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Civic Leadership Governance and Social Accountability « Programmes
Consultation on Ensuring Accountable and Responsive Public Services Delivery for the Marginalised
Date: April 25, 2013
Access to government programs on education, health care, child care, social security, Public Distribution System (PDS) etc. are very important for a dignified life for poor people. These government programs, if implemented well, can bolster and sustain economic and social change, poverty reduction and improvement in living standards.

The rights based approach seeks to make the duty-bearers (primarily the State) accountable to the claim-holders (its citizens) for protecting and promoting human rights. Citizens have a dual role, both as `claim holders’ and also as `duty bearers’; they can demand their rights as claim holders, and they can also play a decisive role through various actions to ensure that their demands are fulfilled. Access to government programs can be improved when people through their collective strength and forums can hold the service delivery institutions accountable. At the same time, importance of enabling the delivery agencies or the administrative mechanisms to reach to the community and deliver in an accountable manner cannot be undermined. Several organisations have tried to develop and use mechanisms and tools for making information available, creation of empowered demand and enabling accountable and responsive basic services delivery.

Objective : Develop a shared understanding on mechanisms and tools to increase access of the marginalised groups to public service programs.

Participants : 48 participants from NGOs, government and academic institutes

Panel 1: Mechanisms for Accountable and Responsive Basic Services Delivery (chaired by Lata Kachwaha, SURE) included experiences in implementation and issues and achievements of the following Acts and programmes:
  1. Rajasthan Lok Sewa Guarantee Adhiniyam or Rajasthan Guaranteed Delivery of Public Services Act 2011. (Section Officer, Prashasanik Sudhar Vibhag)
  2. Right to Hearing Act 2012 (RTI Manch)
  3. Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana in Rajasthan (State Nodal Agency, Rajasthan)
  4. MGNREGA Samvad (Renuka Pamecha)

A 22 minute documentary (produced by Unnati) on the process of Community Based Monitoring piloted in 50 villages of western Rajasthan with traditionally marginalized dalit women to facilitate an empowered demand for their entitlements was shown post lunch.

Panel 2: Creation of Empowered Demand (chaired by Aditi Mehta, ACS, Department of Art and Culture, formerly Principal Secretary, Department of Social Justice and Empowerment):
  1. Community monitoring of health services under NRHM in Rajasthan and its impact (Center for Health Equity, Prayas)
  2. Challenges and issues of malnutrition in Rajasthan and the status and requirements of nutrition centers (Consultant, Gender, Youth and Governance)
  3. Experience in facilitating community monitoring of Right to Education (RTE) entitlements and quality of education in primary schools (Pratham)
  4. Social security services and issues of women from the minority community (Vividha)

Some learnings from the consultation:
  • Independence of the facilitating organisation is a necessity for institutionalization of any social accountability mechanism, whether social audit or community monitoring
  • There is need for correct and evidence based information
  • Simplification of steps and formats for information collection, verification and dissemination and role clarity are key for increasing the scale of social accountability efforts
  • Findings need to be communicated in a non-confrontational manner. This will increase the confidence of the people to raise their voice and provide scope to the governing and the delivery mechanism to take corrective action
  • Continuous consultations are required at different levels to strengthen the system in an enabling manner
  • Facilitating organisations also need to concentrate on ways to strengthen the program apart from playing the role of watchdogs

The consultation covered diverse services and entitlements and it was concluded that various mechanisms and tools can be used to stimulate demand side empowerment and supply side responsiveness and accountability. Focus should be placed on the needs of the marginalized in the community and an information strategy geared to penetrate, foster association and engender a sense of being entitled to the service as a citizen. Rights based Acts, especially, RTI, Right to Hearing or Guaranteed Delivery of Public Services Act are windows of opportunity and provide an enabling environment requiring innovative strategies for information dissemination and implementation as well as appropriate vigilance to be effective.
Thematic Training on Decentralised Governance and Social Accountability For Mid-Level Professionals and Senior Functionaries of NGOs (Jodhpur)
September 24 -28, 2012
27 representatives of 16 NGOs from Gujarat and Rajasthan States participated in the five day training on Decentralised Governance and Social Accountability. In the recent years, the strategies for poverty reduction and social development have provided central importance to governance and institutional reforms. The World Development Report (WDR) 2000-01 emphasized that a governance centered development has three basic features - promote opportunities, facilitate empowerment of the poor to participate in the decision making process and enhancing security for vulnerability reduction.

