Guardianrelating to the growing problem of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in Africa shows.  The article references the OECD’s “Better Life Index” tool, which allows members of the public to firstly rank what they value in life and then see how their own country measures up on the topics they value most.
*For the first time UNICEF, WHOand the World Bankreport joint estimates of child malnutrition for 2011 and trends since 1990. The aim of the initiative is to alleviate the double burden of malnutrition in children, starting from the earliest ages of development. To find out more, visit our Wikichild page.
*While it was released last year, the EFA Global Monitoring Report has been an important touch point for preceding publications related to malnutrition, particularly in relation to its effects on children. Despite a decline in the global number of deaths of children under five from 12 million in 1990 to 9.6 million in 2000 and 7.6 million in 2010 (EFA 2012), this drop is not sufficient if the fourth Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 is to be met. 

In 2005the WHO reported that more than half of all deaths among children are caused by malnutrition. It is therefore arguable that if governments seek to provide adequate quantities of higher quality food with more micronutrients, child mortality levels may drop to the targeted percentage. Malnutrition, through lack of both macronutrients and certain micronutrients has long-term negative impacts on brain and nerve development and function, including on mental skills and activity, and the acquisition of skills needed to interact well socially.
*A new report by UNICEF to be published next week reveals the high prevalence of stunting in children under five years old, but also outlines the tremendous opportunities that exist to make it a problem of the past. In response to nutrition crisis in Chad and the Sahel Belt region, UNICEF, the Government of Chad and partners such as ECHO have scaled up services and facilities to treat the growing number of children affected by malnutrition. Check out the video below to find out more about the initiative. 

Look forward to more health related articles, blogs, tweets, spotlights and videos over the next few weeks. 

Robbie Lawrence
Wikichild Coordinator  
The Wikiprogress Team

Let’s talk about adolescent girls and social norms

 “100s of millions of girls are missing because of female foeticide 
- 66 million girls do not have access to primary education and to the
 first cycle of secondary education
- 50% of the victims of sexual abuses are girls under 15
- In developing countries, 1 girl out of 7 is married before she reaches 15
.” Lucille Terré (Consultation Participant).

Wikichild and Wikigender are currently running an online discussion on the impact of discriminatory social norms on adolescent girls* that will close on Friday 11 April 2013.

There is compelling evidence that adolescent girls are an untapped segment of society and are essential if we are to achieve future development goals. Young women across the world suffer from a plethora of gender based inequalities created by imbedded social institutions such as: early marriage, domestic violence, the division of labour in the household, restricted physical integrity, limited fertility preferences and unequal inheritance rights (See more at With these discriminatory social norms in mind, we have asked our partners and members of the public to firstly express their views on how such norms shape the lives of adolescent girls by influencing their access to opportunities, resources and power, and secondly, which interventions are the most effective in transforming and in some cases removing them.    

This online consultation has brought to light a fascinating and diverse array of comments, ranging from personal experiences to research based observations from organisations such as OECD Development CentrePlan UK and ProRights Consulting. We have also enjoyed a strong following on social media with over 450 tweets about the consultation including mentions from the OECDUNDP and the Girl Effect. Over the course of the discussion, many topics have been addressed and this blog will look at two particular subjects that have drawn attention from groups and individuals.  

A particular focus on the forum is education and our contributors have been discussing how discriminatory norms impede girls across the world from gaining the vital skills needed to enter the working world. ASCD and HBSC who both specialize in the area of adolescent education have added interesting examples, with the latter stipulating that adolescent girls’ well-being is linked to the place of women in the societies in which they are growing up. Since education is such a focal point of early development, HBSC cites good schooling as a central component of a decent upbringing. Similarly, the Primary Edu Project argues that educating young girls is a necessity. The project refers to the specific case of Pakistan, where teenagers are encouraged not to waste their time going to school because ‘they are only going to get married, have babies and stay in the house’. Primary Edu stipulates that this ideology must be removed if young women are to have an equal chance of succeeding in life and suggests that change must begin with the parents, who need to be convinced of the benefits that an education can provide. This comment ran nicely with a contribution from Sultana Razia, who uses her experience of growing up in a Bangladeshi village where female illiteracy was more than 90%, to encourage the need to change multiple social norms that discriminate girls, such as treatment in school and the work place, in a bid to achieve gender equality in that area of the world.

Female Genital Mutilation
Another topic that has drawn particular attention is female genital mutilation, and the desire shown by our contributors to have this practice eradicated is emblematic of a consensual desire among them to see imbedded practices, that encourage violence against women, to be removed from societies worldwide. According to one contributor Ousmane, widespread female genital mutilation is still practiced in Senegal, with a higher prevalence in rural areas, and he believes that it will take great dedication to remove this deeply entrenched tradition from local communities. However, he is encouraged by the activities of Tostan, an NGO that is making steady progress towards its abolition through its focus on a community-based approach now being implemented in surrounding villages. According to Laura Young-Sing’Oei, who works for ProRights Consulting, there are many community-based organizations like Tostan, that are finding creative and innovative ways to work with traditional structures to begin to confront norms that harm girls such as FMG. By empowering women, and educating them on the dangers of such practices, it is hopeful that they will go on to protect their own adolescent daughters and in turn set a trend for future generations.  

