… Participants responded from 32 countries. They ranged from Ministers and MPs to Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolutionaries, from American academics to Indian social activists, from a Rwandan peace-builder to a Japanese aid-worker.
The Dialogue opened with the video address of Aung San Suu Kyi, sounding the hopeful note that Burma is ‘on the verge of a breakthrough’. But, she continued, ‘we need to be independent from our own weaknesses, which allowed the decades of military regime to
rule. Shaping our own destiny requires not only a sense of purpose but also a sense of responsibility.’ Her request for ‘our friends from all over the world’ to maintain an ‘intense interest’ on developments at this critical time was warmly received. …
Read the complete report here:
“One of the most frequent questions I am asked these days is that how we will know that we have got to the point that people refer to as ‘no return’ with regard to the process of democratization. I explain that I do not think that there is such a thing as a point of no return. One can always turn back at any time. So what do we look for to let us know that we have succeeded in our quest for democracy? This is a big question. I am not sure that I have all the answers but I think we will know when we get there, when we get to the point that our people do not have to live in fear and democratic practices became a matter of routine for them. How do we get to that point? Not one step at a time but many steps at a time in many different directions.
Democracy is to do with society; it is not just to do with government. So we need to take all kinds of steps in all kinds of directions: politically, socially, educationally, and of course, civil society must be involved, and also the international community. Because Burma is on the verge of a breakthrough, (I say we are on the verge of the breakthrough, we have not yet made the breakthrough) we appreciate the support and the intense attention of our friends. It is very important that the international community, our friends from all over the world keep a very keen eye on the developments in Burma. And we need you also to tell us when you think we have got to the point when we can say we have made it. That of course is not the end of the road. There is never an end to the road of democracy. Once we have achieved political democracy, we have to achieve social democracy; and once we have achieved that, we have to consolidate it to make sure that it is keeping in time with international developments. So the process of democratisation is one without an end as such. It is, in fact, a march towards several doors at the same time.
We in Burma are now at a point when we think we may be able to shape our destiny. That is a great thing, to be able to shape one’s own destiny. And for the people of a nation to be able to stand up and say ‘We are the makers of our own destiny’ is a great development in the history of that nation. When we achieved independence in 1948 we thought that we had got to that point, but over the intervening years we have learnt that independence from a foreign power is not enough. We need to be independent from our own weaknesses. Burma has been under a military regime for many years; well, until last year, although some would argue that this is still a semi-military regime. Those years came about as a weakness on the part of our country. I would not like to blame only the military for what happened over the last few decades. It is something that happened to all our people and all of us have a responsibility in some way or the other. This is why we must understand that shaping our own destiny requires not only a sense of purpose but also a sense of responsibility. Responsibility and duty, I have been emphasizing greatly over the last few months, because when people think of democratization in Burma, they think of the rights that they are going to get but not the responsibilities that they will have to assume.
So in this ‘Dialogue on Democracy’, I would appreciate very much if you would concentrate as much on the responsibilities as on the rights. How do we develop a sense of democratic responsibility? Where does it start? At the family? In the schools? In university? In the polls? There are so many different ways of starting it but I believe that it starts in the family. From the family, outwards into society we should understand what democracy entails not just in the matter of rights but also in terms of responsibilities.
We in Burma have looked at Gandhiji as a great leader who combined democratic principles with an unwavering belief in non violence. I would say that he is the father of non- violent politics. Without him there would not have been other non-violent movements in the world over. We have studied his teachings and realised how sensible he was. People would perhaps use the word ‘wise’ but I think the most important thing in politics is to be thoroughly grounded in common sense, and that Gandhiji was. And combined with that was not just intense intelligence but also imagination. And a combination of intelligence and imagination made him a visionary such as we had not seen before in the world. If he were alive now, I wonder how he would advise us? What he would tell us to do, how he would recommend that we go forward with our process of reform? I am sure he would have been able to give us much invaluable advice. And now it falls on you, his heirs, I am not just referring to the Gandhis but to all those who believe in democracy as his heirs to help Burma to follow the right path in the right way.
