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Active Citizenship

Grievance Redress Mechanism: A case of Nepal’s Hello Sarkar

Deepa Rai's picture

A section of a footpath is swept away by landslide near the international airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. The roads are slippery and difficult to walk on or even drive due to potholes and delayed maintenance in the valley. These are just few difficulties that I endure during my everyday commute, but what do I actually do about it? I complain about it with my friends, we all nod in agreement and we get on with our everyday chores.

Pranish Thapa, on the other hand, is an exception. A 17 year old student, he has complained on issues ranging from public infrastructures, abuse of power, the quality of education, good governance or the lack of it, etc... His complaints have gone beyond 3000 over the last five years. He lodges his grievances through Hello Sarkar, which literally means Hello Government in Nepali.

Pulled by the abstract of the event organized by Martin Chautari, I decided to see how the case of Grievance Redress Mechansim (GRM) is working in Nepal. The event information stated: Hello Sarkar aims at making the government more accountable to the people by addressing citizens’ grievances on public service delivery directly. It is located at the heart of the state machinery, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. Concerned citizens can approach the system via phone (toll-free number- 1111), mobile texts, email, social media or website.

Blog post of the month: Abdul Sattar Edhi – One man can change the world

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In July 2016, the featured blog post is "Abdul Sattar Edhi – One man can change the world" by Sonia Jawaid Shaikh.

It is almost impossible to think of a welfare system without state resources and intervention. But one man, Abdul Sattar Edhi, is single-handedly responsible for creating an unparalleled mini-welfare state system within the state of Pakistan.

In the early 1950s, a young Edhi started begging on the streets of Karachi to buy a battered old van to be used as an ambulance. In 2016, the non-profit Edhi Foundation had over 1800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan – all via public donation. Most Pakistanis will call an Edhi ambulance, rather than a private or state run service in case of an emergency. Edhi’s air ambulances were the first responders when an earthquake struck northern Pakistan in 2008. The reach of Edhi services during emergencies also extends to other parts of South Asia such as Nepal after the recent earthquake.

Over the years, Edhi expanded his work across many areas. His foundation runs homes for women, rehabilitation centers, workshops for skills based learning, dispensaries, soup kitchens, orphanages, welfare centers, missing persons services, refugees assistance, animal center, morgues and burial services including graveyards, child adoption services, and homes for mentally challenged across the country. Thousands of Pakistani children have Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi as parents on their official documentation. Edhi services are accessible and open to all but devoid of religious and governmental support in any monetary form.

Abdul Sattar Edhi – One man can change the world

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

It is almost impossible to think of a welfare system without state resources and intervention. But one man, Abdul Sattar Edhi, is single-handedly responsible for creating an unparalleled mini-welfare state system within the state of Pakistan.

In the early 1950s, a young Edhi started begging on the streets of Karachi to buy a battered old van to be used as an ambulance. In 2016, the non-profit Edhi Foundation had over 1800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan – all via public donation. Most Pakistanis will call an Edhi ambulance, rather than a private or state run service in case of an emergency. Edhi’s air ambulances were the first responders when an earthquake struck northern Pakistan in 2008. The reach of Edhi services during emergencies also extends to other parts of South Asia such as Nepal after the recent earthquake.

Over the years, Edhi expanded his work across many areas. His foundation runs homes for women, rehabilitation centers, workshops for skills based learning, dispensaries, soup kitchens, orphanages, welfare centers, missing persons services, refugees assistance, animal center, morgues and burial services including graveyards, child adoption services, and homes for mentally challenged across the country. Thousands of Pakistani children have Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi as parents on their official documentation. Edhi services are accessible and open to all but devoid of religious and governmental support in any monetary form.

