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SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY AT THE GRASSROOTS By Samuel Zan Akologo: Presentation at the GMEF Quarterly Forum. 19 May, 2011
Introduction • We should begin by re-stating the purpose of political governance: • Governance only has meaning if it delivers opportunities for our well being. • Hence, APRM report on Ghana (Jan. 2006) emphasised ‘the art and skill of utilising political or collective power for the management of society at all levels from the smallest village to the largest nation.’ • Governance provides the foundation for the promotion of human development and the alleviation of poverty.
Why the need to reemphasize Governance – putting people first? • Preoccupation of national governments on technical aspects: Rule of law, political decentralization, elections etc. • World Bank, IMF and AfDB Group’s governance ratings tilted towards public sector management and institutions: budget, PFM, revenue mobilization etc • Governance issues in current framework for Development Cooperation (PD and AAA) relies on same WB and IMF standards. • Citizens’ participation as basis for legitimising and exercising political power is fast diminishing to a seasonal exercise – Voting at national elections! • Relevance of Social Accountability is its critical role to governance.
Social Accountability Defined • An approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement where ordinary citizens and or civil society organizations participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability from public office holders or service providers. • It is much broader than the Mutual Accountability defined in current principles of Development Cooperation (PD and AAA). • National Accountability Mechanisms can provide an enabling environment for social accountability but NOT replace it. • Social Accountability is critical pillar to rights-based development. (See Declaration on the Right to Development)
Preconditions for Social Accountability at the Grassroots: • Citizens awareness (especially of public policies). • Community empowerment – freedom of association and social capital of diverse social segments (women, youth, farmers, PWDs, FBOs etc) • Existence of functioning local governance structures e.g. decentralised structures. • Democracy and Rule of Law is important.
Preconditions Contd. • Spirit of voluntarism among citizens • Right attitude towards public affairs by both duty-bearers and right holders. • Openness and transparency on the part of public office holders (duty bearers) • Access to reliable information by power holders (citizens)
Overview of SEND – Ghana’s model of SA at the Grassroots • Partnership approach – real change requires all hands on deck (Gov’t, NGOs, media and private sector) • Policy Education • Formation of citizens’ monitoring groups at district level (50 DCMCs) • Data collection (monitoring), analysis and Report Card (evaluation). • Policy dialogue/interface at all levels (district, regional and national) for feedback • Follow up (Action planning).
Challenges of SA at the Grassroots • Capacity of citizens and their representatives (skills, knowledge and organization). • Resistance of duty bearers (public office holders). • Sustaining partnerships (especially with reps of Gov’t, but also among CSOs). • Fusion and connivance to maintain status quo (both duty bearers and citizens) • Centralized governance structures.
Challenges of SA Contd. • Political party structures at the community level – pressure on their members not to monitor their government in power. • Weaknesses in national development planning system – Party manifesto promises versus National Development Plans. • Constraints of legal environment e.g. absence of Freedom of Information Law. • Recent history of state repression. • Bad example of some CSOs at the community level – e.g. lack of transparency.
Facilitating Social Accountability at the Grassroots. • Create an enabling legal environment. E.g. recognizing the role of CSOs in governance, Freedom of Information (FoI) Law, etc. • Making decentralization more operational in Ghana • Improve budget openness and transparency. Centuries ago, Aristotle said: ‘To protect the treasury from being defrauded, let all money be issued openly in front of the whole city; let copies of accounts be deposited in various wards.’
Facilitating Social Accountability Contd. • Capacity building for CSOs including funding for grassroots initiatives. CSOs themselves should work towards improved coordination, own accountability systems/standards and clear lines for their contact and engagement. • Improve media and use of other ICTs for dissemination of development information. A recent good case is the CRC’s use of SMS text messaging for public information and input.
Conclusion. • Social Accountability at the grassroots can promote the social cohesion that seems to be eluding us fast in Ghana. e.g. the rise of Foot Soldiers (right or wrong allegations), inter-party conflicts etc. • Systems and mechanisms for Social Accountability, as discussed, are essential but civic virtues are needed to grease and sustain it. We need to bring ethics back in all the socialization processes in schools, professional pre-service and in-service training and into the national psyche. • Deterrents are needed and must be made to work.
END Thank you.