Can transparency make extractive industries more accountable?


Blog by John Gaventa at IDS: “Over the last two decades great strides have been made in terms of holding extractive industries accountable.  As demonstrated at the Global Assembly of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), which I attended recently in Dakar, Senegal, more information than ever about revenue flows to governments from the oil gas and mining industries is now publicly available.  But new research suggests that such information disclosure, while important, is by itself not enough to hold companies to account, and address corruption.

… a recent study in Mozambique by researchers Nicholas Aworti and Adriano Adriano Nuvunga questions this assumption.  Supported by the Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) Research Programme, the research explored why greater transparency of information has not necessarily led to greater social and political action for accountability.

Like many countries in Africa, Mozambique is experiencing massive outside investments in recently discovered natural resources, including rich deposits of natural gas and oil, as well as coal and other minerals.  Over the last decade, NGOs like the Centre for Public Integrity, who helped facilitate the study, have done brave and often pioneering work to elicit information on the extractive industry, and to publish it in hard-hitting reports, widely reported in the press, and discussed at high-level stakeholder meetings.

Yet, as Aworti and Nuvunga summarise in a policy brief based on their research, ‘neither these numerous investigative reports nor the EITI validation reports have inspired social and political action such as public protest or state prosecution.’   Corruption continues, and despite the newfound mineral wealth, the country remains one of the poorest in Africa.

The authors ask, ‘If information disclosure has not been enough to galvanise citizen and institutional action, what could be the reason?’ The research found 18 other factors that affect whether information leads to action, including the quality of the information and how it is disseminated, the degree of citizen empowerment, the nature of the political regime, and the role of external donors in insisting on accountability….

The research and the challenges highlighted by the Mozambique case point to the need for new approaches.   At the Global Assembly in Dakar several hundred of PYWP’s more than 700 members from 45 countries gathered to discuss and to approve the organisation’s next strategic plan. Among other points, the plan calls for going beyond transparency –  to more intentionally use information to foster and promote citizen action,  strengthen  grassroots participation and voice on mining issues, and  improve links with other related civil society movements working on gender, climate and tax justice in the extractives field.

Coming at a time where increasing push back and repression threaten the space for citizens to speak truth to power, this is a bold call.  I chaired two sessions with PWYP activists who had been beaten, jailed, threatened or exiled for challenging mining companies, and 70 per cent of the delegates at the conference said their work had been affected by this more repressive environment….(More)”.

Rescuing Human Rights: A Radically Moderate Approach


Book by Hurst Hannum: “The development of human rights norms is one of the most significant achievements in international relations and law since 1945, but the continuing influence of human rights is increasingly being questioned by authoritarian governments, nationalists, and pundits. Unfortunately, the proliferation of new rights, linking rights to other issues such as international crimes or the activities of business, and attempting to address every social problem from a human rights perspective risk undermining their credibility.

Rescuing Human Rights calls for understanding ‘human rights’ as international human rights law and maintaining the distinctions between binding legal obligations on governments and broader issues of ethics, politics, and social change. Resolving complex social problems requires more than simplistic appeals to rights, and adopting a ‘radically moderate’ approach that recognizes both the potential and the limits of international human rights law, offers the best hope of preserving the principle that we all have rights, simply because we are human….(More)”.

The Lancet Countdown: Tracking progress on health and climate change using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA)


Victoria Moody at the UK Data Service: “The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change—which assessed responses to climate change with a view to ensuring the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide—concluded that “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”. The Commission recommended that more accurate national quantification of the health co-benefits and economic impacts of mitigation decisions was essential in promoting a low-carbon transition.

Building on these foundations, the Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change was formed as an independent research collaboration…

The partnership comprises 24 academic institutions from every continent, bringing together individuals with a broad range of expertise across disciplines (including climate scientists, ecologists, mathematicians, geographers, engineers, energy, food, and transport experts, economists, social and political scientists, public health professionals, and physicians).

Four of the indicators developed for Working Group 3 (Mitigation actions and health co-benefits) uses International Energy Agency (IEA) data made available by the the IEA via the UK Data Service for use by researchers, learners and teaching staff in UK higher and further education. Additionally, two of the indicators developed for Working Group 4 (Finance and economics) also use IEA data.

Read our impact case study to find our more about the impact and reach of the Lancet Countdown, watch the YouTube film below, read the Lancet Countdown 2018 Report …(More)”

Responsible AI for conservation


Oliver Wearn, RobinFreeman and David Jacoby in Nature: “Machine learning (ML) is revolutionizing efforts to conserve nature. ML algorithms are being applied to predict the extinction risk of thousands of species, assess the global footprint of fisheries, and identify animals and humans in wildlife sensor data recorded in the field. These efforts have recently been given a huge boost with support from the commercial sector. New initiatives, such as Microsoft’s AI for Earth and Google’s AI for Social Good, are bringing new resources and new ML tools to bear on some of the biggest challenges in conservation. In parallel to this, the open data revolution means that global-scale, conservation-relevant datasets can be fed directly to ML algorithms from open data repositories, such as Google Earth Engine for satellite data or Movebank for animal tracking data. Added to these will be Wildlife Insights, a Google-supported platform for hosting and analysing wildlife sensor data that launches this year. With new tools and a proliferation of data comes a bounty of new opportunities, but also new responsibilities….(More)”

From Human Rights Aspirations to Enforceable Obligations by Non-State Actors in the Digital Age: The Example of Internet Governance and ICANN


Paper by Monika Zalnieriute: “As the global policy-making capacity and influence of non-state actors in the digital age is rapidly increasing, the protection of fundamental human rights by private actors becomes one of the most pressing issues in Global Governance. This article combines business and human rights and digital constitutionalism discourses and uses the changing institutional context of Internet Governance and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (‘ICANN’) as an example to argue that economic incentives act against the voluntary protection of human rights by informal actors and regulatory structures in the digital era. It further contends that the global policy-making role and increasing regulatory power of informal actors such as ICANN necessitates reframing of their legal duties by subjecting them to directly binding human rights obligations in international law.