In Pakistan, more people will trust the Edhi Foundation with their money than the state with their taxes. Donations come in different forms and from many economic strata of the Pakistani society. Many individuals who enter the job market will donate from few rupees to thousands from their first salaries as an initiation to economic and civic life – this pattern continues for many. It is not unusual for children to donate money to Edhi services out of their pocket monies or eidi (money given to children on Eid by their parents and relatives). Edhi single handedly inspired a culture of kindness, giving, volunteering, and civic mindedness in society often marred by economic or political plights.

Media (R)evolutions: Citizens are eager to interact with their cities but need greater access to digital platforms

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Digital technologies have been lauded for their ability to set aside social and geographic boundaries, allowing people to communicate with others from different backgrounds in different parts of the world.  They are also known for their capacity to collect and track data on end users that can be used in the aggregate to inform decision-making. This level of engagement and data analysis led some to wonder if digital technologies would democratize communication and service delivery between governments and their citizens. Civic leaders, the argument followed, who embrace new technologies could benefit from deeper community engagement and increased stakeholder awareness on government initiatives and would be equipped with a steady flow of constituent feedback and a transparent track record.  Communities would be rewarded with insights into the functioning of new systems and the demand for city services as well as means to report inconsistencies or problems.
 
While the dream of proper two-way communication and digital feedback loops has not been realized by most cities, citizens would appreciate direct, real-time interaction with their local governments. While less than one-third of citizens (32%) are currently providing feedback to their local authorities, over one-half say they would like to do so. A large number of citizens (51%) want wider access to digital platforms to enable them to communicate with government or expansion of free wifi in public spaces (50%), perhaps signaling that basics, like access to the Internet and digital literacy skills, may have the greatest impact on citizens’ ability to interact. Many citizens— in both developed and developing countries— still lack broadband access at home and have limited data to use on smartphones. This means that as governments attempt to interact on digital platforms and share information online, they also need to be mindful of the digital divide within communities.
 

 

Public opinion: Should leaders follow it or lead it?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Perhaps, as recent events have shown, no greater challenge confronts statesmen and women than this one: when should leaders yield to public opinion and when should they resist it or lead it?

In many democratic societies there is a presumption in favor of yielding to public opinion on the great public issues of the day. Proponents of direct democracy, for instance, argue essentially that leaders should always yield to public opinion. The assumption here, of course, is that you can always trust “the people”. In any case, it is argued, not to trust the people is to favor rule by unaccountable elites, the same people who almost always look after their own interests…and nothing else.  

There are at least two problems with always trusting “the people”. The first is the problem of expertise or civic competence. Many public issues are complex and many sided, and you need to be able to wade through boatloads of often contradictory expert opinion. Your average citizen in a democracy, even while reasonably educated, is not likely to be terribly well-informed generally let alone be able to decide complex issues. Deliberative Polls try to solve the problem of expertise by (a) selecting a representative sample of the people (b) exposing them to a full range of expert opinions on the key public issue they will vote on (c) allow them to discuss the issue at length before (d) asking them to vote on the issue. These polls often produce fascinating opinion shifts.

MOOC? Engaging citizens: A game changer for development?

Utpal Misra's picture

MOOC posterOften it is the simple things that make major impacts, and engaging citizens for better development results is a very simple concept. However, at a time when participatory approaches such as crowdsourcing, feedback, transparency and citizen engagement are increasingly popular and seemingly effective, we are bound to ask if engaging citizens does in fact improve development results.  As simple as the concept of citizen engagement is, designing and implementing successful citizen engagement approaches and interventions in practice is especially complex.

Is citizen engagement a game changer for development? The World Bank, in partnership with London School of Economics (LSE), Oversees Development Institute (ODI), Participedia and CIVICUS, explores this question in a free 5-week course on Citizen Engagement, hosted by the World Bank Group Open Learning Campus, envisioned as a single destination for development learning.  

The course provides a holistic overview of citizen engagement through interactive videos, resources, and activities. It explores underlying theories and concepts of citizen engagement, examines the role it can play in improving policymaking and public service delivery, and investigates the impact of new technologies, particularly in developing countries.

