by Jonathan Fox, School of International Service, American University— Sep 01, 2016
Civil society advocates have long argued that greater transparency leads to greater accountability. Put more information in the public domain and it will be used to hold governments to account. Yet the causal chain between transparency and accountability may be only as strong as its weakest link. While a steady stream of evidence from the mushrooming domain of transparency and accountability initiatives show progress on information disclosure, traction toward greater accountability has been quite limited. That’s without even addressing the challenge of shrinking civil society space. Yes, “it’s too soon to tell.” But the challenges of civil society organizations using government information to improve accountability appear to lie deeper.
by Rebecca Warner, International Budget Partnership— Aug 18, 2016
Safe, clean, and adequate sanitation services are essential to basic quality of life. The provision of such sanitation services by the City of Cape Town in South Africa has long been a huge concern for residents of Khayelitsha and other informal settlements surrounding the city. The Social Justice Coalition and Ndifuna Ukwazi used budget analysis to rally residents to tackle the issue of inadequate sanitation facilities through the City of Cape Town’s budget process. Their successful budget advocacy campaign involved educating residents on how the City manages water and sanitation services, analyzing the budget, and a layered training of trainers, which allowed the campaign to extend the reach of its limited resources.
By David Robins, International Budget Partnership— Aug 16, 2016
The Open Budget Index – the part of the Open Budget Survey that measures transparency – assesses the public availability of eight key budget documents. To be considered publicly available, a document must be published by the government within an acceptable timeframe. For example, unless an Executive’s Budget Proposal is published before it is enacted into law, citizens have no chance to influence its content, and it would therefore not pass the threshold of public availability. A deeper dive into the Open Budget Survey 2015 data reveals a number of interesting findings regarding the availability and timeliness of budget documents.
By Delaine McCullough. International Budget Partnership— Jul 26, 2016
Over the years, IBP has documented civil society campaigns that have combined budget analysis with other advocacy tools to improve how public money is managed and how public services are delivered. One such advocacy tool is strategic litigation. Taking the government to court can, however, be a risky and resource-intensive endeavor, so why do it? Well, in many cases litigation can be an effective way to get parties that disagree over how to use public resources to clearly state their positions before a forum. And, in light of the disturbing recent trend of government efforts to close political space for civil society, litigation may often be the most viable option for CSOs seeking social change.
Joel Friedman, Senior Fellow, IBP— Jul 21, 2016
The Open Budget Survey 2015 finds that budget transparency has improved modestly over time, particularly for countries that were ranked among the least transparent in previous rounds of the survey. While these findings correspond with those of earlier surveys, the 2015 results also expose the fact that relatively few countries have improved to the point where they are publishing sufficient information to enable CSOs, oversight institutions, and members of the public to participate effectively in the budget process. A critical question for IBP going forward is: why do countries have trouble moving above this threshold?
by Rebecca Warner, International Budget Partnership— Jul 14, 2016
Two IBP case studies, one from Tanzania and another from Uganda, examine civil society campaigns to engage governments and hold them to account in providing maternal health care to their citizens. Both feature the advocacy work of the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), an informal coalition of NGOs, donors, and their global partners dedicated to achieving safe and healthy childbirth for all women. WRA’s chief strategy has been to hold governments accountable by mobilizing citizens to demand decent healthcare for all pregnant women. Yet the coalition used two quite different approaches to push for improvements in maternal healthcare in Uganda and Tanzania.
by Jessica Taylor, Program Officer, IBP South Africa; John Kinuthia, Program Officer, IBP Kenya; and Jason Lakin, Country Manager, IBP Kenya— Jul 07, 2016
Productive, collaborative relationships with the executive are crucial to effective civil society budget advocacy. What is called “the executive” actually comprises a complex mix of political and technical leadership, and members of the executive derive their legitimacy from various sources. This essay from IBP’s 2015 Annual Report looks at what we are learning from our experiences in South Africa and Kenya about the nature of working with the executive.
by Albert Van Zyl, Director of Strategy and Learning, IBP; and Paolo de Renzio, Senior Research Fellow, Open Budget Initiative, IBP— Jun 22, 2016
By documenting civil society budget campaigns, and the oversight systems in which they are conducted, IBP has become aware of the need to adjust our assumptions about civil society budget work and its impact. More specifically, we need to shift beyond a narrow focus on building the technical skills and knowledge of CSOs to influence the executive arm of government to a more holistic approach that recognizes the complementary roles of different actors in what we have come to call the accountability ecosystem. This ecosystem, in which budget processes are embedded, encompasses a number of institutions and organizations above and beyond civil society and executive government.
By Vivek Ramkumar, International Budget Partnership— Jun 14, 2016
Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) are crucial government bodies that verify whether public money is being used effectively and lawfully, and assess whether the fiscal information being produced by governments is complete and reliable. Since 2006, the Open Budget Survey has sought to measure the role and effectiveness of SAIs and their contribution to more accountable budgets. In this blog we examine the strengths and weaknesses of oversight institutions based on the data from the Open Budget Survey 2015.
by Rebecca Warner, International Budget Partnership— Jun 08, 2016
Economic downturns often leave governments with substantially reduced revenues at the same time as they face increasing demand for public services by those affected by the crisis. Too often governments in this situation will choose to curtail spending in an effort to control public-sector debt, an approach that can have significant consequences on the poorest and most vulnerable. Such budgetary decisions and their effect on marginalized communities are strictly bound by international human rights law. The question of how austerity measures have threatened human rights in Latin America was discussed in April 2016 at a gathering of civil society representatives and officials from international governing bodies.