Delivering pension or disability services may sound mundane, but if you have seen the recent award-winning movie, I, Daniel Blake, it is anything but. As the film poignantly demonstrates, treating citizens with respect and approaching them as humans rather than case numbers is not just good practice -- it can mean life or death. In the film, Mr. Blake, an elderly tradesman with a heart condition, attempts to apply for a disability pension. In the process, he navigates a Kafkaesque maze of dozens of office visits, automated phone calls, and dysfunctional online forms. All of this is confusing and often dehumanizing.
In an effort to address this issue, the World Bank Group and the United Nations embarked on a three-year partnership that led to the publication of a new report titled Securing Development: Public Finance and the Security Sector. It is a sourcebook providing guidance to governments and development practitioners on how to use a tool called “Public Expenditure Review (PER)” adapted to examine the financing of security and criminal justice institutions.
Improving services for the bottom 40 percent of the population requires more than policy reforms and capacity building. The Inclusive Growth conference suggested that Bank operations may need to further encourage transparency of state performance, help internalize citizen feedback in the public sector, and empower local leaders to experiment and inspire others.
In the session, “How to Make Services Work for the Bottom 40 Percent ”, Robin Burgess, Stuti Khemani, Jakob Svensson, drawing on their recent research, showed that .
Uruguay stands out in Latin America and the Caribbean for the significant and early progress it achieved in terms of social protection.
Now gaining global attention, Uruguay is pioneering an award-winning information system to reduce poverty and vulnerability. The system addresses challenges faced by many governments in targeting and coordinating social assistance and, with reduced costs from license-free software, it could soon be replicated in other countries.
(about 25% of its GDP, and over 80% of total public spending). While these resources have enabled great advances, the wide array of institutions responsible for deploying them creates coordination challenges.
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.
The concept of engaging with citizen is a funny one - so simple and obvious, it’s hard not to roll your eyes and think of a wheel somewhere being reinvented. But the more you think about it, the more you realize: citizen engagement is what all governments currently grapple with.