Social Accountability In Practice; Citizen Participation & Monitoring Key

Published By UNNGOF |  October 21, 2015

On 14th September 2015, the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) embarked on a series of Regional Social Accountability Local Learning events themed “creating linkages between Local National and National Accountability platforms for effective advocacy”. These learning events are intended to strengthen and enhance the capacity of CSOs engaged in social accountability work for improved monitoring, advocacy and ultimately better service delivery and good governance in the four regions of East, West, North and Central.

In Eastern Uganda, UNNGOF partnered with Bugisu Civil Society Network (BUCINET) to organize the first learning event which took place in Mbale District and attracted over 50 representatives including; CSO representatives, local government officials and media from the region

Introducing social accountability and its tenets, Mr. Richard Ssewakiryanga, ED UNNGOF noted that social accountability is a continuous process, and can only be effective when there is continuous engagement between citizens and the state. He highlighted the key benefits of social accountability as; improved governance; improved public policies and services and empowerment of citizens for better and rational decision making.

Mr. Ssewakiryanga stated that while social accountability encompasses a broad array of diverse practices, there are three building blocks that are common to social accountability approaches. These include; accessing information; making the voice of citizens heard and engaging in a process of negotiation. He however reiterated the need for CSOs to build strong relations with the state in order to create an enabling environment for social accountability, “citizens have a right to information and the state has an obligation to provide information to the public”.

Participants raised various key risks to social accountability: the abuse of citizen voice for selfish motives and inciting violence; misinterpretation of information by the public; lack of information about the right procedures to demand for accountability; weak information flow between CSOs and local government; lack of political will amongst leaders. They also realized the need to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in social accountability approaches.

As a way forward, participants were able to build consensus on the principles to enhance their social accountability initiatives. These include; the need for CSOs to adequately address the issue of participation among citizens by sharing information publicly and involve them so as to inspire ownership, the use of simplified monitoring tools, providing adequate information on the issue to be monitored, need for competence among monitors; address the linkages between Local Government and Civil Society through continuous sharing of information  and regular meetings.

In conclusion, social accountability is a continuous process; and it is the way we interact to create better service delivery and better mechanisms. Therefore there is need for different stakeholders to know the different roles they are expected to play, Government and private sector to provide goods and services; and citizens and organizations to monitor, evaluate these services and provide feedback as part of the social accountability process.