Deliberative Democracy – an approach to incorporating the demand side into public sector reforms?

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 Arne Hoel / World Bank
Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank

​Among the findings in a recent report of the Independent Evaluation Group entitled ‘World Bank Group Engagement in Resource-Rich Developing Countries: The Cases of the Plurinationational State of Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Zambia’ was that: “The World Bank’s programs often lacked attention to the demand side of reforms, including building partnerships and maintaining communications with stakeholders beyond the executive branch of government.”
This finding caught my eye because, given my own experience with a number of particularly assertive governments, I know that the more important issue, and where the real accountability lies, is for governments themselves to pay attention to the demand side, in other words that they listen to their own citizens.

 I nevertheless started thinking about possible solutions to the challenge posed by the IEG finding and then this fascinating piece "Tanzania Poll Results: Can Deliberative Democracy Cure the Resource Curse?" arrived in my in-box from the Center for Global Development. It got me thinking - if governments, faced with the challenge of designing or implementing sensitive policy reforms would build this kind of “deliberative democracy” into their reform processes, wouldn’t that be a great way to institutionalize the demand side into countries overall governance arrangements?
The piece concludes: “Ensuring good governance in the face of a potential resource windfall will require broad public understanding of difficult policy choices to help shield citizens from opportunistic political arguments. This deliberative poll provides some evidence that building that understanding is possible, and a hint about how to get there.”
While natural resource management and avoiding the resource curse continue to merit attention by countries seeking to avoid the curse and by the development community, I would argue that the approach could be just as critical in any situation in which there is a need to make difficult policy choices and trade-offs. Read the piece and see what you think.

Tweet this:  #Goodgov in the face of a resource windfall requires a broad understanding of difficult policy choices 

Tweet this: Governments need to pay attention to the demand side, in other words, listen to their own citizens. 

Tweet this: Governments should consider building “deliberative democracy” into their reform processes 


Omowunmi Ladipo

Advisor, Governance Global Practice

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