From citizen feedback to inclusive institutions: 10 lessons

Soren Gigler's picture
Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Over the last couple of years a small team of us have worked on an initiative to incorporate the regular, systematic feedback of citizens into the design and execution of World Bank programs. I would like to share some of our experiences working together with governments, civil society organizations and citizens in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa on this citizen engagement initiative.

First, citizen engagement is not new. For instance, the early work by Robert Chambers, “The Origins and Practice of Participatory Rural Appraisal and Michael Cernea’s “Putting People First” date from 1980s and early 90s and were quite inspirational for many of us who have worked issues of gathering and acting on citizen feedback.
 
At the same time, something important has changed. There has been an increasing demand by civil society and citizens to have a greater say in public decision-making, and a desire among many governments to be more inclusive and responsive to citizens’ needs. Also, the rise of innovations in technology has provided citizens with new and unprecedented opportunities to directly engage policy makers and demonstrated the potential to facilitate “Closing the Feedback Loop” between citizen and governments.

Is citizen engagement a game changer for development? Free online course starts March 15, 2015

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Engaging Citizens is Critical to DevelopmentIs citizen engagement a game changer for development? The World Bank, in partnership with London School of Economics, Oversees Development Institute, Participedia and CIVICUS, explores this question in a free 4-week course on Citizen Engagement, hosted by Coursera. 

In just the last few years, we have witnessed calls from all over the world, from the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street to the Open Government Partnership, for governments to become more open, accountable and responsive by deepening their engagement with citizens. As a result, interest in citizen engagement programs for effective development has gained momentum. This MOOC has been developed to explore what is meant by citizen engagement and how it can be used to enhance development impact.
 

14 Ways for Aid Agencies to Better Promote Active Citizenship

Duncan Green's picture

As you may have noticed, I’ve been writing a series of 10 case studies of Oxfam’s work in promoting ‘active citizenship’, plus a synthesis paper. They cover everything from global campaigns to promoting women’s leadership to labour rights. They are now all finished and up on the website. Phew. Here’s the accompanying blog which summarizes the findings of the exercise (with links to all the papers). Huge thanks to everyone who commented on the draft studies when they appeared on the blog.

Programme design

1. The right partners are indispensable

Whether programmes flourish or fail depends in large part on the role of partners. Usually this means local NGOs or civil society organizations, but sometimes also individuals, consultants or academics. Good partners bring an understanding of local context and culture (especially important when working with excluded minorities such as the tribal peoples of Chhattisgarh). They often have well-developed networks with those in positions of local power and will carry on working in the area long after the programme has moved on.

2. Start with the ‘power within’

Promoting active citizenship means building the power of citizens, starting with their ‘power within’ – their self confidence and assertiveness – especially in work on gender rights. In the case of We Can in South Asia or Community Discussion Classes in Nepal, building this ‘power within’ was almost an end in itself. Elsewhere, citizens went on to build ‘power with’ in the form of organizations that enabled poor and excluded individuals to find a strong collective voice with which to confront and influence those in power. This approach has led to some impressive progress in what are often the most unfavourable of circumstances (women’s rights in Pakistan, civilian protection in Eastern Congo).

People Power: What Do We Know About Empowered Citizens and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live)

Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by citizens.

Much of the standard work on empowerment focuses on institutions and the world of formal power – can people vote, express dissent, organise, find decent jobs, get access to information and justice?

These are all crucial questions, but there is an earlier stage; power ‘within’. The very first step of empowerment takes place in the hearts and minds of the individuals who ask: ‘Do I have rights? Am I a fit person to express a view? Why should anyone listen to me? Am I willing and able to speak up, and what will happen if I do?’

Asking, (and answering) such questions is the first step in exercising citizenship, the process by which men and women engage with each other, and with decision-makers; coming together to seek improvements in their lives. Such engagement can be peaceful (the daily exercise of the social contract between citizen and state), but it may also involve disagreement and conflict, particularly when power must be surrendered by the powerful, to empower those ‘beneath’ them.


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