This morning, I attended a Chicago Council on Global Affairs event with The Right Honourable Baroness Amos of Brondesbury, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council, United Kingdom. Beyond the fact that she gives politicians a good name in terms of being honest, articulate, and very friendly; she gave a balanced account of social and economic activities in Africa since 2005 and the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, when they adopted the Millennium Development Goals.
And yes, I did get the business card of one of her associates to contact her. She could be a high level politician who actual would/could get design and its role in governance.
I wanted to share her response to a question I asked about which African country she thought did an effective job of communicating with its citizenry. The topic had been brought up earlier in the conversation in relationship to how Africa leaders are challenged by the need to manage the expectations for progress after the “lever is pulled” with the openness in public communications through radio talk shows and the newspapers now expected to meet governance standards. Overwhelmed by the criticisms, their response is to clamp things down in fear, but she said that is when greater communications are required.
My question was the last question, thus her answer was brief. But she held up Ghana and its handling of the HIPC [Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative] controversy as a good example. In 2001, there was huge controversy in the Ghanaian government and public as to whether it should enter the HIPC program in which they would receive debt forgiveness by meeting certain poverty reduction goals approved by IMF and the World Bank. In order to show the benefits of HIPC, the Ghanaian government emblazoned all of its infrastructure results with the HIPC label. This has made the HIPC initiative “tangible” to the people, but has also opened it up to positive and negative criticism, which is the heart of government participation.
Here is a video produced by Now Public, which is a citizen journalism company, called Damned By Debt Relief that captures the critique of the program. But again, it is able to be critiqued because it is so tangible to people.
HIPC has been branded on schools, etc. While this labeling is common for Oxfam, Save the Children, and others, it is interesting to think about what happens when the government does the same thing.