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Co-Constructing Effective Governance

In line with the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, ACTED believes that peace and stability as well as open, effective and accountable government and public institutions are core elements to fight poverty, improve living standards and raise development outcomes – not optional extras. An analysis of MDG progress has revealed that weaknesses in effective governance have been a central cause of gaps in development progress. ACTED therefore promotes effective governance so that the state provides essential services and fairly redistributes resources; government officials and public service providers are held accountable; the population has access to a fair system of law and due processes and can participate in governance through civil society organizations, an independent media and political parties. ACTED believes that effective governance is the mechanism through which most basic human needs can be met, human value and well being is recognized, equal access to opportunities, rights and social justice is ensured, vulnerable and disadvantaged people are protected, conflicts are managed peacefully through inclusive political processes, and competition for power occurs nonviolently.

ACTED’s conceptual approach to effective governance is based upon an empowered, pluralistic civil society, social cohesion and effective and responsive public institutions. The current thinking on the principles of transparency and accountability forms the entry point for ACTED’s approach: the dual promise embedded in transparency and accountability of more enlightened and engaged citizens demanding greater accountability around issues they care about, and the impact this can have on development has tremendous transformational potential. While empowering citizens to make demands and hold to account those who are meant to be responsible for delivering services and at the same time supporting local public institutions to provide better, more effective services to their constituents, ACTED specifically encourages different stakeholders – from groups of citizens, CSOs and private sector to (local) governments and supportive sector institutions – to work effectively together in co-constructing ways to act collectively and in their own best interest and thus be agents in, dynamic development processes.

Core Area 2.1. Pluralistic and Empowered Civil SocietyThématique clef 2.1. Une société civile plurielle et responsabilisée

Rationale

Civil society has grown in size and importance around the world. A vibrant civil society can ensure that millions of poor people have a voice and that they play a central role in the struggle to further political, social, economic and constitutional rights. Civil society can identify and amplify the problems around which collective problem solving needs to take place. CSO are also becoming more important as a result of state service reduction or lack of services. However, in many countries where ACTED works, and especially in fragile and conflict-affected states, the civil society is still in a nascent state, poorly organized and/or restricted and thus citizens cannot claim their rights and make their voices heard on issues that affect their lives and hold the state to account for its performance in reducing poverty. In these countries, CSOs are often small and informal and do not have the means and capacity to effectively advocate beyond their immediate local communities. Institutional capacity to promote dialogue and coordination mechanisms within civil society and between civil society and public institutions is often lacking. Joint initiatives and networking at local, national and regional level need to be developed in order to amplify voices and defend citizens' interests. The lack of sustainable resources and weak governance both in the external environment and within CSOs hinders their effectiveness.

Activities

  • Strengthening the institutional capacity of CSOs (for example organizational and financial management, program implementation, external relations and fundraising);
  • Supporting the formation of civil society initiatives, including developing alliances and promoting networking among CSOs at local, national, regional and global levels;
  • Provision of training and small grants to CSOs to support their core mandate programming;
  • Supporting CSOs and individuals for more effective engagement to promote their rights;
  • Strengthening communication and advocacy capacity for interest groups through media;
  • Supporting civil society to deliver quality services in the absence of state actors (for example in contexts of conflict or fragile states).

Impact Statement and Indicators of Achievement

Citizens are supported to have a more articulated voice to actively claim their socio-economic, civic, political and cultural rights and engage with decision-makers and duty bearers in a meaningful and constructive way.

  • Number of CSOs with increased capacity to engage with state institutions addressing issues affecting their lives;
  • Number of campaign actions directly undertaken or supported by type.

