Exposing Wrongs With the Right to Information: Freedom Forum’s Work With the Media in Nepal

by Ryan Flynn for the International Budget Partnership— Apr 19, 2017

When Freedom Forum, a civil society organization based in Nepal, decided to use the country’s Right to Information (RTI) laws to investigate special funds allocated to parliamentarians, they uncovered a vast array of wasteful projects. Such nebulous spending was being channeled through Nepal’s Constituency Development Funds (CDFs), mechanisms for allocating money from the national coffers for parliamentarians to spend in their local constituencies. Using Nepal’s Right to Information law to investigate CDFs, Freedom Forum painstakingly traced how money was being spent and projects were supposed to be administered. They then worked with investigative journalists to piece together a series of exposés revealing the misuse of public money.

Overseeing Budget Sustainability: A New Tool for Watchdogs

by Daniel Baksa, David Mihalyi, and Balazs Romhanyi— Mar 28, 2017

When optimism fuels public spending and earnings fail to materialize, a country can quickly find itself in fiscal crisis. Civil society has a crucial role to play in ensuring government policies are sustainable, yet interrogating the assumptions underlying budget decisions can be dauntingly complex. For this reason the Natural Resource Government Institute and the Fiscal Responsibility Institute Budapest have developed a tool to help potential watchdogs grapple with these complexities.

Bridging Political Polarization: Pension Reform in El Salvador

By Rocio Campos, International Budget Partnership— Mar 09, 2017

Building consensus and using evidence to influence policy can be particularly challenging in contexts where political polarization has become entrenched. This was the scenario in El Salvador in 2014, when IBP started working with a diverse group of civil society organizations to influence the debate on pension reform. Tactics included producing evidence for decision makers and working to socialize basic facts about the reform with the wider public.

Pension Reform in El Salvador

Making the Most of the Budget Cycle: The Budget Formulation Stage

By Jay Colburn, International Budget Partnership— Feb 28, 2017

Timing can be everything when it comes to influencing government decisions. Luckily budgeting more or less follows a regular cycle throughout the financial year and decisions are often contingent on what has come before. Civil society organizations (CSOs) looking to influence budgets can use their knowledge of the budget cycle to determine the timing and targets of their interventions. This post looks at the formulation stage of the budget cycle and how civil society can most effectively engage in it.

Putting the Government’s Budget Proposal in Context

By by Albert van Zyl, International Budget Partnership South Africa— Feb 23, 2017

Civil society can play an important accountability role throughout the budget process, from formulation to enactment then implementation and audit. Early in the process, civil society organizations can inform the public about the government’s proposals for raising and spending public money and can offer a critical voice that places the proposals in the social and economic context of the country and challenges questionable assumptions. On 22 February 2017 the South African Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan delivered the annual budget speech upon tabling the Executive’s Budget Proposal in parliament. As an example of how CSOs can engage in this stage of the process, IBP South Africa responded with the following assessment of the proposal.

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.