February ICYMI

This February we had some interesting events on post-Brexit Britain, the importance of journalistic collaboration, and how audit institutions can help curtail corruption.

Check out our event calendar to see what we have coming up for the rest of March.

Will Post-Brexit Britain Be a Race to the Bottom in Rights & Standards?

After a populist vote not too dissimilar to Trump's, Britain is soon to be leaving the European Union, on a promise to relaunch a new era of free trade. Javier Ruiz from the UK-based Open Rights Group (ORG) was visiting DC and gave an update on the situation, with a view to start building stronger relations between civil society groups in the US and the UK in order to better deal with any issues raised by this renewed strategic convergence.

Here are Three Takeaways from the event:

  1. There is a fear of the impact of lack of transparency in striking a deal (which must be done by early 2019). In theory, there will be one bill that converts EU legislation into UK legislation, but ministers have more or less unlimited power to edit this, and it is possible that major changes will be made and handed to legislators for approval with most people being unaware of what is happening until it's too late. In addition, the sheer volume of treaties that need to be renegotiated makes this an almost impossible task that is ripe for corruption and meddling from lobbyists, since trade deals are inherently secretive.
  2. No deal could be worse than a bad deal. There is a concern that a worst case scenario could bring on the collapse of various elements of the system, including the food supply chain. For example, if no deal is struck, only about 1,300 truck licenses would be allowed for drivers who need to drive on the continent, and there are about 375,000 drivers who need the licenses. Some treaties, for example those that regulate fisheries, could revert back to treaties established as long ago as medieval times.
  3. There will likely be a steady decline in the economy. Although the economy did not collapse in Britain post-Brexit as economists had predicted, the economic situation is not healthy. Part of the reason for the lack of economic collapse was that many people were relatively unaware of the implications of this huge event and consumer habits did not change. In addition, there has been a major devaluation of the pound, and profits are higher when the pound is low. However, this is not positive, and the economy will inexorably decline.

Competition is for Losers: Scaling Collaborations that Enhance Democracy, Transparency & Accountability [BBL]

The world is turning towards informal, cross-border networks in all sorts of ways: massive social media networks dominate our personal lives and shape our identity, while political influence and propaganda increasingly spread without regard for sovereignty. Meanwhile, dark money pours into political campaigns from all directions - often without our knowledge. By contrast, journalism and civil society have yet to scale their collaborations to the same degree, even though recent projects have shown this approach to be successful and beneficial for all parties. 

Mary Fitzgerald, Editor in Chief and Tom King, Head of Development, from OpenDemocracy came to speak to us.

The Three Takeaways from this event:

  1. What more can we do to create informal networks and partnerships that would provide a counterbalance and accountability to dark money and corruption? It’s so rare for journalists to collaborate and to just give stuff away. OpenDemocracy is not competitive; we want things to happen out in the world. No organization can create big change alone. You need different skills, audiences, and strategies to effect change. You need key partners. Competition would destroy this. The openDemocracy team is eager to encourage more collaborations between journalists and civil society in part because you can't understand one piece or episode of interference in democratic processes in one country without understanding the broader global context for these growing challenges. Dark money and authoritarian actors are increasingly collaborating across borders, so this makes it imperative for civil society actors challenging these activities to do the same
  2. The data revolution has enabled great advancements in investigative journalism and collaborative research, but it is still important to maintain the human element to creatively tell compelling stories that move people to action.
  3. If democracy wasn’t weak, if civil society, media, and philanthropy were doing a better job, then maybe all of this outside interference we are seeing in our democracies globally wouldn’t have had such an impact. For example, look at the election in Germany; this outside interference didn't have much of an impact because of the strength of their institutions. 

How Can Supreme Audit Institutions Help Curtail Corruption?

On February 28, the Open Gov Hub organize a special panel event entitled, How Can Supreme Audit Institutions Help Curtail Corruption? The purpose was to compare and learn about how different Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) - the highest government oversight bodies - and other independent oversight institutions play a key role in combating various forms of corruption in different countries.

Read the full event summary and see pictures and video here.

ICYMINada ZohdyComment