Archive for June, 2013

Opening Pakistan

Friday, June 28th, 2013 | Permalink

Sara Khan in Islamabad

There aren’t many international forums where Pakistan can partake and chip in on equal footing with other countries. Depending upon your own understanding or prejudice for that matter, call it the geopolitical grand design or internal politics that is bogging us down.

There is one notable exception; Open Government Partnership that has snowballed into a massive initiative after US President Obama’s memo on open government. It is a new multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Over 50 governments have joined Open Government Partnership and not everyone is welcome. In South Asia, only Nepal, India and Pakistan are eligible to join.

This is an asset. It provides the government a unique opportunity to redeem the trust of our own people and also of international community. It will help in relaying the message that Pakistan is dedicated in making everyday governance more transparent and accountable to her own people.

So why do we need Open Government in Pakistan anyway?

• Cases like Rs 26 billion Pakistan Steel Mills corruption can be checked for/nipped in the bud in the future

• Opaque management of US $ 5 Billion per annum that Pakistan receives in aid.

• Pakistan’s federal budget for fiscal year 2011-12 stands at 3.767 trillion rupees. How much of it will go unaccounted for?

• Increased transparency on energy sector and the current crisis that has bogged down the economy as well as impacted ordinary Pakistanis

• Enhance citizen participation and equip people with information about government money so that they can demand better services from the government.

• Institutionalise and deepen/broaden democracy

Local Interventions Group is focusing on two Open Government policy areas for Pakistan; Aid Transparency and Service Delivery. Challenges are enormous and daunting. But opportunities to engage are bigger than ever. The world is embracing Open Government. We lose this prospect at our own peril.

Local Interventions Group’s Open Government programme in Pakistan is currently in research phase. LIG will start scoping and identifying right stakeholders and consulting with them in August 2012. Following a primer-synthesis report in autumn 2012, LIG will launch policy level engagements and devise further programs. Further details can be obtained from our Pakistan Team Leader Sara Khan by writing to her at sara@localinterventions.org.uk

LIG’s first salvo is Open Government

Friday, June 21st, 2013 | Permalink

Pranav Budhathoki in Kathmandu

So, after 3 months of groundwork in London; followed by 9 months of grit-work in Kathmandu; meeting and consulting with folks as far and wide as Berlin, Geneva and Kampala; and video conferences that spanned four continents, Local Interventions Group has finally been launched in London and Kathmandu.

London office will oversee our program development and international relations components and Kathmandu office will administer programmes on the ground. More like the grit work for us wretched lot in Kathmandu.

Fine, we hear ourselves say, for we have a big dollop of schadenfreude helping for ourselves when we know that whoever mans our London office has to tolerate that medieval Tube, dreary weather, skull-crushingly expensive inebriating liquids and industrial chicken tikka masalas every single day for the rest of his or her metaphysical life.

Our first policy salvo is Open Government. Why? Because we believe it is the world’s hottest silver bullet against Gulag-like governments of Nepal and Pakistan. It also democratises information, increases transparency, allows effective public oversight, and lowers the barriers for people to collaborate. Cut out the middleman and watch corruption fall to its knees!

Besides, strike while the iron is hot, or so goes the old adage. There has been extraordinary momentum at the global leadership level ever since US President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government on his first day in office.

President Obama’s memo snowballed into what we have today; 8 governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States) endorsed an Open Government Declaration, announced their country action plans, welcomed the commitment of 38 governments to join and formally launched the Open Government Partnership on September 20, 2011.

Open Government Partnership is not a free-for-all brouhaha of the rich elites. It is a solemn leadership of US, UK and Brazil that has the potential to revolutionise the poorer parts of the world, by forcing their governments to be more accountable to their people.

UK plans to “earmark 5% of its donations to the budgets of developing countries to fund the strengthening of local accountability, making government openness a partial criterion when choosing nations to which it will provide aid”. That is £ 16.55 million extra over four years from April 2011 to March 2015 for Nepal, and £ 17.5 million extra every year for Pakistan. Count the number of schools and hospitals we could build with that.

We will only be consigning ourselves to a collective morgue of development failures if our countries fail to take advantage of this drive.

www.localinterventions.org.uk

"next new idea in development'

Salon on ‘Crowdsourcing Tech for Elections’

Friday, June 14th, 2013 | Permalink

Kathmandu

Salons

Brainstorming salons with experts, loosely hinging on Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry; “aut delectare aut prodesse est” (either to please or to educate).

Local Intervention Group held an invitation only salon on crowdsourcing for elections on 1st of February 2013 at Summit Hotel in Kathmandu.

LIG is deploying the crowdsourcing technology Ushahidi to prevent election violence and violations in the run up to the election, and monitor them in real time during the election. This technology will track and monitor election violence and violations by gathering data and information from the public and geo-mapping them onto a Google map in real time. It will also be deployed to gather data and information on missed voters, election campaigns, code of conduct violations etc.

The purpose of the salon was to explore ways in which this game changer technology can be deployed in total sync with everyone who has ever worked in elections to make Nepal’s next election comparatively freer, fairer, and more transparent and accountable.

Police can use the real time data to intervene swiftly, politicians can use the system to get updates from their constituencies, election observers can file anonymous reports of election related violations, journalists can get stories from the ground, and most importantly public can have a platform (through a simple text message, or a free phone call) to get involved.

LIG is planning a command centre sort of operation in coordination with Election Commission and Nepal Police in Kathmandu with real-time data feeds from across the country.

Agency heads and key staff from the following organisations attended the salon. LIG is currently designing in detail a co-ordination outline with Election Commission, Nepal Police and select few agencies.

  • »Asia Foundation, DanidaHUGOU, Delegation of the European Union, DFID, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, International IDEA, National Democratic Institute, National Election Observation Committee, Swiss Embassy, UNDP, USAID
  • »Khimlal Devkota from UCPN Maoists, Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat from Nepali Congress, Pradip Gyawali from UML, and Jitendra Dev from Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic)
  • »Joint Secretary from Election Commission, DIGs from Nepal Police & Armed Police Force

Event photos are available over at our Facebook page.

 

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