Good Governance – Making governments socially accountability
Public participation is the cornerstone of the drive towards promoting and ensuring good governance in a society. However, in developing countries like Pakistan, instead of playing an active role in providing their input for the
governance process and policy formulation aimed at public welfare, thanks to a limited access to information about the government’s public affairs, the citizens’ role in this regards has been minimal. For lack of understanding about their right to hold public officials accountable of their actions, citizens’ have a lesser say in setting governing agendas, developing budgets, implementing development programmes, tracking public expenditure and evaluating outcomes. Due to all these reasons, there exists a wide gulf between public expectations of democratic theory and the practice of democracy in community governance.
Social Accountability provides the mechanism to bridge this governance gulf and to educate and empower the ordinary citizens to provide their direct or indirect input through a number of actions through holding public officials accountable of their actions and to account for their performance. The accountability measures led by the citizens reinforce and complement conventional accountability mechanisms and make political checks and balances, accounting and auditing systems and dministrative rules and legal procedures more effective. While there are a number of social accountability tools that lay the foundation of its mechanism, there are key building blocks including access to information, mobilizing public support and advocating and negotiating change with the government bodies.
The programmes to put in place social accountability mechanisms around the world suggest their profound success in empowering communities, increasing development effectiveness through improved services delivery and better overnance.
However, besides the display of an active citizenship on part of communities, the success of social accountability tools in improving governance is contingent upon a number of crucial factors that include access to and effective use of information, state and civil society capacities and willingness of the political status-quo to be held accountable by the ordinary citizens.
Building a community’s capacity to opt for social accountability is a cumbersome process. Besides an understanding of the political mechanism that form and influence governance delivery on part of citizens, it also requires them
to have the skills to build pressure to hold public officials accountable.
For the institutions and organizations working towards promotion of social accountability, these above stated prerequisites give birth to some crucial questions, which include: What are the prerequisites of a social accountability
initiative and what key accountability challenges does it aim to address, Do the citizens have the willingness and the capacity to engage with the government for holding it accountable? If no, what are the stumbling blocks in encouraging the citizens to participate in civic actions to demand accountability from the public officials? What social accountability tools and methodologies will be more appropriate for a society for the purpose? Does it have the capacity to figure it out? What are the most effective ways to educate public on social accountability tools and to improve their access to government held information? In context of Pakistan, what do we, the organizations working to promote social accountability, have learnt from the existing evidence? Is there sufficient knowledge to demonstrate social accountability initiative that can effectively lead towards improved governance practices? Can a successful Social Accountability initiative be scaled up? If so, what are the key enabling factors to achieve this?
The civil society in Pakistan has lately started taking initiatives to advocate public accountability. Although the initial evidence hints towards a constructive engagement between the government and the citizens’ groups and development
organizations, there is still the need to streamline this work to deepen the principles of democratic governance. In this context, it becomes imperative to collectively introspect and take-stock of the individual accomplishments and challenges of organizations and institutions.
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), being among the champions of social accountability in Pakistan, is striving to bring all the stakeholders together on one platform and to streamline their efforts for the promotion of social accountability in Pakistan. In this regards, the organization’s work is two-fold; educating and training development professionals and citizen groups about the virtues of social accountability and its role in attaining good governance and to provide its input in the policy formulation that may lead to institutionalizing the social accountability mechanism in the country.
Not only that, SDPI is also coordinating with international organizations like Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA) and CUTS (India) to generate localized experience based knowledge on the concept and to practically
demonstrate the idea through implementing one of its projects in education sector at two of the slums in Islamabad (Alipur Farash and Hansa Colony).
Through sustained efforts, on part of both the SDPI and the civil society organizations, Social Accountability can become a reality in Pakistan and our citizens can also have a system with improved service delivery and the governance
status that was envisioned at the time of creation of the country. But for this, we need to go a long way in sensitizing the citizens and the government alike, and the day we succeed in doing that, good governance will become a dream come true in Pakistan.
This article was originally published at: News Pakistan
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.