A vibrant and developed society requires strong governing institutions and strong civil society. Governance cannot be strengthened without citizens and vice-versa. The state and citizens are joint actors of development process where there is no mutual suspicion and fear of people toward the state. Promotion of people centered tools of social accountability like Jan Sunvai (public hearing), report card (assessment of basic services) etc promotes active and responsive citizens. The governing institutions can effectively interact with all sections of citizens by practicing democracy, accountability, social justice and more so, decentralization. Decentralised governance is institutionalized in India in the form of Nagarpalikas and Panchayats (largest representative democracy) that have a great potential to closely interact with the citizens and remain responsive to their needs and aspirations. The spirit of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments and Part IX of the Constitution is to enable PRIs and urban local bodies to function as units of local self-governance, with an emphasis on empowering them with a functional mandate, giving them a degree of autonomy, and imparting self-sufficiency through fiscal transfers, taxation powers and tax assignments (Raghunandan, 2007).

NGOs have an important role in strengthening the public domain or the public political space wherein citizens feel able and entitled to influence authorities, a space that maintains and re-enforces public belonging and identity and enables the integrative collective action that constitutes democracy. Retaining substantial powers in the public domain is required for decentralization to produce a democratic dividend in the form of increased equity, efficiency and development. The training for mid-level and senior professionals is placed in this context and endeavors to help them understand the theme, know about and develop the skill to practice and facilitate people centered social accountability tools and reflect on their roles.

The training used participatory pedagogy and the main sessions were as follows:
  1. Understanding vulnerability and social exclusion
  2. Reflection on governance and good governance including various characteristics of good governance
  3. Decentralization, concepts and types
  4. Devolution, Status, Activity Mapping
  5. Rights based Acts and Good Governance – Role of CSOs
  6. Social Accountability concepts and tools

Participants were able to recognize that the success of social accountability initiatives did not depend so much on the method or tool applied, but the processes of social mobilization, of voice and agency, and of advocacy and the direct engagement and negotiations in the public sphere. Methods and tools are important ingredients but they are instruments that should be selected according to the purpose and the capacity of users. They need to be adapted to and acceptable in a given context, taking into account cultural, social, political, economic and educational factors. Major learnings resulted from reflection on the role of the civil society organizations. Participants realized that enactments like Right to Information 2005, Rajasthan Guarantee of Public Services Act 2011, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2006 (MGNREGA) and policy guidelines about pro-active disclosure, timely grievance redressal, people’s committees like the School Management Committee (SMC), Village Water, Sanitation, Health and Nutrition Committee (VWSHNC) or Village Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (VVMC) provided an enabling environment for Social Accountability and citizen’s engagement in planning and monitoring of programs. Despite these the programs and their information did not reach the people, owing to social exclusion and lack of downward accountability, demand and supply side bottlenecks were created in program implementation leading to last mile delivery issues in public services. Voiceless common citizen remained content to live in a beneficiary-benefactor relationship. So, civil society organization needed to utilize the enabling provisions for strengthening the voice of the people. Rather it was necessary to develop systems and mechanisms that took into account the usual reasons for accountability failures and endeavored to create a co-governance space whereby governance structure could be facilitated to work in close coordination with citizen groups and institutions.

Efforts were required for creating an environment for transparency and accountability with empowered people’s voice and the aim to check compliance and make delivery mechanism effective; not only to hunt for corruption. They should endeavor to maintain their independence and generate evidence based information. Non-confrontational manner of sharing of findings provided more space to governance institutions to take redressal action, though this did not refute the need for activism and strategic use of media in various respects. Continuous consultations at different levels are useful in strengthening the system in an enabling manner. A very important role for civil society organizations was to look for ways to strengthen the program apart from serving as watchdogs. All participant organizations were practicing social accountability in various forms and innovations and made action plans to take the process forward at their organizational level.
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