Blair (transcript): “good governance” in Africa; “nothing to say” on Brown’s difficulties

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    23rd February, 2010

    BBC World Interviewer: Does good governance extend to behind the doors of the offices of leaders? Should presidents and prime ministers treat their staff well?

    Blair (pauses):Yes, of course, and I’m sure in the vast majority of cases that happens.

    Interviewer: And it does across the board in developed countries like Britain, does it?

    Blair: Well, I think I know what you’re referring to and I honestly… I’ve got absolutely nothing to say about that at all.

    [Ed: Transcript below tapped out by my own fair hand – from this interview– since the podcasts have a habit of being short-lived on BBC sites. And also since our press have a habit of trying to ignore the airbrushed former PM, for reasons best known to themselves. Too much thinking required, perhaps. I’ve now made it easy for them, souls. You might find this sentence interesting.]

    TONY BLAIR ON BBC WORLD’S ‘THE WORLD TODAY’

    The World Today starts with American and Australian “homegrown terrorism” stories  – NY subway bomb plotter’s confession – and Australian security challenges on the threat from increasing homegrown extremists.

    Then, from the Liberian capital, Monrovia,  Tony Blair speaks on good governance in Africa (53 min programme) From 6 min-11 mins for the Blair interview on his visits to Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    Tony Blair with Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

    Picture above from this article at Liberian Observer

    Interviewer: The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in the west African state of Liberia to oversee the start of a project to promote good governance in the country. If you were listening yesterday you would have heard the Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf telling us what she wants out of Mr Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative. Well, today we’re joined from the Liberian capital Monrovia by Mr Blair himself to get his side of the story – welcome to the programme. This is about extending the good governance ethos but in practical terms – how?

    Blair: The single most difficult thing for a country like Liberia – and my governance initiative already operates in Rwanda and Sierra Leone – and the single most difficult thing for any of these countries, is how do they translate the good vision, the good strategic concept that the president has, into reality on the ground. How do they build the processes and the capacity in and around the president and the key members of the government that allow them actually to deliver the promise that they made. Because the single most difficult thing, if you’re in a country like Liberia that’s been through this  enormous and difficult and bloody period and the country is essentially wrecked and then you get a new president like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that comes in, has got a great vision, is a great leader, the gap between the delivery of what she promises and the expectations of the people can sometimes be very daunting. So, the purpose of what we do is we get in teams of young people who have all worked in government or worked outside in the private sector, who are experts at building these processes of focus, delivery, performance management and follow-through.

    Interviewer: As you say, you’re already in Rwanda and Sierra Leone and now Liberia. In a sense these are all countries which are in recovery after very difficult times and perhaps therefore they are fertile ground for this sort of assistance. But that begs the question – is enough being done to help those other areas of Africa where perhaps good governance is less obvious?

    Blair: Well, that’s a good point. I mean actually I think that many of the things are the same. And indeed incidentally, I mean, having been ten years prime minister of a western developed country, I think that all governments in different ways and in obviously very different circumstances are looking today as to how they make government more effective.  I mean, government today and 21st century politics is less about battles of big political ideology, it’s far more about getting things done for people. You know, how do you make sure that your schools are operating effectively, your health care is properly updated.  Now in the developed world obviously these problems are completely different, but actually some of the same issues are there. You know, how does the president or prime minister use their time most effectively, how do they make sure that if they’ve got certain promises they’ve made to the people they can actually deliver them and follow through in them. So for example if you’re here in Monrovia and Liberia and you’re trying as the president is trying to deliver electricity for people, how do you make sure that actually happens. You can take the decision, you can say – well, this is a good idea this is what we want to do – but how do you actually make it happen. And these are skills and these are challenges that actually you could find anywhere in Africa and in completely different circumstances obviously you find in governments throughout the world.

    Interviewer: Transparency and accountability are very important when it comes to good governance. Do some in Africa find it hard to swallow advice on good governance from old colonial powers like Britain and perhaps from yourself with the questions that have been raised about the openness of decision-making in the run-up to the Iraq war for example?

    Blair: Well, I mean I can’t say that latter point’s ever been raised.  But I think, you know sometimes people… there will be people who will criticise the idea of people from outside coming in, but then again as I always say to people, actually the way that we managed to change some of the public service systems in the UK was bringing people in from the outside. The way the world is today you should get advice and help from wherever you can. But let me emphasise one thing, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – she’s got the vision,  she sets the priorities, she takes the decisions – all we do is come in alongside and support. Now, the issue of transparency and fight against corruption I mean that again is absolutely vital and the trouble with many countries is that once corruption gets a hold on a system it can be very, very difficult to shake off and that’s obviously a major part of governance. But governance, good governance is, yes it’s partly about the absence of corruption, it is also about the presence of effective capacity.

    Click to go back to start of transcript, or continue to read to end of interview

    Interviewer: Does good governance extend to behind the doors of the offices of leaders? Should presidents and prime ministers treat their staff well?

    Blair (pauses, smiling):Yes, of course, and I’m sure in the vast majority of cases that happens.

    Interviewer: And it does across the board in developed countries like Britain, does it?

    Blair: Well, I think I know what you’re referring to and I honestly … I’ve got absolutely nothing to say about that at all.

    Interviewer: Tony Blair thanks very much indeed for joining us live from Monrovia the capital of Liberia.



    From Tony Blair Office: Tony Blair visits pioneering interfaith malaria initiative in Nigeria

    Tony Blair, demonstration of bednets, Kuje, Nigeria, at the weekend.


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    5 Responses to “Blair (transcript): “good governance” in Africa; “nothing to say” on Brown’s difficulties”

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