Guess Who’s Coming to TCamp12: The Dondon Parafina and Wong Aung Edition

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Guess Who’s Coming to TCamp12” is a mini-series we started to introduce some of the faces that you’ll see at TCamp, something we hope will be useful to attendees and non-attendees alike. So far we’ve highlighted Beth Sebian, Matej Kurian, Michael Mulley, Maria Baron, Marko Rakar, and three awesome Transparency Camp Scholars. Today we are proud to introduce Dondon Parafina, of the Philippines, and Wong Aung, a Burmese activist.

Redempto Santander Parafina (“Dondon”) is the Network Coordinator of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP), a regional program of the Ateneo School of Government and the World Bank Institute. His work covers Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, and the Philippines. His work on social accountability is advancing ideas and practices in various fields, particularly procurement, ICT, youth involvement, and the education, health, and public works sectors. He is currently spearheading an education initiative called Check My School, a blended online and offline platform for information access and citizen feedback.

Prior to joining ANSA-EAP, Dondon spent five years as the coordinator of Government Watch, or G-Watch, an anti-corruption program at the Ateneo School of Government in the Philippines. While there, he coordinated various citizen participation initiatives, including nationwide programs monitoring textbook procurement and delivery and school building construction.

Dondon has been active with the Coalition Against Corruption, the Transparency and Accountability Network, DPWH’s Integrity Development Committee, the Procurement Transparency Group, and several youth groups including the Boy-scouts and Rotary Youth. He answered a few questions about his work.

Where did the idea for CheckMySchool come from?

I conceptualized and designed the Check My School initiative based on my relatively long experience in monitoring the education sector in the Philippines. Many of our initiatives monitor individual items (e.g. textbooks, school buildings) and particular procedural concerns like procurement. I felt the need for Check My School to provide a more comprehensive look at the education services and hopefully link them with the higher development outcome of learning. So the initiative covers various info sets, such as enrollment, personnel (teaching and non-teaching, rooms (academic and non-academic), textbooks, seats, computers, toilets, budget, and national test results. The other trigger for introducing the Check My School is to take advantage of technology. There are now 27 million Filipino Facebook users and we also wanted to tap into the civic energies of these netizens.

What kind of impact has your work had?

After one year of implementation, we made some impact in issue resolution through very quick actions on practical issues that were submitted through the platform. There’s a case of classroom repair worth P4.8 million (US$113k)  that was continued immediately because of CMS feedback. Textbooks were also replenished   toilets were renovated, and another toilet was donated by alumni group in direct response to CMS report. 

I think the other impact is that we are now starting to replicate the initiative. We have started the south-south knowledge exchange with Indonesia for their adaptation of Check My School. Other countries also expressed interest, like Kenya, Moldova and Papua New Guinea.

Wong Aung is the International Campaign Adviser at the Shwe Gas Movement in Burma. The movement seeks to raise awareness about the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the Shwe Gas Project in and outside of Burma through first hand research and community organization. The Shwe Gas Project involves the exploitation of underwater natural gas deposits off the coast of western Burma’s Arakan State. Burma’s military junta and a consortium of Indian and Korean corporations made a deal to explore and develop these deposits. These fields are expected to hold one of the largest gas yields in Southeast Asia and could represent the Burmese government’s largest single source of income.

What kind of communities do you work with and what does your day to day work entail?

In his role as International Campaign advisor Wong Aung works in exile to bring the voices of project affected communities to the regional and international level, as well as back into Burma through advocacy to political actors and mainstream Burmese.

What would you like conference attendees to understand about the Shwe Gas Project?

The Shwe Gas Project is a massive resource extraction and infrastructure development which has been planned and implemented by the former military junta (and their corporate partners) with absolutely no input from or thought for the local people. The project will generate huge revenues (US$29 billion over 30 years) for the Burmese state but under the current system there is no transparency in how these revenues are spent. The Shwe Gas Movement is demanding the project to be suspended until community rights and the environment are protected, affected peoples share in benefit ,  and transparency and accountability mechanisms are in place.

What’s the best place to go to find out more about your work and other transparency initiatives in Burma?

Visit www.shwe.org  and www.earthright.org to find out more about the work of the Shwe Gas Movement as well as Extractive sectors transparency and justice in Burma.

Join us at TransparencyCamp April 28th and 29th just outside of Washington, DC to meet Maria, Marko and other folks — inside and out of government — who are working to making our government more open, accountable, and transparent. Register today at http://transparencycamp.org — and hurry! Space is limited.

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