Doing Accountability Differently in India

By Ryan Flynn, International Budget Partnership— Dec 01, 2016

Public service delivery is complex, and problems are rarely confined to a particular school, locality, or government institution. But a myopic focus on isolated service delivery problems risks mistaking the symptoms of accountability breakdowns for the causes. The solution? We need to start doing accountability differently. Reformers need support to forge diverse coalitions that are able to navigate this complexity and drive change. But what does this look like in practice? Two recent IBP case studies documenting the work of Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI) and Samarthan in India provide some insights.

International Budget Partnership Case Studies India

Time to Get Political: Why the Open Governance Community Needs to Start Engaging with Grassroots Movements

By Brendan Halloran, International Budget Partnership— Oct 25, 2016

There’s been a slow-dawning realization among open governance advocates that pushing for more inclusive and accountable governance requires a much deeper engagement with politics. As a community, promoters of open governance have often sought short cuts around the messiness of political dynamics. Or they have understood the need to address politics but struggled to adapt their tools and approaches. Yet there is mounting evidence that initiatives that fail to grapple with the political dimensions of this work have not been as effective as they could have been.

Good Governance Movement Needs Grassroots Movements

Doing Accountability Differently: How the Vertical Integration of Civil Society Can Drive Impact

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.

civil society driving accountability impact

Budget Advocacy in Action: Social Justice Coalition Campaign to Improve Sanitation Results in 3,000 Submissions to the City of Cape Town’s Budget

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.

Taking Your Budget-based Advocacy to Court: Considerations for Strategic Litigation

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.

Strategies in Using Budget Work to Improve Maternal Health

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.

What Are We Learning About How to Engage with the Executive?

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.

What Are We Learning About Ecosystems and Social Change?

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.

International Budget Partnership Budget Accountability Ecosystyem

Fiscal Policy, Austerity, and Human Rights in Latin America

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.

What Civil Society Should Know About How Governments are Disclosing Budget Information Online

By Paolo de Renzio, International Budget Partnership, Jorge Romero Leon, independent researcher, and Fundar’s Diego de la Mora and Liliana Ruiz— May 09, 2016

When governments first started publishing documents online, budget analysis still required searching large PDFs and patiently compiling the data for analysis. But more recently, with increasing emphasis on fiscal transparency and citizens’ right to information, things got even easier. Many governments are now using so-called “transparency portals” to host large amounts of budget data in machine readable formats. How widespread are these changes? What are some of the emerging good practices? And how can civil society organizations (CSOs) best take advantage of this new opportunity to enhance budget accountability?