More civil society groups have stepped forward to schedule focus groups meetings to analyze participatory local democracy in their countries. More of those meetings have already been held, and we have received comments and reflections from organizations from Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sierra Leone.
To read more about the latest focus group meetings which took place click here.
Kyrgyzstan, April 30, 20 participants, Organizer: Global Civil Initiatives, Inc. (GCI)
Participatory Democracy is not a foreign notion in Kyrgyzstan, at least not for the Kok-Moinok area of the Issyk-Kul region, where the Global Civil Initiatives, Inc. (GCI) has recently conducted a Survey in partnership with The Hunger Project and UNDEF.
Instead of the planned 5 to 7 attendees of the meeting, more than 20 people showed up, ranging from librarians, local entrepreneurs, and school teachers, to lawyers, local government representatives, UN agencies, NGO leaders, women-led and minority groups. Such active attendance showed the level of trust and readiness for social change. During the meeting the organizers and the attendees discussed the challenges that participatory democracy entails and the innovative ways to address them.
The meeting participants expressed their need for further education and public awareness of civic responsibility, accountability, transparency, gender budgeting and many other issues related to local governance and local communities’ participation. The participants admitted that while they do understand in theory the notion of participatory democracy, they have very little comprehension on how to better apply it to reality. The attendees suggested creating a long-term training project to ensure that all citizens are actively involved in all important decisions that affect their lives.
–Raissa Muhutdinova, Executive Director, CGI
Mali, April 10, 14 participants, Organizer: SOS Democratie
A great opportunity for one to self reflect on ground reality. Conducting the evaluation as a focus group of main actors not only allowed us to collect views of all, but most importantly helped confront respective opinions of the administration, central government versus elected, and local government versus civil society.
Having Malians evaluate Malians’ local governance also helps in the acceptance of the final results as opposed to a foreign expert study’s reports. Choosing this mode of study will have the advantage of increasing the acceptability of further recommendations and their implementation.
In the Mali experience, the Prime Minister’s willingness to accompany the process and even participate to answer a few questions (as a former mayor) and the critics, and the “raw” truth he brought from his experience, greatly helped the participants willingness to open up.
Many thanks to the Hunger Project and The UN Democracy Fund for conducting such an innovative research involving self evaluation and giving me the opportunity to accompany them.
– Mrs. Traore, Coumba Bah, Active Member of Malian Civil Society, member National Reconciliation Commission, ICMA, GEMACO, SOS Democratie, Democratie 101
Niger, April 26, 8 participants, Organizer: YMCA Niger
The discussions on the state of participatory local democracy in Niger indicated that there is a pressing need to advocate for adoption of a decree on the application of the right to information and also sensitization efforts to create awareness on the right to information for citizens. This will enhance participation and ease transparency in the actions of local governments. Although there are legal provisions in favor of participatory local democracy, the implementation is not exempt from obstacles and shortcomings. But it is fortunate that CSOs have strong voices and can play a vital role in influencing policymakers to listen to marginalized groups and pressure the government to change their position with regard to unpopular decisions that do not benefit the people. Better educated and more sensitized citizens can engage and advocate for their inclusion in the development of their communities.
–Rabiou Hamidou, National General Secretary, YMCA Niger
Nigeria, April 25, 9 participants, Organizer: Center for Democracy and Development (CDD)
Responses from the participants indicated that although there is a Right to Information Law (RTI) in the country, and if used could be effective, a low level of awareness of its existence among the public makes it ineffectual. With respect to the convening of a public forum to elicit citizen inputs into planning and policy formulation, it was generally opined that such is neither mandatory by law nor regularly held.
Nevertheless, there are best practices in the country such as Buji and Onigbongbo local government areas in Jigawa and Lagos States respectively. Also, amidst the overbearing power of national and state governments over local governments, it was stated that more power should be devolved to the tier of government. It should be administratively, politically and fiscally independent, so as to deliver on its core mandate to the local population.
– Yusuf Shamsudeen, CDD
Pakistan, 14th April, 10 participants, Organizer: Citizens’ Commission on Human Development (CCHD)
All the participants showed the homogeneous response that the right to information laws exists but the awareness in the society about the law and its application is poor. Response time for the complaint is short but there is a need to make the awareness about the RTI laws and its application.
The response of the citizens in the public forum and their participation in the social service like health and education is poor. Citizens should understand their role in the community development and should actively take participation in all the forums.
– Farrah Pervaiz Saleh, Executive Director, CCDH
Pakistan, Balochistan State, May 19 , 8 participants, Organizer: Organization for Youth and Social Development (OYSD)
On May 19, the Organization for Youth and Social Development (OYSD) in Pakistan’s second largest state, Balochistan, hosted a focus group meeting . This was the second discussion held in Pakistan.
The output from this focus group provided an extra set of data that strengthened Pakistan’s profile and our assessment on the exercise of local participatory democracy in the country.
– Sohrab Mengal, Director, OYSD
Philippines, April 23, 10 participants, Organizer: Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF)
The Focus Group Discussion served as an auspicious time take a good look at decentralization and the state of local democracy in the country. The reflections of each confirmed there’s a lot more to be done and that the stakeholders should be able to engage the policymakers more so that further needed reforms are really given serious attention. The questionnaire raised fundamental questions and even led the resource persons to take a good look at the methodology so that future similar initiatives could be adequately bench-marked. Overall, the activity surely will contribute to the enrichment of the country’s democracy and governance.
–Aubrey Bahala, LOGODEF
Sierra Leone, April 8, 9 participants, Organizer: Democracy Sierra Leone (DSL)
Participants attended well. I left the discussion going on very strong because all the people that came had a strong background working with and for the local council in Sierra Leone. Apart from the two consultants, there was a lawyer who came from the Decentralization Secretariat who made significant contributions to especially the legal aspect of things. Ramit, who was working on Local Governance in Sierra Leone, said he was impressed with the arguments at several points of the discussion.
After completing the questionnaire, Mr. Mohamed Konneh, a consultant who has worked for NDI for many years and now works for the Carter Center, praised the questionnaire and said “it was a nice [a] discussion.”
– Mr. Mohamed Warisay, DSL
Please check here if your country is involved in the 2014 Participatory Local Democracy (PLD) survey, if not, please contact us to organize one. Also, please take the individual online survey to tell us about the state of participatory local democracy in your country!