what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

who knows of reforms of kleptocratic regimes?

Three things account for my silence of the last three days – a particularly foul bout of the flu; a powerful novel 1,000 page book The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell which recounts, from old age, the activities of a senior 30 year old SS bureaucrat throughout the harrowing years of the war; and my attempt to draft a paper for the May Conference of the Network of Schools of Public Administration in centraland eastern europe (NISPAcee). I’ve got a fair amount of text and have reached the critical stage of drafting a first Executive Summary of the key points I seem to be arguing –
The Schools which form NISPAcee train officials from state administration in both EU member countries and in those which neighbour the EU - but their courses have little or no impact in shaping the perspectives and behaviour of public officials particularly at a senior level where the agenda is set by politics with both a large and small „p”.

More seriously, the content of their teaching is conducted at a high level of rationality – and takes little account of the political context of the work of the public service (particularly appointments and promotion) in CEEC nor of the questionable basis of many of the new models of pubic management they have adopted with such enthusiasm.

The same is true of the intervention tools used by the (large) consultancy industry funded by the EU which fail to account of the highly charged political environment of most CEEC countries – and which therefore make little impact.

The design and delivery of technical assistance of administrative reform is, in any case, fatally split between anonymous individual consultants and EU officials (on the one hand) who design the programmes and Terms of Reference according to unknown assumptions about drivers of change – and the actual consultants who have to manage the projects exactly as designed – regardless of their relevance to the situation they confront on the ground several years later.

As long as accession was the name of the game, this perhaps didn’t matter too much since the „beneficiaries” of Technical Assistance in accession countries had little choice than to comply with external advice.

It is a completely different matter with, for example, Neighbourhood countries – where the language of „local ownership” has to be taken more seriously.

The rhetoric about and programmes for anti-corruption cloak the reality that a systemically corrupt New Class has arisen in many CEEC countries – which makes a mockery of administrative reform and improved public services. The global financial crisis was just the last nail in the coffin.

It is insufficiently recognised that the language of „beneficiaries” and „experts” contradicts utterly the dynamics of a normal client-consultant relationship.

Despite the many evaluations of EU programmes of Technical Assistance which have been carried out, I am not aware of any real (as distinct from formalistic) assessments of the impact of (and lessons from) the large amounts of money spent on the various blocks of work in such fields as functional review, rule of law, civil service reform etc

I know of no examples of the successful transformation of kleptocratic regimes into operational democracies – nor of the possible drivers of such a transformation.

Another heroic example from China – a blind activist released from prison but surrounded in his house day and night by more than 20 state louts is able to smuggle out an eloquent video of his experience which you can see here. He and his wife are beaten senseless for this gesture.

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