Making Local Government Work

local Gov't -

One could argue that citizens are more aware of local problems than are public officials. However, active citizenry that takes party in decision making on both locally concerning and national issues requires an enabling environment that empowers and incentivizes people. The very aspect of initiatives on local democracy or social accountability should be empowering enough to provide incentive to create an enabling environment for active citizenry. CSO’s are in a unique position to emphasize the use of practical tools to mobilize communities’ influence on social accountability in addition to theorizing and conceptualizing the definition of such.

As part of a series on social accountability by Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) from the World Bank Group, Almudena Ocejo, Executive Director of the Center for Social Control and Democratic Construction at CCS-CIESAS, shared some practical tools that her organization is using to facilitate social accountability in two communities in Mexico. Her presentation focused on how to close the gap between citizens and government in decision making processes. Recommendations included:

  • Increasing technical capacity, or political skill of citizens
  • Partnership with grassroots/indigenous organizations
  • Community organizing
  • Participatory planning process
  • Organizing and mobilizing different groups around common interests (i.e. university students, teachers, civil servants)

In conjunction with these tools that focus on the demand side (citizens), there should also be mechanisms to convince the supply-side (government) for social accountability to be realized. To this end, Almudena recommended the following:

  • Negotiations with government bodies
  • Already existing but neglected accountability legislations and government offices
  • Peaceful public demonstrations and campaigns
  • Media (mainstream and online)

It should also be noted that there is always the risk of creating artificial social accountability through initiatives that are not carried out with due awareness of local problems. To avoid this, social accountability initiatives should [always] be tied to existing community initiatives and organizations. Another recommendation, which concerns traction: building coalitions between communities around specific and similar social problems, rather than individual issues with individual communities, creates an opportunity to scale up initiatives.

Results-focused initiatives are the key to ensuring public participation. Yet the practicality of a social accountability plan, as it regards input, expectation, time and scope, also determines outcome. Thus, it is best to create understanding among public officials that social accountability initiatives are not a threat, but a constructive support that will yield long-lasting results and local governments that fulfill sustainable development.

4 thoughts on “Making Local Government Work

  1. i want to agreed with the local Govt and Human Right Council report but they are the problem because they fail to hold Govt accountable because of their bundle standard they played it is not a secret to us again let keep away from who know you initiative or what you benefit from the state and leave the mass to suffer

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  2. There also seems to be enormous value added to this process when citizens (and even local facilities/agencies) are aware of the resources available within a budget. I recently traveled to eastern Africa to look at local service systems and was disappointed that more people were not demanding accountability – I mean specific, actionable accountability of their government. It turns out “participatory budgeting” in at least some of these areas is more like putting together a wishlist that is reviewed arbitrarily by a higher level of government, because so few people know how much money is actually available, allocated or spent on their priority issues.

    If that information becomes available to local citizens/NGOs/press – and those authorities responsible are somehow incentive to PRODUCE that information for the public – I think we would start to see some agitated and active communities.

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    • I agree with you, if citizens and CSO using the tool of “Right to Information” for seeking information from public institutions than through this way we can makes our government more accountable.

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      • alweera, absolutely. Unfortunately most people cannot walk in to a government office and get access to that information, even if the info is officially “public”. One of our local consultants had been trying to get budget information from a local government for nearly two months without success, and he is a citizen. But when I spoke with them separately with an introduction form a ministry official, I got the raw data within 24 hours.

        Those authorities should be effectively compelled to comply with the law consistently, so that the public can pull information outwards on demand. Just as important is motivating people with that information (preferably at the point of origin of the info) to PUSH it outwards to the public more proactively, perhaps through reward incentives or clearer rules or a healthier culture of transparency in their work environment. That is a tricky task.

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