Towards a new Accountability Framework

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The interest of media and general population over the quality of aid and its overall impact on human and economic development is continuously at the center of national debate.

All the demands towards a better aid accountability are well legitimate and positive as far as they remain objective and constructively critical.

Without any doubt there are many ways to better regulate a vast and complex and well differentiated aid sector.

Number one, the role of government is critical and we all know that although sometimes we pretend to forget about it: the government at different level should be able to better oversight the all actors engaged in development sector, from the bottom till the top.

In our case, it is obvious that Social Welfare Council, despite the good intentions, is not able to perform the job as per needs of the country. It is not only technical issue to be dealt through enhanced technical cooperation in the form of organizational development but also an issue of power relations among stakeholders.

My bet is that a recalibrated Council, fully autonomous and independent, able to stand its feet and able to bring together all the concerned ministries and reconcile and mediate their different interests and priorities, can do a real service to the Nation.

A possible formal link up with National Planning Commission could be also carefully analyzed. Unfortunately good intensions, despite being instrumental, often are not enough.

We should all have the resolve to advocate for a stronger Social Welfare Council be fully funded and equipped not by the good will of international NGOs or donors but by the Government itself.

It should be a matter of prestige and honor to allocate additional resources for this important body, ensure that resources are well spent by not allowing politics interference to dominate.

Very recently the cabinet decided to tighten up the control over INGOs but in the articles published in the press, I could not find any reference to the role of SWC in these efforts.

Number two, an effort should be made to incentivize some sort of self regulation and peer monitoring among non state actors, national and internationals. Here different initiatives could be taken. For example think about a new revamped Partnership Guidelines that could bring together international non state actors like the members of AIN and also other major federations of national non state actors. It is indeed a pity that AIN Partnership Guidelines were not signed up by others federations but this is a story of the past and we should look at the future.

Going a bit extra mile, the Partnership Guidelines should not be only updated but also broadened in order to incorporate better defined principles related to inclusion, accountability and transparency in an effort that could lead to a Compact on Good Governance endorsed and signed by all major non state actors that means national NGOs and international NGOs.

The Compact on Good Governance should also fully incorporate the key principles of the Basic Operational Guidelines, BOGs. It is key not to underestimate the importance of the BOGs as a “comprehensive” still agile and flexible set of principles that underpins what development cooperation should be. It is indeed a very good sign to see how the BOG Secretariat is able to “read” and interpret the BOGs in a very practical and “hands on” way, easy to understand, ensuring their cross cutting mainstreaming. BOG Secretariat with its very tiny structure, offers a real value for money and a useful service to the development sector. It should be expanded in synergies and in cooperation with likeminded stakeholders.

Possibly and hopefully existing international policy frameworks like Paris Declaration, Accra Call for Action and the Busan Framework can help creating a supportive “environment” for enhanced cooperation, working as “GPS” for better cooperation for development.

Through the Compact, national and international not for profit organizations could find a flexible framework with general but clear principles and indicators that could help them setting some sort of benchmarks.

It should offer concrete and doable actions, binding to some extents by a peer self evaluating mechanism open also to the Social Welfare Council that could be involved, initially, as observer. If the Council is ready to take up a stronger role, this would be welcome.

Which actions are we talking about? Let’s start with a set of standards on how to conduct social or public audits (the name does not really matter) where each agency should be able to conduct its own exercise adjusted to its own reality and capacities.

What’s about setting some standards on how to proactively implement the Right to Information? On this, each signatory agency will commit to publish information of a quality and relevance. They could start for example, with hanging a Development Info Board or Updated Progress Reports outside their office, exposing key information about what they do like number of beneficiaries, goals, objectives, actions being taken in favor of the beneficiaries and some information about the resources allocated to the programs.  Use at least partial of Nepali language would be a great step forward for a more inclusive development.

What’s about a clear commitment towards ‘relevant’ annual reports that are not just a collection of nice pictures and nice stories?

The Compact should also set standards on way beneficiaries are involved in all the phases of the project cycles, once again, not in a prescriptive way but setting general but practical modalities

At the end of the day, the beneficiaries should always been able to get involved and truly engaged, in determining the effectiveness of any given development action. I mean real participatory evaluation here.

Donors should not be directly signing up the Compact but rather they could act as facilitators to ‘enable” the process, working as honest brokers and facilitating a dialogue between national and international non state actors. With the accountability going upwards thanks to the Compact, the donors will facilitate a process that will ultimately change them too.

It won’t be easy. Still it would be a pity not to take the chance to work for a better accountability framework, contributing to showcase the good and positive work so far done by the development sector that risks, otherwise, to be “trashed” in the same waste bin full of shortcomings that all of us know about. I bet that Compact, unfortunately, will never see the light. I hope the facts will prove I am wrong.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good


Local Governance in Peril: Context and Way Forward


Local governance in Peril: Context and way forward

Nepal is passing through a protracted transition. The constituent assembly that was mandated to deliver the constitution ceased to exist on the midnight of May 28. Seven months have passed, there are no sincere efforts on the part of the political parties to forge consensus to hold fresh election for CA or revive the erstwhile constituent assembly. The president as the patronage of the nation has extended several deadlines to forge the consensus to give a way out of the political crises that has remained a long overdue.  What is more disheartening is that the hopes and aspiration of the people are gradually fading away as there seems to be no end of the existing political upheaval which is the making of the political parties and their leaders.

Needles to mention, the country was rattled by the decade long armed struggle between the former rebels and the state. During the conflict, over 13,000 people lost their lives and thousands of people were rendered homeless. At local level, the impact was more severe as people were killed, tormented and disappeared by warring parties- state and non- state- under various alibis. The government authorities were intimated and forced to move to district headquarters to safeguard their lives leaving the local based government institution in lurch. With the signing of the comprehensive peace accord, the conflict has finally come to an end in 2006 striving towards the sign of prosperity, just and equitable society. Since then, the successive coalition government has vowed to conduct the local election and consolidate the local democracy thereby improving the service delivery at the grassroots.

At the local level, there are no elected representatives in place since last election. In the absence of elected representatives, the issues related with abuse of power and authority, financial embezzlement is on the rise. There are credible reports about VDCs secretaries in collaboration with local parties allegedly maneuvering the document to pocket the fund allocated for the development of the concern VDC.  Last month in Siraha district of Eastern Nepal, the local people raised a serious concern and demanded a strong action against some VDCs secretaries who were accused of pocketing the fund allocated for development activities. These are just tip of the icebergs. There are number of cases related with abuse of power and authority at the local level that goes unreported. The scenario will remain unchanged if government does not exhibit its sincerity to hold local election and elected representatives are put in place. Though the country is transition and election to CA occupies the centre stage, the local election is the only solution that can end all exiting malicious at the local level and improve the service delivery.  



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