The article argues that such reframing is particularly important in the information age for three reasons. Firstly, it is needed to rectify an imbalance between hard legal commercial obligations and human rights soft law. This imbalance is well reflected in ICANNs policies. Secondly, binding obligations would ensure that individuals whose human rights have been affected can access an effective remedy. This is not envisaged under the new ICANN Bylaw on human rights precisely because of the fuzziness around the nature of ICANN’s obligations to respect internationally recognized human rights in its policies. Finally, the article suggests that because private actors such as ICANN are themselves engaging in the balancing exercise around such rights, an explicit recognition of their human rights obligations is crucial for the future development of access to justice in the digital age….(More)”.

Configurations, Dynamics and Mechanisms of Multilevel Governance


Book edited by Nathalie Behnke, Jörg Broschek and Jared Sonnicksen: “This edited volume provides a comprehensive overview of the diverse and multi-faceted research on governance in multilevel systems. The book features a collection of cutting-edge trans-Atlantic contributions, covering topics such as federalism, decentralization as well as various forms and processes of regionalization and Europeanization. While the field of multilevel governance is comparatively young, research in the subject has also come of age as considerable theoretical, conceptual and empirical advances have been achieved since the first influential works were published in the early noughties. The present volume aims to gauge the state-of-the-art in the different research areas as it brings together a selection of original contributions that are united by a variety of configurations, dynamics and mechanisms related to governing in multilevel systems….(More)”.

The Big (data) Bang: Opportunities and Challenges for Compiling SDG Indicators


Steve MacFeely at Global Policy: “Official statisticians around the world are faced with the herculean task of populating the Sustainable Development Goals global indicator framework. As traditional data sources appear to be insufficient, statisticians are naturally considering whether big data can contribute anything useful. While the statistical possibilities appear to be theoretically endless, in practice big data also present some enormous challenges and potential pitfalls: legal; ethical; technical; and reputational. This paper examines the opportunities and challenges presented by big data for compiling indicators to support Agenda 2030….(More)”.

Mapping the challenges and opportunities of artificial intelligence for the conduct of diplomacy


DiploFoundation: “This report provides an overview of the evolution of diplomacy in the context of artificial intelligence (AI). AI has emerged as a very hot topic on the international agenda impacting numerous aspects of our political, social, and economic lives. It is clear that AI will remain a permanent feature of international debates and will continue to shape societies and international relations.

It is impossible to ignore the challenges – and opportunities – AI is bringing to the diplomatic realm. Its relevance as a topic for diplomats and others working in international relations will only increase….(More)”.

Knowledge and Politics in Setting and Measuring SDGs


Special Issue of Global Policy: “The papers in this special issue investigate the politics that shaped the SDGs, the setting of the goals, the selection of the measurement methods. The SDGs ushered in a new era of ‘governance by indicators’ in global development. Goal setting and the use of numeric performance indicators have now become the method for negotiating a consensus vision of development and priority objectives.  The choice of indicators is seemingly a technical issue, but measurement methods interprets and reinterprets norms, carry value judgements, theoretical assumptions, and implicit political agendas.  As social scientists have long pointed out, reliance on indicators can distort social norms, frame hegemonic discourses, and reinforce power hierarchies. 

The case studies in this collection show the open multi-stakeholder negotiations helped craft more transformative and ambitious goals.  But across many goals, there was slippage in ambition when targets and indicators were selected.  The papers also highlight how the increasing role of big data and other non-traditional sources of data is altering data production, dissemination and use, and fundamentally altering the epistemology of information and knowledge.  This raises questions about ‘data for whom and for what’ – fundamental issues concerning the power of data to shape knowledge, the democratic governance of SDG indicators and of knowledge for development overall.

Introduction

Knowledge and Politics in Setting and Measuring the SDGs – Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Desmond McNeill 

Case Studies

The Contested Discourse of Sustainable Agriculture – Desmond McNeill 

Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Feminist Mobilization for the SDGs – Gita Sen

The Many Meanings of Quality Education: Politics of Targets and Indicators in SDG4 – Elaine Unterhalter 

Power, Politics and Knowledge Claims: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the SDG Era – Alicia Ely Yamin 

Keeping Out Extreme Inequality from The SDG Agenda – The Politics of Indicators – Sakiko Fukuda-Parr 

The Design of Environmental Priorities in the SDGs – Mark Elder and Simon Høiberg Olsen 

The Framing of Sustainable Consumption and Production in SDG 12  – Des Gasper, Amod Shah and Sunil Tankha 

Measuring Access to Justice: Transformation and Technicality in SDG 16.3. – Margaret L. Satterthwaite and Sukti Dhital 

Data Governance

The IHME in the Shifting Landscape of Global Health Metrics – Manjari Mahajan

The Big (data) Bang: Opportunities and Challenges for Compiling SDG Indicators – Steve MacFeely …(More)”

Research Handbook on Human Rights and Digital Technology


Book edited by Ben Wagner, Matthias C. Kettemann and Kilian Vieth: “In a digitally connected world, the question of how to respect, protect and implement human rights has become unavoidable. This contemporary Research Handbook offers new insights into well-established debates by framing them in terms of human rights. It examines the issues posed by the management of key Internet resources, the governance of its architecture, the role of different stakeholders, the legitimacy of rule making and rule-enforcement, and the exercise of international public authority over users. Highly interdisciplinary, its contributions draw on law, political science, international relations and even computer science and science and technology studies…(More)”.