David Nyuol Vincent, fled Sudan when he was 5 years old and lived in a refugee camp for 18 years. David was one of the thousands of ‘lost’ children who participated in the conflict in the Sudan. David arrived in Australia in 2004. He completed a BA double major in Political Science & Criminology at University of Melbourne. He has extensive experience working with young people in community development and family support and is currently employed as a Community Liaison Officer for the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) in Melbourne. For the last six years David has initiated different programs in Melbourne and South Sudan that he is currently involved in. One of these programs is “A New Beginning, Resolving Conflict Peacefully.” David has spoken at numerous conferences and events in Africa, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand, and is registered with the UNHCR’s Speakers Bureau.
Ph.D. in Sociology ( University of Dhaka), M. Phil in Sociology ( University of Dhaka ), M. A in Sociology. A (Hons.) in Sociology
Current position :
Chief Executive of Development Link Foundation ( DevLink ), Dhaka
(Development Link Foundation (DevLink) has been established by a small group of highly competent professionals aiming at providing an Institutional Platform of undertaking various kinds of research, training, development activities relating to social, economic and culture for the sustainable development in the Bangladesh and South Asia regions).
Faculty ( part-time) of United International University, Dhaka, in Development Studies (Teaching courses of (1) Sociology and Social Anthropology of Development, (2) Development Organization and Management, and (3) Philosophy and Forms of Development and Governance.
Research Consultant of different donor agencies ( SIDA, DFID, World Bank, SDC, European Commission ,and different international non-governmental organizations )
Previous( former) position:
Worked as a Research Fellow at the Center for Development Research (CDR), Copenhagen, Denmark; Consultant and Coordinator at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), Dhaka; and Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Major books published :
- Understanding the Local Power Structure in Rural Bangladesh (a joint publication with David Lewis), Sida, Stockholm, Sweden, 2008.
- Dynamics of Khas Land Management and Settlement in Haor Basin of Bangladesh, published by PPRC, 2008
- Local Institutions and the Political Space: A Study on Political Dynamics in
Bangladesh (unpublished Ph.D. Thesis), 2004.
- Boringram Revisited: From Agricultural Stagnation to Economic Growth, Changes in a Village in Bangladesh during the last Quarter of the 20th Century (Joint publication with Dr. Kirsten westergaard), UPL, Dhaka, 2005.
- Anatomy of Water body Leasing System at the Haor Basin in Bangladesh, published by PPRC, 2009
- Context study and actor mapping in the South Asian Region , LogIn , SDC , Delhi, 2010
- Peasant Movement in Ranisankail (Dinajpur): A Sociological Study , Dhaka University, Dhaka, 1998
Cell phone: 0088-01680-600229
Invitation Version: Kanak Mani Dixit, Journalist and Civil Rights Activist
Kanak Mani Dixit is a prominent Nepali journalist and civil rights activist who has pioneered the arena of South Asian media. Recognised in Nepal and elsewhere as a voice for pluralism and democracy, Kanak has helped shape the debate about his country’s political direction in recent years, and worked across many fields to promote the principles social justice. Founder of Himal, the liberal and politically independent magazine, he has been a voice of relentless, painful honesty and journalistic integrity.
During the past decade, Kanak has been involved in civil rights during the Maoist insurgency, in the fight against royal autocracy, and in the continuously turbulent period since the People’s Movement of 2006. He has been involved in the peace process, and in seeking justice for atrocities committed during the conflict years by both the state and the Maoists. As an activist who promoted Nepal’s unique FM radio revolution, Kanak continues to stand up for press freedom amidst political turmoil.
Kanak is known in Nepal and South Asia for his multiplicity of public interests – writing for children, translations, documentary film festivals, spinal injury rehabilitation, public accountability, architectural and cultural preservation, public transport, archiving, and animal welfare. Kanak’s wife Shanta is deeply involved in education in Nepal as the founder and director of the innovative Rato Bangla School, and in a foundation that seeks to take quality instruction to government schools.
Kanak and his family have an abiding commitment to the preservation and restoration of Kathmandu Valley art and architecture, together with the need to improve the quality of urban life in a modernizing Valley. This interest in saving the past for future generations of Nepalis has manifested in a unique archiving project which aims to document the recent history of Nepali state and society.
Presently, Kanak is working with other stalwarts of his town, Patan, and with KVPT to reconstruct the Bhaidega temple at the Patan Durbar Square. This temple was destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1934, and its reconstruction over 2011-12 represents an energising citizens’ effort to restore and revive cultural and architectural heritage in Nepal.