Core Area 2.2. Effective and Responsive Public Institutions

Rationale

Poor and marginalized people, more than any other group, rely on public institutions to provide them with services to meet their education, healthcare and livelihood needs. Access to education is the main route for escaping poverty, while lack of healthcare is one of the main reasons why households fall into poverty. However, in many instances, policies and strategies for service delivery and local development are implemented through centralized, top-down bureaucratic approaches in which local citizens are treated as passive recipients, and service providers are not fully effective, as not accountable to their clients. There is often no or very limited citizen's participation in defining public goods, policy formulation and monitoring of public institutions and service delivery agents. Supply-driven approaches to give service users more choice by expanding the number and types of providers through decentralization, outsourcing and privatization have often failed, as have demanddriven approaches to strengthening direct accountability of service providers to individual users. It is of little help to poor people who have no access to services in the first place – and who are too vulnerable to undertake the effort and risks involved. There is need to go for a collective action approach – beyond supply and demand – under which service delivery and local development is a co-construction of communities, civil society, local governments, and supportive sector institutions and their programs, with collaboration from the private sector.

Activities

Provision of training, technical assistance and/or resources to authorities and service delivery agents; for example municipal waste management, decentralization, transparent procurement, etc.

  • Facilitation of inclusive and participatory local development planning through a bottom-up process;
  • Provision of block grants for local public projects and/ or direct support to the construction, operation and maintenance of social infrastructure;
  • Promoting multi-stakeholder dialogue through organization of platforms, fora, public hearings, etc.;
  • Empowering citizens to ensure that services are delivered in a transparent and accountable manner (using social accountability tools such as Citizen Report Cards, Community Scorecards, social audits);
  • Supporting the creation of an enabling environment for effective service delivery and participatory local development processes, including the formulation and/or application of policies and reforms.

Impact Statement and Indicators of Achievement

People benefit from high quality and increasingly accountable and transparent essential service delivery by local state and non-state actors which improve their living conditions and state actors are more responsive to the needs and interests of their constituents.

  • Number of participatory development plans facilitated giving people more voice and influence over development decisions and making resultant development interventions more relevant to local needs;
  • Number of civil servants and/or public service provider staff reached through activities aimed at improving their technical and managerial competencies.

Core Area 2.3. Social Cohesion

Rationale

Over 1.5 billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict or criminal violence. It is estimated that 1.6 million people die each year due to violent conflict. This number is becoming even greater as many areas become more vulnerable to violence due to scarcity of energy, food and water. Political transitions can exacerbate resource scarcities and create inter-communal divisions which lead to more intense, prolonged and intractable conflict. Additionally, conflict-affected areas are often hit by natural disasters which in turn exacerbates conflict. About 40% of total official development assistance is spent in fragile states and other countries affected by large-scale violence. Fragility locks countries in poverty, and affects their neighbours and regions. Countries with recent violent conflicts have a 70% higher risk of disease and deficiency and suffer the most from hunger and food scarcity with 18 war-torn nations on list of the 20 hungriest countries. None of the conflict-affected countries are on track to achieve even one of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and many have seen a rise in poverty of at least 10%. Conflicts, even low-level skirmishes inhibit development and hinder democracy. Thus, ACTED actively supports the early identification of conflict and promotes community led early response to emerging conflicts. Decreased communal tensions will promote better governance; increase livelihoods and access to essential services.

Activities

  • Development of conflict early warning systems, for example measurement and monitoring of a predetermined set of indicators to identify the potential for conflict by citizen groups;
  • Training communities to respond to emerging conflicts;
  • Supporting dialogue and peaceful interactions between communities in conflict, incl. people-to-people approach to build tolerance and trust (intra and inter-group dialogue sessions, sport competitions);
  • Conducting information campaigns and awareness raising to dispel rumours and promote change;
  • Provision of infrastructure and/or services to reduce sources of tension and conflict;
  • Legally literate citizens to seek redress for legitimate complaints and to use the justice system to safeguard their rights;
  • Empower civil society organizations to advocate for better access to justice, and bring representative cases on behalf of low income or disadvantaged groups.

Impact Statement and Indicators of Achievement

Peace-building, reconciliation and conflict resolution efforts contribute to stabilization, recovery and development and generate immediate peace dividends for the population.

  • Number of people reached through activities aimed at increasing social-cohesion and peaceful coexistence in/between communities adversely affected by conflict and division;
  • Number of dispute resolution and peace initiatives developed/ strengthened.