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Pakistan Today

Published Date: Feb 16, 2012


Speakers at a roundtable conference on Thursday demanded constructive civic engagement between the government and the citizens towards strengthening the principles of democratic governance in Pakistan. They also emphasised the importance of the youth’s involvement to ensure effective social accountability as 68 percent of Pakistan’s population is below the age of 30. The roundtable conference titled, ‘Social Accountability Stock-Taking in Pakistan’, was jointly organised by ANSA-South Asia Region and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
The conference aimed at highlighting the accomplishments and challenges on public accountability and to build an information base for the present and emerging accountability agenda for South Asia, especially in the Pakistani context.
SDPI Research Fellow Dr Vaqar Ahmed, while speaking on social accountability and civic engagement in Pakistan, said: “Social accountability needs to be seen in the overall framework of participatory development. A softer image of accountability is needed so that all the stakeholders, including the government, civil society and the business community can recognise their roles and responsibilities.”
He added that mutual accountability was important to make communities aware of their responsibilities. He stated that the youth needed to be involved in leveraging accountability at grassroots level.
World Bank Sector Manager for Governance Tony Verheijen appraised audience about the World Bank’s activities in the area of social accountability. He said Pakistan provided more opportunity for civic engagement in government monitoring as the society is opening up. He also talked of third party monitoring on service delivery and said community mobilisation by the civil society organizations could lead to good governance mechanisms in the country.
Karachi’s Hisaar Foundation Chief Operating Officer Farzana Saleem said the civil society should have a common platform and initiate collective efforts to bridge the widening gap between public expectations and the deteriorating situation of the service delivery by the state.
She also stressed on building mutual accountability mechanisms where all stakeholders are accountable to each other.
SDPI Senior Research Associate Gulbaz Ali Khan said citizen driven accountability measures complemented and reinforced conventional measures of accountability, such as political checks and balances, auditing systems, administrative rules and legal procedures. He added that the key building blocks for social accountability mechanisms included obtaining, analysing and disseminating information, mobilising public support and advocating and supporting change.
ANSA-SAR and Global Chief Operating Officer Naimur Rahman said the roundtable aimed at identifying the driving force behind the social accountability initiatives across the South Asian region and to know the willingness and the capacities of citizens to engage with the government. He also informed the participants about the ANSA network that was launched in 2009 to facilitate practitioners’ networks and help build their capacities to initiate social accountability interventions.
World Bank official Mario Picon deliberated on engaging the youth as monitors in the community in social accountability interventions. He said the youth can serve as constantly engaged citizens and be helpful in the distribution of accountability messages
He added that they can also be instrumental in using technology for transmitting content and providing communities access to social media.