Thursday, July 30, 2009

USAID Rule of Law encompasses Legal Empowerment of the Poor

Short of a brief speech I heard at some point last year from Henriertta Fore pointing out USAID's active participation with the Commission, I have not yet come across any USAID strategy papers or announcements following the ARD reports on USAID and Legal Empowerment. However, I did notice that USAID's Rule of Law strategic goals now contains the concept of legal empowerment, as follows (in italics and bold, my emphasis):

"Throughout our activities, the Rule of Law Division focuses on three strategic goals:

  • Increasing Democratic Legal Authority: Ensuring that legal authority extends to the entire territory of the country and applies to all citizens; ensuring that the justice system has a legitimate foundation in the democratic process; eliminating control by armed militias, criminal gangs, or warlords.

    We support programming in constitutional and legal drafting, civilian and community policing, gang prevention, criminal justice and security sector reform. In post-conflict environments, the Rule of Law Division fosters rebuilding the justice sector, increasing access to justice, enhancing oversight of the security sector, working with non-state justice actors and dealing with past abuses.
  • Guaranteeing Rights and the Democratic Process: Promoting independence of the judiciary; ensuring the constitutionality of government action; eliminating politically motivated prosecutions.

    We support programming in human rights, judicial independence, access to justice, legal empowerment of the poor and the disadvantaged, civil society oversight of the justice system and building a culture of lawfulness.
  • Providing Justice as a Service: Providing more effective and efficient justice services, such as enforcing contracts and appealing administrative decisions.

    We support strengthening of justice institutions, including the judiciary, ministries of justice, parliaments, prosecutors’ offices, public defenders, ombudsman’s offices, law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies, law schools, bar associations and non-state justice institutions."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Second IDRC-Harvard Forum announced for 9/23

Wow! The second IDRC-Harvard Forum announced for 9/23, register via Harvard link here:

Wow, because one of my very first posts on this blog was on the first IDRC-Harvard Forum 6 years ago, "A Dialogue on ICTs and Poverty Reduction," which brought together Professors Spence and Sen with 30 leading thinkers and practitioners from around the globe. It will be interesting to see what the emerging topics are, and to compare them to those 6 years ago. 

In the worlds of ICTs and development, many important and transformative changes have occurred over the last six years, including:

  • explosion of mobile phone use in the developing world – the ending of isolation;
  • new social network technologies – social/political mobilization and participation;
  • penetration of open and collaborative content development and delivery models;
  • focus on the largest but poorest socio-economic group (the "Bottom of the Pyramid") and the new business and non-profit models that target and serve this group;
  • increasing pressure and need for collective global action on climate change; and
  • realization from crisis and recession that poverty strikes everywhere, and the economic management and risk mitigation capabilities of most countries need serious strengthening.
Communication and knowledge offered by emerging technologies enable or enhance a wide range of benefits and opportunities for the poor, and for everyone, including:

  • family and social interaction, a source of individual happiness;
  • economic services, market information, banking and micro credit, insurance;
  • employment opportunities and means of increasing convenience and earnings;
  • public and social services, distance education, telehealth, social protection;
  • access to knowledge, innovation support services and open, collaborative undertakings;
  • ICT sector growth, jobs and incomes, connection to the market and non-profit economies.

There are also emerging risks in the expanded prevalence of new technologies, including:

  • political and technical control and repression, commercial and social manipulation;
  • social mobilization for destructive purposes, e.g. the use of mobiles in instigating conflicts;
  • privacy invasion – increased ability/opportunity for governments and the private sector;
  • cyber-crime and national vulnerabilities to cyber-warfare, and the list goes on.
Regarding the role of communication and ICTs in human development, growth and poverty reduction, what has changed, been learned, not been learned, needs to be learned, needs to be done most urgently? Hot topics are

  • Communications and the technologies that enable them, like education, comprise a basic building block of human development at all levels of poverty/prosperity and freedoms.
  • The "connectedness revolution" is a major dimension of globalization, with the expansions and contractions of prosperity and freedoms that globalization causes for different peoples.
  • Communications, enabled by ICTs, are increasing informed public dialogue and debate in many countries and societies.
  • Informed public debate at national and international levels will be essential in achieving solutions to global warming, and better management of the global economy.
  • Crisis prevention and management – financial, economic, pandemic, natural disaster – are being improved by ICT-enabled communication and information delivery.
  • Openness is always better than protection in principal; how far can it reach in practice? 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

