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Monitoring governance in the context of needs – the civil society challenge
MONITORING GOVERNANCE IN THE CONTEXT OF NEEDS – THE CIVILSOCIETY CHALLENGE1Dr ‘Kayode Fayemi2ProtocolThe notion of good governance has gained greater prominence in thedemocratisation discourse since the collapse of the cold war in the early 1990s.Equally, its meaning has been the subject of contestation between promoters ofthe shrinking State and the champions of the inclusive State in which theestablishment of a wide range of governmental and non-governmentalinstitutions enable people to participate in society. Despite the debate thatraged on the nature of the state, there has been a great deal of unanimity onthe need to arrest the ‘desertion’ by citizens that characterised the ‘old’ cold warState, in Africa in the quest for a transparent, trusted and accountable State.Although governance has always featured in the management of public sector inAfrica, it was rarely defined as a partnership between the rulers and the ruledaimed at the efficiency of State structures. While the clamour for this type ofpartnership has featured in the struggles for the transformation of authoritarianstructures and one-party states, the idea of a people driven governance waslargely ignored by the command economies that dominated the world in the coldwar era. The idea that the people ought to have a say in deciding governancestrategies was seen as an anathema and generally discouraged. In the search forstrong states, strong rulers were seen as the sine-qua-non. The moreunaccountable these rulers were, the more legitimate they became in the handsof the metropolitan powers and their supporters. Even when the command,interventionist economies of the 1970s and early 80s gave way to structuraladjustment programmes in the mid-1980s, governance defined as partnershipaimed at achieving ownership, social equity, equality and development was stillmissing from the equation. Yet, in our view, fundamental to the notion ofgovernance is the ability of the state to provide efficient and well functioninginstitutions and infrastructures of government – legally backed and sociallycoherent – that together establishes and maintains an enabling environment inwhich human security and human development takes place.Yet, good governance was hardly a popular terminology in the internationaldevelopment circles until the collapse of the cold war. Indeed, it was the World1 Welcome Address to the “Legislative & Executive Governance Monitoring Dialogue” by Centre forDemocracy & Development & the National Human Rights Commission, held at Rockview Hotel,Abuja from August 31 – September 1, 2004.2 Director, Centre for Democracy & Development 1
Bank’s 1989 report “Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth”, thatintroduced it in international development circles. Even when it was introducedinto the IFIs lexicon, its operational use was limited. In its use of the term, theWorld Bank identified three distinct aspects of governance:1) the form of the political regime;2) the process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development; and,3) the capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge functions.(World Bank, 1994b)Although they recognise the holistic nature of governance, the World Bank andother multi-lateral agencies have concentrated mainly on the third aspect in theirgovernance related work – the capacity of governments to design, formulate andimplement policies and discharge functions. Public sector reform andmanagement has been the most visible area of activity in this regard. Thisranged from capacity building and institutional strengthening in civil servicereform; government budget, public investment programme, modernisation ofpublic sector accounting and auditing; government financial managementinformation systems, development assistance and aid coordination, economicmanagement agencies and all other sections of government that are pivotal to awell functioning public sector. Governance in the public sector has also beenconcerned with the levels and quality of relationship between different layers ofgovernment – central government and its subordinate tiers as well as the publicand private sectors.The basic thrust of this reform process has been state retrenchment in all itsramifications and this has been manifested in the shift from a highlyinterventionist paradigm in many African states to one in which the role ofgovernment is primarily that of an enabler for the private sector, a regulatoryframework and a provider of public infrastructure for the efficient running of themarket. Tied to the structural adjustment reforms whose objective was toestablish market friendly set of incentives that can encourage accumulation ofcapital and more efficient allocation of resources, this shift often necessitatedconflict between capital and labour and it resulted in huge labour cuts arising outof privatisation of inefficient state institutions with serious social consequences –leading often to a disconnect between the shrinking State and the deprivedSociety.The challenge with institutional reform in many of the sectors highlighted abovehas always been one of building convergence between the demands of the newinstitutional governance environment and the legitimacy for enforcementprovided by the local context – between ‘good’ governance on the one hand and‘democratic’ governance, on the other. It is because of the problems associated 2
with reconciling the State and Civil Society in the public sector reform processthat sustainable institutional capacity building has been difficult to achieve inmany African states and ours here is not an exception.Notwithstanding this evident challenge, all stakeholders in Nigeria’s fledglingdemocracy now see accountable and transparent governance as critical to thefuture strengthening of the State. In the transition to an open, transparent andaccountable State, the civilian government has made some strides in its effort toreduce corruption by reforming erstwhile opaque and largely secretive financialmanagement systems. It has also attempted in a rather top-down manner toconsult people on Nigeria’s ‘home-grown’ PRSP strategy – the National EconomicEmpowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), but local ownership amongstthe people remains limited. The Government’s development reform agenda –NEEDS – demonstrates stronger commitment through its various components -on strengthening service delivery, ensuring accountability, acceding to a socialcharter and enhancing the growth of the private sector. Also commendable isthe way the National strategy connects to state (SEEDS) and local governmentlevel reform (LEEDS) processes. On the government side, there are clearly morereformers - with both civil society background and greater willingness for adeeper engagement between public policy actors and civil society activists, butcapacity, due process and sustainability remain key issues of concern. Thechallenge therefore is to ensure that the ideas contained in this reform agendaare further clarified in manner that can translate into social and economic gainsfor the greater majority of Nigerians. By strengthening ‘voice’ in civil society andseeking an independent research, analysis and monitoring of indicators andbenchmarks outlined in the reform agenda whilst improving civil actors’ ability toengage policy makers on questions of transparency and accountability, weenvisage an exponential rise in knowledge and a concomitant impact on thecitizens’ ability to demand change.We hope this dialogue can further expand our interest in bridging this gapbetween the search for the efficient and accountable state and the legitimatesociety, emphasizing not just the capacity of governments to design, formulateand implement policies, but also the form of political regime and the process bywhich authority is exercised.For us, the most innovative aspect of our Legislative and Governance Monitoringinitiative is the bridge-building approach to governance that we take. Oftentimesin Nigeria, the adversarial nature of relationship between government and civilsociety institutions gets in the way of effective engagement. CDD has alwaysdesigned interventions, which encourage multi-stakeholder engagements withoutcompromising its independence whilst also addressing questions of success andsustainability. Our partnership with the National Human Rights Commission inorganizing this dialogue further demonstrates this position. In addition, the 3
designed intervention connects ordinary voices to critical arenas since we are notjust concerned about enhancing capacity of government institutions alone butalso strengthening the demand side of governance so that communities can havebetter access to these institutions and they in turn can be more responsive. Atthe back of every step taken by this initiative are the following questions: How do we ensure that the right to be heard is translated into a right to be listened to? What are the existing capacities and gaps, which need to be respectively enhanced and utilised within communities and government? What are the monitoring and evaluation indices that will demonstrate impact or indicate progress (indicators and verifications)?In responding to the above questions, we hope this dialogue will assist us instrengthening roles and relationships that already exist to enable our citizensdemand change of their rulers. The added value in a civil society monitoringinitiative such as this is the degree to which it empowers the broader citizenry todemand change from the elected authorities by monitoring performance in anindependently verifiable manner.I want to thank the British Council and the Department for InternationalDevelopment for supporting this initiative.On behalf of the CDD and the National Human Rights Commission, I welcomeyou to this occasion and count on your contributions towards improving goodand democratic governance in Nigeria. 4