Theme 5 & 9: Citizen EngagementWritten by DfGG Admin
Implementing Agency: The Asia Foundation
Date: June 2012 – January 2013
The Demand for Good Governance (DFGG) Project, funded by the World Bank is a four-year good governance project that began in June 2009. The project aims to foster citizen demand for good governance approaches by supporting social accountability and other innovative governance approaches.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has recognized the importance of strengthening governance in its National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2006-10 and in the Rectangular Strategy (RS) 2004-08. A number of key government policy documents, including the RS, the Governance Action Plan, and the National Programme For Sub-National Democratic development [NP-SNDD 2010] recognize the helpful role civil society can play in governance processes.
The DFGG Project is a response to the current RGC push for reform, and has been approved as a US$20 million-equivalent grant from the International Development Association (IDA). It will be implemented over a four-year period (2009-2013), under the general coordination of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) as the Executing Agency. Conceptually, ‘Demand for good governance’ (DFGG) aims to increase the extent and ability of citizens and other non-state actors (NSAs) to hold the state accountable, and to make it responsive to their needs. In turn, DFGG enhances the capacity of the state to become more transparent, accountable and responsive to citizens.
The overall development objective of the DFGG Project aims to enhance demand for good governance in priority reform areas by strengthening institutions, promoting partnerships, and sharing lessons. This is to be achieved by supporting selected state institutions (SIs) engaged in DFGG through promotion, mediation, response, or monitoring functions; supporting non-state actors (NSAs) to develop DFGG programs in partnership with SIs or independently; and promoting learning, awareness raising, and capacity building on demand-side governance approaches in a broader context. The DFGG project therefore includes the following components
• Component 1: Support to State Institutions;
• Component 2: Support to Non-State Institutions;
• Component 3: Coordination and Learning.
Component 3 has been structured into two subcomponents; 3A which is concerned with the coordination of project implementation and 3B which focuses on learning.
The activities described below [Citizen Engagement Themes 1 & 2], fall under 3B: Learning and aim at increasing understanding among state and non-state actors on effective approaches to engaging citizens in promoting and ensuring good governance in Cambodia. In exploring the topic using a learner centered approach, these activities will seek to facilitate learning around the nature and dynamics of citizen engagement in governance and decision–making at local level and exploring best practice cases from the experience of both local government and civil society actors at commune/sangkhat level.
These activities will also seek to draw on themes and conclusions discussed in the recent World Bank publication  Voice, Choice and Decision Making – A Study of Local Governance Processes in Cambodia [VCD] and other relevant recent publications in Cambodia and internationally, in order to explore issues and draw on new learning and best practice in the field of Citizen Engagement and apply this to the Cambodian context.
The overall approach will therefore draw as much from participatory action research , knowledge management and ‘community of practice’ approaches as it does from more traditional learning and training practice. The approach therefore will consist of facilitating key state and non-state Cambodian ‘pioneer practitioners’ in:
- identifying aspects of their practice in citizen engagement [C.E] and/or social Accountability [S.Ac] with local government which they find effective
- reflecting deeply on these practices,
- exploring and considering together what learning can be derived from practices from their own and other contexts [drawing on practices, research and expertise in Cambodia and internationally],
- codifying their thinking and learning in a way which is then accessible to others
- Developing a learning curriculum based on these lessons, and
- exploring innovative and effective ways of sharing this learning with other practitioners.
While this last aspect, the sharing of learning to a wider audience is considered vital, it is important to note that the centre of gravity for this activity will be an initial group of 24-30 pioneer practitioners and the outcome will focus on their learning and improved practice on the ground.
It will also be essential that such learning and effective practice on Citizen Engagment is located within the current sub-national democratic development [SNDD] reform in Cambodia, initiated in 2010 and which the RGC describes as the ‘overarching’ governance reform. The 2010 National Programme [2NP-SNDD] envisages autonomous [under the law] District Councils, elected from below by Commune Councils, with downward accountability and their own dedicated funds and budgets. It potentially provides an unprecedented opportunity for deepening democracy through engaging citizens in local development at both commune and district levels, although the modality for that engagement will inevitably differ at each level.
Sub-national management and delivery systems (planning, financial, facilitation and other functions), while not yet fully embedded within the state, have been critical to the success of commune decentralization since 2002 - 2003 and the relative success of the Commune/Sangkhat Councils has contributed to RGC deciding to enter the second phase of decentralization reform. The NP-SNDD and its implementation plan, [the IP3 2011-13] view Citizen Engagment, and the promotion of democratic space and voice as being at the heart of democratic accountability. This accountability of Councils to citizens is to be exercised
• through periodic elections;
• through engagement of the Council with other councils and with a wide range of non-state actors including communities, civil society and the private sector;
• through legal arrangements (requiring decisions to be registered and recorded), and due process (financial record keeping, etc.);
• through access of citizens and non-state actors to information on decisions and budgets, and
• through the establishment of separate and independent mechanisms for participation, planning, redress and enforcement.
