September ICYMI: Annual Open House, Escaping the Poverty Trap, and Populist Plutocrats
On Thursday, September 7th we welcomed Hub members and friends back to work at the start of fall with a celebration showcasing our community, our 2nd Annual Open House. We took a look back at how far we've come as a community and the excited places we're headed together.
2017 has been a year of growth for us here at the Open Gov Hub - not only growth in our membership base but also an observable shift in our community culture to one that's more open and collaborative. We've seen this shift in our member surveys and in other ways, and are proud that our 2017 Collaboration Toolkit seems to be paying off, seeing results like a 20% increase in collective identity just over the last four months. We've also had an uptick in overall activities, holding over 4 activities/events per week in the second quarter of this year (many of which are now being led by some of our rockstar members).
Watch all of the quick Working Group presentations and fun Ignite Talks from Feedback Labs, Development Gateway, and Root Change here.
Last Thursday September 14th, we at Global Integrity and the Open Gov Hub were pleased to host Professor Yuen Yuen Ang for an event about her groundbreaking book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. This was accompanied by a rich panel discussion with commentators Edouard Al-Dahdah from the World Bank and Shanthi Kalathil from the National Endowment for Democracy.
Ang’s book has begun to make waves in our field (see book reviews from Yongmei Zhou, Michael Woolcock, Lant Pritchett, and Duncan Green), and we were excited to convene a discussion to help continue the conversation forward.
This one-day conference at Harvard, co-sponsored by Harvard Law School and the Stigler Center and attended by Open Gov Hub staff, focused on an important and dangerous political phenomenon: the “populist plutocrat.” It helped contribute to that more general understanding by bringing together a group of distinguished experts—academics, journalists, politicians, and civil society activists—to analyze populist plutocrats (or leaders who exhibit some similar characteristics, even if they don’t perfectly correspond to the archetype) from several different countries, including Italy, Thailand, Russia, the Philippines, Peru, Argentina, and South Africa. Here are a few of our takeaways from participating:
- The "populist plutocrat" refers to a global political phenomenon of rulers who come to power with popular support from poorer masses, yet who only seem to primarily care about enriching themselves and their cronies once in office. This conference explored five models of this type of leader in recent decades: Berlesconi in Italy; Zuma in South Africa; Fujimori in Peru; Thaksin in Thailand, and Estrada in the Philippines, with discussion on how these lessons might be applied to America under Trump.
- These types of leaders tend to arise as a backlash to perceived elitism of traditional politicians and political parties. They may often be seen as a "breath of fresh air" willing to be honest and tell things as they are, however politically uncorrect they may be. They can often arise after periods of economic frustration that leave many people feeling their future is bleak and politicians do not care about their needs.
- Many of the panelists agreed that these types of leaders should be taken seriously, not literally. Many of these leaders may have erratic personalities and may even be involved in scandals, but it is important not to get distracted by the no-nonsense things they might say and instead focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the people who elected them. Some tactics that have successfully been used to oppose such corrupt leaders include formal legal prosecution and whistleblowing/investigative journalists, and counter-messaging campaigns.
Fighting Inequality and Fiscal Injustice: Innovative Models for Successful Campaigning - Lessons from Peru and Beyond
With 40% of the population in or at risk of falling back into poverty, income inequality is a major issue in Peru. Oxfam Peru has undertaken a number of successful initiatives to engage the public on such topics to highlight the country’s glaring levels of inequality. Based on insight from these past efforts, Oxfam in Peru has begun developing an influencing model to approach issues of inequality and fiscal reform with a comprehensive strategy.
Alejandra Alayza, Policy & Campaigns Manager for Oxfam in Peru and Michael Jarvis, Executive Director of the Transparency & Accountability Initiative spoke about these issues and more.
- Oxfam Peru is fighting inequality by strengthening fiscal justice influence through a strong alliance between more than 30 organizations in the country that are acting online and offline for change.
Digital and youth activism has been key in tackling inequality in Peru. Actua.pe (Act now) has matured into a communications and activism platform that amplifies civil society’s influence and strengthens its capacity to fight against inequality. This platform helps to connect activists with content for action (evidence-based information); connect actors (youth activists and civil society actors, experts, academics, economists, investigative journalists and influencers); and be a place for learning organizing tactics and communicational tools.
The influence strategy focuses on the following areas of fiscal injustice: tax evasion, tax exclusion, and tax exemptions. Ojo Público, with its investigation series Tax Privileges (2016), supported by Oxfam, has shown how Peru failed to collect S/. 93 billion because of the existence of 78 tax benefits (approximately USD 29 million) over a 10-year period in the last decade. As part of this investigation Ojo Público published, together with the well-known Peruvian cartoonist, Jesus Cossio, Water Wars, the first interactive comic developed in Peru, which tells the story of unfair taxation in the context of an active mining conflict between the community of Coccachacra in Arequipa and the Tia Maria mining project.