A neighborhood road a minute walk away from my house in the southern plains of Nepal used to be paved. When I was a kid, it was usable during all seasons. Not anymore.
A few years ago, I’m told, residents worked with the municipal officials to get drinking water to their houses. Officials broke the road so they can connect drinking water pipes from the nearby main highway to neighborhood homes.
That road has yet to be repaired. When I asked my parents and neighbors why it has taken so long for the road to be repaired, they responded by saying the municipality officials have ignored it.
The town’s municipal officials said locals haven’t contacted them yet about that road and there are other projects the municipality is working on. The broken road in my neighborhood isn’t one of those projects. To put it gently, public services in my hometown remain in dire condition.
Would things have been different if residents of my hometown engaged more with their local government? Maybe.
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.
On Monday, the final round of discussions will get underway in Bangkok on the indicators to measure the Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed by all UN Member states in New York last month. The agreement from New York calls for the underlying indicators to “preserve the political balance, integration and ambition” of the agenda.
Target 16.3, as agreed in New York, is to “Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.” The proposed indicators for 16.3, to be discussed in Bangkok, do not respect the ambition of the target as they both focus on the criminal justice system. Whilst criminal justice is important to many people’s lives – in truth, only a small percentage of the population comes into direct contact with the criminal justice system. Sustainable development is about much more.
World Bank President Jim Kim recently said “we will not reach our twin goals […] unless we address all forms of discrimination, including bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Sexual and gender minorities are particularly important for the Bank because they are (likely) overrepresented in the bottom 40% -- the target of the Bank’s goal to promote shared prosperity.
Why only “likely”? Because robust data on LGBTI development outcomes is rare, even in high income countries. With support from the World Bank’s Nordic Trust Fund, we are seeking to fill some of these data gaps, starting with research in the Western Balkans.
What we do know is that, across the board, barriers to education and employment contribute to greater chances of being poor – and this may be worse for LGBTI individuals.
Available data on Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people shows that youth are more likely to face barriers in getting a good education. It’s also harder to find – and keep – a job, pushing LGBTI people further into poverty.
In late 2011, as part of our Institutions Taking Root (ITR) series, my colleagues and I visited some of the most remote villages in Timor-Leste to seek feedback from citizens on the performance of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS).
The responses of citizens we met on the trip – many of whom were living on less than $1.25 per day and scarcely had any interaction with government – were intriguing.
Governance issues are prominent on the development agenda - as exemplified by the recent G8 focus on transparency or in discussions of the post 2015 agenda. However, at least among most donors, the governance aspects are dealt with separately from discussions of social or environmental (or even economic) aspects. Is this a useful distinction? Or are we missing a trick from the financial and private sectors in not developing integrated environmental, social and governance (ESG) approaches?