These are just two examples of the topics being discussed on the consultation, and the really interesting assortment of responses we are receiving. Following the conclusion of the discussion, we will present a paper on its findings at a workshop on “Empowering adolescent girls by tackling social norms” that takes place on 26 April in London! The event will be co-organised by the OECD Development Centre, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Department for International Development (DFID UK) and The Girl Hub. There are only 3 days left to make your voice heard, so don’t hesitate!

The discussion will close on 11 April 2013 at 17h (GMT+1), click here to read and participate

*The online discussion is organised in partnership with the Health Behaviour in School-aged ChildrenResearch Network (HBSC), the Department for International Development (DFID UK), ASCD – The Whole Child, the Girl Hubthe Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Plan (UK).
The Wikiprogress Team 

Opening the Black Box of Governance: Alleviating Poverty With Data

This ProgBlog, by Rayna St  of Global Voices is part of the Global Forum on Development 2013, that took place  on 4 and 5 April 2013 at the OECD in Paris. The blog discusses how new and innovative forms of data collection can be used to alleviate poverty. 

The constant rise of Internet and mobile phone use is an opportunity to enable more citizens to engage with governance. Technology can help improve citizen participation in decision-making and can re-energise participation in public life. Transparency and accountability is becoming a diverse and dynamic field for exploration worldwide. Opening the data produced by public administrations is part of an effective approach to poverty alleviation. Incredible amounts of data are produced every day, by a wide range of stakeholders: governments, media, mobile operators, citizens themselves. Despite the huge potential for using data about a society or government for the public good, it is rarely released and shared for public use. Additionally, reliable statistics can be hard to come by or are still the exclusive property of government or corporate officials.

The benefits of citizen engagement are numerous, wide-ranging and significant for all stakeholders, as Striking Poverty, a World Bank initiative, illustrates:

“For the marginalized poor, participation mechanisms can provide channels for shaping solutions and holding governments accountable for policies and services delivered. For organizations, governments, and funders, engagement with communities is beneficial in that citizens will support, adopt, champion, and eventually share in the ownership and success of programs.”

Does Open Data work in developing countries?
Open Data endeavours in both rich and poor countries often come up against a shortage of technical and political skills that prevent citizens from actively engaging with them. There can easily be a gap between the goals of data advocates and citizens’ understanding of the data. Still, a huge number of creative approaches to collect and make sense of data related to public life show promise that this is the most straightforward way into civic engagement. The Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), the first national Open Data project in Sub-Saharan Africa, was launched in 2011. The released data sets (over 400) provide data for socially-relevant domains from education to sanitation. Kenya is in fact the first developing country to have an Open Data portal. In greater Africa, Morocco was first to launch anOpen Data platform. Tunisia followed in 2011 with Open Data Tunisia. Seizing the potential of Open Data for developing countries and the growing number of national ventures, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched the Open Data for Africa portal, as a part of the Africa Information Highway initiative.

It encompasses Open Data platforms for the following 20 African countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Although the challenges are numerous, multiple success stories show that the key to using technology for transparency and accountability efforts is to employ a collaborative approach and ensure that tools are user-friendly and quick to offer results. A report by the Global Voices ‘Technology for Transparency’ initiative looking at citizen initiatives for transparency and accountability across the globe found that: Data visualization and navigation tools are a key feature in more than half of the projects we documented, as are diverse forms of data collection from citizens. Approximately one third of the projects use mobile phones in some way, most commonly by allowing citizens to submit or receive information via text messages. These observations illustrate that citizen initiatives are not only directed towards gathering data but also towards making sense of it for the wider community. The projects show great opportunity for well-managed data and related statistics released through open government data programs. The next milestone for governments in developing countries is to solve the problems of data quality and availability, as well as the technical and statistical capacity of staff and institutions.

Opening the governance
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched back in September 2011 when the governments of Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States took stance in favour of more transparent governance by signing the Open Government Declaration: The Open Government Partnership is a global effort to make governments better. We all want more transparent, effective and accountable governments — with institutions that empower citizens and are responsive to their aspirations. But this work is never easy. It takes political leadership. It takes technical knowledge. It takes sustained effort and investment. It takes collaboration between governments and civil society. Shortly after, the World Bank recognized the importance of the foundational principles of the Partnership and declared its support to the initiative “by facilitating knowledge exchanges and helping to build the capacity of OGP member countries to elaborate and implement their plans to become more open and responsive.” The OGP already has 50 members. Although several African countries have presented their action plans and three of them — South Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya — have already delivered their commitments, Africa is still trailing in involvement. The most recent OGP Africa meeting indicates that slow progress is being made, with Ghana and Liberia developing their respective ‘Action Plans’ in order to apply for membership at the Open Government Partnership.

New approaches, new challenges ahead
Is technology the panacea for developing countries? Definitely not. But it definitely paves the way for addressing open, socially and politically relevant questions. Even though the Kenya’s ODI has not had much impact on Kenyans, and very few African states rush to join the OGP, these dynamics are irreversible. The very existence of the endeavours described above is a solid step in the right direction.

UN-led meetings on the development agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals are recommending a focus on eliminating poverty, reducing inequalities, and addressing the needs of poor people – based on their perspectives. At the same time, they are stressing the need to stimulate economic growth and better manage the environment.  Above all, there is a sense that one can not afford to focus on one goal without addressing the others.  

Watch the video broadcast of the 2013 Global Forum on Development, here.

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