Kanak is a prolific writer, and his forthcoming work in 2011 is Peace Politics of Nepal: An Opinion from Within. He is the recipient of the 2009 Prince Claus Award for his commitment to culture and development.
In democracies, like in all other forms of governance, the transactions between the State and citizens are carried out through institutions. Institutions are the instruments to translate the wishes of the political executive into deliverables and then to deliver them to the people. The structures and functions of the state institutions follow the Lincoln principle of ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ in democratic societies.
There are no laid forms of state institutions. There are no globally valid rules for institutional design. According to Francis Fukuyama, the field of public administration is more of an art than science. Every country decides on the structure of its institutions incorporating context specific information. The big policy implications are how the workshop can help to strengthen states institutions in developing countries to perform their functions to the satisfaction of the beneficiaries and how to train the practitioners in this field.
In a democracy, there are various forms of institutions. Firstly, there are political institutions based on the ideology of representative governance. That the political institutions which determine the legitimacy of the state should be responsive to the needs and wishes of the people is the defining principle of state building in a democratic set up. The political institutions include the fair and transparent process of electing the governments, internal democracy of the political parties and the grass root democratic institutions for the participation of the people in policy making and implementation of programmes.
The existing democratic system of governance is generally based on a written constitution adopted by the people. It provides for the basis of legitimacy of the State. It also provides for sharing of political power between federal, state and local governments. The institutions enshrined in the constitution are, therefore, the most important constituents of the State. In most countries, the constitutional institutions include the parliament, the judicial system, the election commission and the supreme accounting agency besides other country specific institutions.
Since democratic power is exercised by organized political parties, the structure and functioning of the political parties assumes importance in the formation of the government and formulation of public policies. It has been observed that the degree of internal democracy within political parties is reflected in the quality of governance. In many developing countries, political parties are controlled by individual leaders or coteries of persons deciding the functioning of the parties, and by implication functioning of the government.
The other pillars of democracy are the legislature, the judiciary and the executive apart from the external forces of the media, the civil society and increasingly the business community. In an idealist democracy, all these key players should move in synchronization with one another. An advanced economy is dependent on institutions of the state. When one institution runs at a high speed leaving other institutions far behind, aberrations appear in the fabric of the state. An example of such mismatch is between the excruciating rate of change in financial markets (or communication technologies) and the total stagnation in the education system observed in most countries.
In the area of the capacity building of institutions, the role of the civil society cannot be minimised. A number of successful state building and institutional reform have occurred when a society has generated strong domestic demand for institutions resulting in the creation of effective institutions; either imported them from outside, or adapted foreign models to local conditions. South Korea and Taiwan in 1960s, Chile in 1970s and New Zealand in 1980s were all such cases. It can be said that if adequate domestic public demand exists, then the government is usually obliged to comply with people’s wishes. In Brazil, the anti-corruption Ficha Limpa Act was passed by the Parliament due to a concerted public campaign. Anna Hazare’s movement in India for a powerful anti-corruption institution is also a case in point.
A single central problem in the structure of the institutions is that of delegated discretion. While greater efficiency requires delegation of discretion in decision making and authority, the very act of delegation creates problems of control and supervision. Besides, the agents can act contrary to principal’s wishes either because of their personal interests or from ideological motivations that differ with those of their bosses.
All delegation involves a trade off between efficiency and risk, and both the degree of risk and the appropriate level of delegation are difficult to determine. The result is that the same degree of delegation works in one setting but not in another. Therefore, the details of delegation should be worked out in keeping with the prevalent social realities.
It has to be kept in mind that public servants are no different from any other economic agent in seeking to maximize their individual self interest. The presumption that governmental officials will somehow be oriented towards acting in broad public interest is misplaced. The behaviour of public officials can be influenced by bribes, payoffs to family members or promises of future employment.
Therefore, the design of the institutions must incorporate internal checks and balances to prevent abuse of delegated authority and to maintain institutional integrity. A code of ethics and system of redressing the grievances of the people need to be embedded in the design of ministries, departments and agencies.
The source of institutional ambiguity is that institutional goals are often unclear, contrary or poorly specified. The complex structures within an organization explain why they are frequently ‘bureaucratic’.