CSTD Assessment of WSIS implementation 2009

Here is the link to the draft 2009 CSTD resolution, and this is the comprehensive report written to the UN Sectary General

Findings and recommendations:

  • Monitoring efforts are difficult:  Considerable progress was made in 2008 towards the implementation of the outcomes of WSIS. Numerous activities have been reported by the different entities of the United Nations system. However, as there is no reporting mechanism in place with regards to activities undertaken by other stakeholders, it remains difficult for the action line facilitators and the regional commissions to assess the efforts made by civil society, business entities and multi-stakeholder partnerships, and to report on them to the CSTD secretariat. Also, the number of stakeholders, the number of recommendations and commitments, as well as the absence of benchmarks and targets in the Geneva Plan of Action, complicates the assessment of WSIS implementation.
  • Not enough participation: With regards to action line facilitation, while some entities have reported on successful mobilization of relevant stakeholders through electronic networks and face-to-face consultations and meetings, others have continued to encounter considerable difficulty in involving participation of all stakeholders and reported on low participation of new stakeholders in the facilitation process. One obstacle identified was the high cost associated with face-to-face facilitation meetings in Geneva, which deters participation from developing-country stakeholders.
  • Needs greater coordination: There is a need for greater coordination among the leading facilitator agencies and the CSTD secretariat, with a view to streamlining and clustering the WSIS-related events, including the action line facilitation meetings into one week event to take place back-to-back with the annual regular session of the CSTD. At an open consultation meeting organized by ITU and UNESCO, on 15 September 2008, some participants suggested, inter alia, that the cluster of WSIS-related events should be organized with opening and closing plenary meetings and parallel sessions on action lines in between, and that the events could be organized along themes, including ICTs for the MDGs, financial mechanisms, security and open access to scientific literature. The organizers of the WSIS-related events for 2009 are taking several of these suggestions into account.
  • Needs a way to benchmark progress: There is also a need to benchmark progress towards the attainment of the specific targets and goals set out in the Geneva Plan of Action and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. In this regard, the commission, through the CSTD secretariat, may consider collaborating closely with UNGIS, the lead moderators and facilitators to group the 11 action lines into thematic clusters.
  • New issues arises: New topics that were not centrer stage at the first and second phases of WSIS in 2003 and 2005 continue to emerge, such as online privacy and child protection on the Internet. It is recommended that the commission in its future work focus not only on the positive sides of the emerging information society, but also on various risks, including phishing and other types of cyber-criminality.
  • Focus on pro-poor applications: The CSTD may consider focusing on pro-poor ICT policies and applications, including the need for access to broadband at the grass roots level, with a view to narrowing the digital divide between and within countries.
  • Focus on impact of ICTs, not just ICTs themselves: More emphasis is required by all stakeholders on the empowerment aspects of new ICTs. Empowerment, strengthening of democratic processes and ICTs in education should be priority themes for the CSTD. More attention should also be given by all stakeholders to the potential contributions of ICTs towards the MDGs and the reduction of poverty.
  • Access goes beyond mere infrastructure: While the supply of ICT infrastructure remains a priority for many developing countries, it is important to recognize that rising Internet penetration alone does not necessarily allow for an information society for all. Meaningful access, at the individual or community level, requires more than infrastructure. The human capacities – with an estimated 776 million illiterate adults and 75 million out-of-school children – and the lack of local content remain serious bottlenecks in this context. People need the funds to afford access, and the skills required to make use of the services and equipment. The commission should therefore seek to foster broader understanding of access and stress the demand side factors, with a focus on enabling communities and empowering citizens.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Geek Trivia: #Twitter #Hashtags

How are hastags started in Twitter? How do we decide what words to use? And is there an etiquette? I found these answers on the Twitter Fan Wiki:
  • The hash symbol is a convention borrowed primarily from IRC channels, and later from Jaiku's channels. 
  • It can be helpful to do a little research first, to find out if the subject you're tweeting already has an established hashtag., example, track other tweets on the subjects you're interested in browsing/searching, TwitterGroups, TweetChat, TweetGrid, Twitterfall, or via RSS. 
  • Hashtags were popularized during the San Diego forest fires in 2007 when Nate Ritter used the hashtag "#sandiegofire" to identify his updates related to the disaster. 
  • The use of hashtags is still an emergent phenomena, and as such, etiquette is negotiable, though some have already expressed their distaste for hashtags. 
  • Used excessively can cause annoyance, confusion or frustration, and may lead people to stop following you. It's best to use hashtags explicitly when they're going to add value, rather than on every word in an update. 
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