Discussing ideas of an Open UN – one month on

About a month ago I posted a proposal for an Open United Nations web platform. This is the idea of making global governance – the discourse, debates and decision-making at the UN and beyond – more transparent.

I thought it might be useful (to me, at least) to blog about what it’s like to try to start something like this despite having no idea what you’re doing. Here’s post number one. Continue reading Discussing ideas of an Open UN – one month on

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Imagining an Open United Nations platform

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The ‘Open’ movement is in full force. There are now projects for Open Governments, Open Budgets, Open Charities, and even Open Corporates.

But, as yet, there are no Open International Organisations. No Open IMF, no Open World Bank, no Open World Trade Organization.  Continue reading Imagining an Open United Nations platform

Towards a UN social media strategy

As well as writing my MA dissertation, I spent this summer interning with the United Nations Department for Public Information. And in particular with the social media ‘focal point’ in that department.

It made a lot of sense – I love a bit of a digital communication, I’m passionate about global affairs and I think social media changes the way the world will be governed.

The UN – in its central role as an inter-national organisation – is a particularly old-fashioned way of governing the world, but one that, by virtue of its wide membership is often said to be the most ‘legitimate’ way of setting global rules. (As opposed to something like the G20, for example.)

But legitimacy is granted by the public in complex ways, and if the UN doesn’t open up or engage with people on a more personal level, I believe it will struggle to remain relevant. Continue reading Towards a UN social media strategy

How to crowdsource the sustainable development goals

My twitter timeline today was full of people talking about #post2015.

This is another label for discussing what should follow the Millennium Development Goals -whether that’s sustainable development goals or whatever – essentially it’s about setting the global agenda for the next 30 years.

Today’s stuff was sparked by UNDP’s seminar in New York with Amartya Sen (admittedly, great), and post2015 has been on the agenda this week after the UN Sec-Gen announced a High Level Panel on the matter (and civil society pipes up with suggestions) of which UK Prime Minister Cameron is apparently the chair, etc.

But all of this ignores the importance of public participation. The post-MDGs planning offers a great opportunity for creating a legitimate set of goals – i.e. involving the people who the goals will affect – hopefully everyone.

I’ve blogged about why you’d want to crowdsource the next global goals before. Below, I try to guesstimate how it might be done.  Continue reading How to crowdsource the sustainable development goals

The next generation MDGs or SDGs – it’s not what, but how

The Millennium Development Goals were supposed to be met by 2015. There have been some successes, some failures. Whether the goals actually caused the improvement in some of the indicators is unknowable, but Claire Melamed and Andy Sumner argue that they certainly changed the debate, and that they changed aid spending and political priorities. 

And the thousands of people assembling at Rio+20 this summer will be discussing the idea of sustainable development goals, with the idea of merging social, economic and environmental goals. At Rio they’ll have to agree on some basic priorities. But post-Rio, agreeing on indicators to measure performance on these goals is not going to be easy.

But in all the talk about what should follow in the second round of MDGs or SDGs, nobody’s grasped that the world has changed since the late 1990s when the first goals were drafted.

First – are goals the most appropriate tool for what we’re trying to achieve? See Melamed and Sumner again for a thoughtful range of questions on this subject.

Second – assuming they are – this time they’re likely to be global goals. They will be universal – applicable not just to poor nations. This time, environmental and social goals must be tackled alongside eradicating poverty. Or goals should be found that satisfy all three elements of sustainable development.

So we all have a stake in the goals, and we all have a responsibility to help meet them. Does it not follow that we all should have a say in them?  

Ergo – let’s crowdsource the next round of development goals.

Charles Kenny, top aid-protagonist at CGD, actually referred to the next round of goals as MDGs 2.0, without going into the 2.0 aspect. Ben Leo, of the ONE campaign, used the same phrase to argue that the poor must decide on the next round of MDGs. 

The debate is underway across twitter and the aid blogosphere. But it has to go beyond the experts, practitioners or academics. Everyone should be invited to think about the “future we want” and have the opportunity to contribute.

So, UN, this is your task. Your website frontpage says ‘it’s your UN’. The first line of the Charter says ‘we the peoples’. Let’s live this – get the world together online to start talking about what the next round of goals should be. Build a platform that allows for drafting, commenting, voting. 

This is an amazing opportunity for public participation and engagement with the goals. The greater the participation, the greater the buy-in from the global public, the greater the chance we’ll meet the goals next time. 

The UN could combine digital crowdsourcing with offline participation opportunities to host the world’s greatest participative agenda-setting event. This would help the UN position itself as the go-to platform for global participative governance. 

We’ve got 3 years to go.

(Start by following #SDGs and #MDGs on twitter)

Flickr credit: MT_bulli

Understanding world views on climate change: #COP17 and Twitter visualisation

 cc UNclimatechange

The Durban Climate Change Conference, or #COP17, is the biggest event in global governance right now, attempting to get the world to deal with the toughest global challenge.

The conference faces all the classic global governance problems: world leaders not leading cos they’re not world leaders, they’re national leaders…how to harness the voices of a thousand NGOs and private actors…how, in essence, to bring appropriately democratic politics to the issue of climate change. 

The first step is just to be able to understand the public view – but it’s a global constitutency we’re talking about – everyone is affected by climate change.

In the context of global governance 2.0, Twitter has the potential to become, if it isn’t already, a global parliament – certainly on the debating side. Obviously Twitter doesn’t make global law, but it’s where ideas happen, its where people demonstrate what they believe, etc.

So how do you begin to make sense of all the thousands of tweets?

Cnn-ecosphere

cnn-ecosphere.com

CNN are trying – with this astonishing visualisation, called ‘Ecosphere’. It’s geekily beautiful and might help us understand the central themes of the conference. But at the moment each of the large branches, formed by the most-used words in tweets including the tag #COP17, is a fairly obvious descriptive word – Durban, Africa or Climate Change. That doesn’t tell you a lot. And it’s pretty hard to navigate to individual tweets. It might have been more useful to provide some kind of sentiment analysis – simply whether people are saying positive or negative things.

 

It’ll be interesting to see how the ecosphere changes across the next few days, especially if individual nations are named and shamed or a central sticking-point arises. If the same descriptive keywords continue to monopolise the visualisation, however, it’ll be of limited use.

How do you solve a massive mapping problem in Somalia? With massive 2.0 solutions of course. @refugees

This story about UNHCR crowdsourcing is pretty damn awesome. Found via Firetail’s weekly briefing.

UNHCR – the UN’s refugee agency – wanted to know the location of informal settlements in a corridor of land in Somalia. With this information they could better plan for large movements of people. But, not surprisingly, access to Somalia isn’t easy. So they look to satellite imagery.

They partnered with a range of techie types to crowdsource a solution for analysing a vast quantity of imagery provided by DigitalGlobe.

Using a tech platform already realised, a volunteer geography professor got his undergraduate class to carry out the human work – tagging the images where they saw settlements.

Eventually they ended up with 168 volunteers who took 5 days to process nearly 4,000 satellite images – tagging 250,000 settlements. 

This is a great example of global public service delivery managed by the global public. Talk about participatory global governance. Or about 2.0. Or about a revolution.

The project is detailed here, and information on the technology behind the human work here, from Patrick Meier at iRevolution.

I’d love to hear from UNHCR staffers on the results of this work.