Acknowledging the significant role of state institutions, the workshop may like to focus on the design of new institutions to address increasing complexities of administration keeping in view the following:
- Whatever may be the form of government, its test lies in the quality of governance it provides to its people,
- In the democratic set up that there is an accountability factor built in,
- Functions are to be undertaken keeping in mind the views and aspirations of all sections of the societies,
- The civil society should keep abreast of the developments in public policy formulation and demand effective institutions,
- With the rapidly changing technologies and fresh challenges of development and welfare of the people, new institutions may be required,
- The goals of each institution should be specified clearly, without any ambiguity,
- There is a need to ensure that there are proper checks and balances in place so that neither there is any abuse of authority nor there is a chance of any corruption, nepotism or exploitation,
- The nature and extent of delegation of discretion to the field functionaries should guard against deviant behaviour, and
- It is vital to strengthen the existing institutions for holding free and fair elections, incorruptible and sensitive law enforcing agencies and to dispense justice without being influenced by power or corrupted by money.
(Note prepared by the IC Centre for Governance, India)
Corruption takes many forms and nuances in different cultures and societies. Roughly defined, it is the conduct of public officials that deviates from the accepted norms in order to serve private ends. Political corruption has been defined as a ‘transaction between the public and private sectors such that collective goods are illegitimately converted into private-regarding payoffs’.
In many developing societies, bureaucratic and political corruptions coexist and reinforce each other. Besides, the complicity of economic interests and political interests has been shown in recent cases of corruption in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and India.
Accountability is the cornerstone of democracy and good governance. Democratic accountability requires the government to address the needs and aspirations of the people and to respond to the wishes of the people. It implies holding public officials and organizations responsible for performance measured as objectively as possible. Financial accountability implies obligation of public officials to report on intended and actual use of state resources. Political accountability means open methods for policy making and implementation. Administrative accountability means clean processes, system of internal controls in state institutions and transparent execution of programmes.
Even though corrupt politicians can be voted out of power in a democratically elected government, democracy is not necessarily a cure for corrupt practices. In many democratic countries, corruption in high places coexists with democratic reforms. Many of the peoples’ movements in recent times have been activated by the greed and injustice of those in power. In India, Anna Hazare’s stir for a strong anti-corruption ombudsman is an example of civil society activism.
The corrosive effects of corruption undermine the functioning of electoral bodies, parliament, the judiciary and administrative structures. The institutions get corrupted and bribery becomes an accepted norm in government transactions.
Corruption is like a computer virus. The hardware looks the same; the software generally works, but some part of it gets “corrupted” and you find yourself in danger of losing the whole system. Like the virus, corruption may be invisible, small, contained to a few people, but like the virus, its mere existence in an organization puts everything at risk. And very soon, it exhibits itself as a monster beyond the competence of any anti- virus mechanism.
The need to make elections free and fair has been on the national agenda of many countries. In many developing countries, elections are marked by massive fraud, vote buying, intimidation and even violence. There are allegations of massive rigging. Furthermore, elections have become extremely expensive in most developing countries. Corruption is promoted by the fact that money spent in elections has to be paid back.
The lack of discipline and internal democracy of political parties has also aided the pervasiveness of corruption in a number of countries. Many political parties become the personal fiefdoms of gaining power rather than vehicles for debate on public policies and programmes. In India, a number of parties do not have organizational elections and the decisions are taken by an individual or a coterie of persons.
An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law. If the courts do not dispense justice, the rule of law is meaningless. Corruption removes public confidence in rule of law. It allows money to buy justice by bribing the judges.
The poor suffer the most from corruption in many ways. Because of their inability to pay, they do not receive services from the government as promised. Corruption (especially the petty one) flourishes the most in poor countries. In fact, corruption is both a major cause and a result of poverty around the world. If one looks at Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, it is always dominated by poor countries
What is amazing about the present day governance in several countries is the total brazenness of the corrupt, utterly contemptuous of the allegations against them. The government servants accept bribes openly in their offices without any compunction. In most offices, the rates of obtaining services are fixed. The law enforcing agencies break laws with impunity in every transaction. And this is only the highly visible side of corruption. Every day, ordinary people have to bribe just to get basic services, like a telephone or an official document. The citizen accepts wanton corruption with fatalistic resignation.