The process of Citizen Engagement and citizen engagement envisaged in the IP3 requires District/Municipal [D/M] Councils to meet regularly with non-state actors, including NGOs and CSOs, private sector groups, as well as individual citizens. Existing citizen engagement models at Commune/Sangkhat [C/S] level will also need to reviewed in terms of both their effectiveness and the extent to which they can/should be adapted to citizen engagement models envisaged for D/M level. It is likely for example that representative CSO’s will be the most feasible approach, in the main, to communicating the views of citizens to councillors and their officials at D/M level. The extent to which there is effective citizen engagement at both village and C/S level, the capacity of CSO’s and government to both facilitate that engagement, and the extent to which CSO’s can then adequately represent such views at D/M level, will all be key ‘dependent variables’ in the development of effective Citizen Engagement in local democratic governance at SN level.
The recent VCD report has provided useful some starting points for this exploration of effective practice given its conclusions regarding formal and informal mechanisms of participation at work at commune level with the formal mechanisms viewed as having limited value for a number of reasons. VCD views many of the real governance decisions and ‘business’ as taking place outside these formal settings in less inclusive, non-transparent, invited settings with the village chief playing a central role and carrying significant leverage.
Effective Citizen engagement then, tends to be characterized by ad hoc approaches to accountability, with citizens and communities adopting a vigilant ‘watching brief’ to protect their interests. At the same time local government also have to contend with these informal mechanisms in negotiating their own stance and role between both vigilant citizens and other vested business and [party] political interests, particularly where natural resources are concerned. VCD recommended the development of processes and mechanisms which would address these realities in decentralized governance and the initiative outlined here will also concern itself with examining how Citizen Engagement in local governance can be enhanced by addressing some of the issues raised in the report
Enabling and making allowances for citizens engaging in and around the IP3 is therefore viewed as a core capacity challenge for government, citizens and for CSO’s, requiring significant capacity development through awareness raising, training, mentoring and coaching if such aspirations are to become a reality. In the coming months, NCDD-S plans to work with development partners and CSO representatives [such as the CSO Working Group of Partners in Decentralisation - WGPD] to develop a framework of cooperation that focuses on strengthening citizen engagement and social accountability within the democratic development process. Such a framework, if agreed to by both government and CSOs, could then be used by government, development partners or any other funding source supporting citizen engagement in SNDD for programming purposes.
Such a jointly agreed ‘Framework’ for citizen engagement and social accountability is considered useful, given the recognition that the development of state-lead local government accountability systems in decentralization will be insufficient on their own and will also require the development of demand-side pressure from both individual citizens [and non-state actors in general] in relation to SNDD in Cambodia. It is also recognized that state and non-state approaches must be separate but synchronized, independent of each other, yet situated within a complementary framework.
2. The Plan
This Detailed Plan will firstly outline below how initiatives under Themes 5 & 9 [Citizen Engagement 1 and Citizen Engagement 2] of the DFGG Consolidated Learning/Training Plan are being merged within a single implementation plan. The merging of Themes 5 & 9 will provide a platform for learning and dialogue around number of key issues, including those raised by the VCD report [ibid.] and other key research on citizen engagement in Cambodia and internationally. Activities within this merged theme will focus on supporting reflection, re-conceptualization and clarity for practitioners from both state and non-state agencies around citizen engagement, helping to identify effective strategies and approaches based on learning from the field and also strengthen understanding and RGC/DP/CSO ownership of the ‘Citizen Engagement & Social Accountability Framework’ outlined above.
CE 1 & CE 2 will therefore aim to:
i. Support a select group of state and non-state actors in identifying key initiatives/opportunities in supporting CE in governance and social accountability in Cambodia at sub-national level.
ii. Based on the ‘Citizen Engagement & Social Accountability Framework’ and drawing on existing international and Cambodian experience, provide reflection learning and dialogue opportunities for state and non-state actors on strategies, models, approaches and tools for Citizen Engagement in the Cambodian context.
iii. Synthesize and codify this shared understanding of the strategies, models, approaches and tools for Citizen Engagement into a knowledge product.
iv. Provide Training on Effective Presentation Skills & Innovative Presentation Skills for state and non-state actors
v. Use innovative tools to Share this knowledge among a wider group of practitioners and policy makers.
vi. Develop a curriculum based on the knowledge product which can be used by both MOI and Civil Society.
3. Approach, Methodology & Sequence
CE 1 & 2 will broadly follow the Sequence outlined in fig 1. Above, and is described in more detail below