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The Empty Stomach and Citizen Demand

Sabina Panth's picture

 

In my blog posts, I have been introducing some tools and techniques that are being tried and tested to instigate citizen-led, demand-driven good governance practices. In this post, I wish to analyze the processes that are involved in working towards that goal.  In other words, what are the basic minimal requirements that need to be in place to initiate and realize demand-driven accountability? Where is the starting point? What are the constraints or opportunities that support or hinder the movement? The purpose of this analysis is to draw out ground realities to understand the effectiveness of the practice to make better policy and program decisions.

The World Bank defines Demand for Good Governance (DFGG) as: “the extent and ability of citizens, civil society organizations, and other non-state actors to hold the state accountable and to make it responsive to their needs, and, in turn, DFGG enhances the capacity of the state to become transparent, accountable, and participatory in order to respond to these demands.” 

Indeed, citizens are the frontline actors in leading the demand-led good governance movement.  But who are these citizens? They are the ordinary people, going about their everyday lives, with their daily routine and chores. They are also the active citizens, who are aware of their social and political rights, or organized into civil society groups toward exercising, or demanding their given rights.  And they are the parliamentarians, political party representatives and even civil servants who work on behalf of the citizens.

The extent of the realization of citizen-led DFGG goals depends on various factors.  For instance, a poor and socially marginalized person may not have access to resources and opportunities (education, information) to become aware of and exercise her rights to demand services that cater to her needs.  Because of her social and economic status, she is also likely to be treated unfairly or condescendingly by service providers as opposed to an educated person, who is capable of seeking and exploiting opportunities and resources for his own good, just as much as if he happens to reside in a country or a region that has systematic public facilities and services. 

When approaching demand led initiatives, it is therefore very important to understand the social stratification, economic situation and geographic configuration of the target area/population. Data collection and analysis based upon socio-economic disintegration through household surveys and focus group discussions help identify specific issues pertaining to specific social groups and, accordingly, in strategizing demand-led initiatives that are inclusive of the needs and aspirations of the different social groups.  Otherwise, it is always the elites that will benefit in the end.  This framework applies to selecting and working with civil society organizations as well. 

Social inclusion in demand-led good governance initiatives also helps empower the socially and economically marginalized groups by working exclusively with them (through training and education, economic empowerment, awareness raising and other life-skills training) to uplift their status and create active citizenry to articulate and demand their rights and needs.  At the same time, it helps policymakers to differentiate the constraints of and prospects for the different groups.  However, social inclusion has to be approached very carefully to avoid further division or rift between the different social groups.  There are instances where the cause of social inclusion has been captured by vested interest groups to fulfill their political gains.  To avoid this, an army of allies has to be created from the different social groups toward realizing the overall social and economic gains from social inclusion.  This requires working with both the supply side and demand side simultaneously and concurrently
 

Photo Courtesy: The UpTake (on Flickr)

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Comments

Submitted by BUMath on
Nice article. Well written. One thought: In the book "Gang Leader for a Day", the author talks about the problems facing the residents of a certain sector of the Robert Taylor Housing Project in the south side of Chicago. They have to deal with the inefficient and overworked Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) but seem to always face hurdles. They have learned that it is in their interest go through a woman named Ms. Bailey. Ms. Bailey helps them by acting as a middle-woman because of the contacts she has in the CHA ... but she doesn't do this for free. She benefits. In other words, she is a "fee based help center". While the WB talks about social groups and citizen leadership, would the WB ever consider "profit based business groups"? One way to make them sustainable might be to help them charge the people they help. The charge need not be substancial, nor does it need to be financial ... it could also be paid back through manual labor ... but the essence would be that "Help is available. It's just not available for free".

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