Is corruption inevitable? What is the cost of all this backhand dealing, and who is paying it? What is it like in your country?
In view of the truism that corruption weakens (and ultimately, destroys) democracy and democratic institutions, the workshop should focus on the challenges and opportunities in the fight against corruption.
- Corruption is a fatal combination of three factors: monopoly of power, latitude of discretion, and absence of accountability.
- Corruption takes many forms and involves many different actors.
- Corruption is a public crime; the greatest sufferers of corruption are the poor and unprivileged,
- The people in governments would not change their ways without strong and persistent public demand for change,
- Government institutions exist to fight corruption, but the support of civil society is essential for a long-term, systemic approach.
- The corporate sector is sometimes a reluctant participant in corruption, and would welcome an environment in which bribes are no longer required to be paid. Civil Society Organizations and corporates should, therefore, work as partners and not adversaries.
- Fight against corruption is not a sprint, but a marathon.
Some of the measures needing the consideration of the workshop in the fight against corruption:
- Removal of information gap between the people and those in authority through statutory right to information,
- Public advocacy on specific processes encouraging corruption,
- Identification of those within government who are willing to fight corruption,
- Civil society organizations should develop technical expertise to effectively monitor the expenditure of public money as modern corruption is getting more complex,
- Realization of the fact that systemic problems require systemic solutions, rather than ad hoc responses of immediate nature,
- Greater public awareness of the various dimensions of the problem;
- Greater public awareness of and continuous debate on possible solutions
- Recourse to public interest litigation in cases of blatant injustice
- Guaranteeing the safety the social activists, whistleblowers, judges, and government auditors-especially in societies emerging from recent internal conflict
(Note prepared by the IC Centre for Governance, India)
Mohammad Hashem - Integrity Watch Afghanistan
I will approach this topic from my experience of confronting our daughters killers. The discovery of the extent of the marginalisation of a large part of our South African community (which was the causative factor in the attack on the Heidleberg). The importance of bringing communities together to discuss their differing needs and values and how best to meet them and giving them a voice through voting.
I will suggest that we take the courage to call our politicians to accountability, and honesty in dealing with hard earned tax money. By ensuring skills and education for a true democracy where equality (meeting the basic needs of each citizen) is at least attempted.
My personal concern is in connection with those sensitive souls – who are more likely to find solace for the trauma of social bewilderment and unacceptance in substance abuse.
Edward Peters has worked with Initiatives of Change for 40 years, in some 40 countries. He was responsible for formal training programmes for young people from 1981-83 and 1995-2000. He was a commissioning editor & monthly columnist of For A Change magazine from 1990-96. From 1993-98 he served as international co-ordinator of Foundations for Freedom, a programme of courses aimed at strengthening democracy in Eastern Europe. He was Chair of the national Clean Slate Campaign – a millennium initiative in the UK in 1999. From 2002-2008 he managed the global internet work of Initiatives of Change. From 2009-2010 he assisted Rajmohan Gandhi during his Presidency of IofC International, including organising the ‘Voyage of Dialogue and Discovery’ which took the Gandhis to 15 countries in the first half of 2010. Since October 2010 he has served as Executive Vice-President of IofC International. Edward’s wife is Swedish, they have two children in their twenties, and live on the west coast of Sweden.
A native of Malta, Charles started working at Barclays Bank at age 17 after a Catholic school education. An important influence on his early life was losing his father at age 11, and being one of 9 children.
At age 26, he received an invitation from Indian IofC friends to work alongside them for six months. These months turned into nearly 2 and a half years in India and continue 32 years later – working with IofC in Australia, London, Middle East, Malta and for many years in Washington, where he lives with his wife Kathy and their son Charlie.
An apology to a Palestinian engineering Student in Malta soon after Charles encountered the ideas of IofC in 1973 opened his heart to the Muslim and Arab world. With others, he hosted Mediterranean Dialogues in Malta and worked on meetings bringing Muslim and other delegates together in Caux, Switzerland, and Fez, Morocco. He takes pride in helping launch The Imam and Pastor film on Nigerian peacemakers at the UN in New York, and recently a follow-up film about them - An African Answer, set in Kenya after the electoral violence there – in New York and Washington.