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Citizen engagement for accountable local governance

Norwegian Church Aid

Norwegian Church Aid Regional Conference - Beach Hotel, Durban, South Africa
27-29 March 2007


SARPN acknowledges Diakonia as a source of this document: www.nca.no
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Introduction

Situating the Workshop

The regional conference targeted NCA partners, many of whom are church related organizations working on or planning to work on issues related to local governance.

Citizen Engagement for Accountable Local Governance is a key priority within NCA’s overall regional governance program. Over the past 3 years NCA has cooperated with a number of partner organisations in Southern Africa on this theme, and in March 2007, NCA brought together partner and resource organisations to reflect on their work, to strengthen their country level initiatives and to facilitate learning and exchange within the region.

Some 40 delegates came from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa and were joined by NCA staff from Mali and Oslo. All were keen to explore issues of governance and to learn from each other’s work.

The regional conference targeted NCA partners, many of whom are church related organizations working on or planning to work on issues related to local governance. With this conference, NCA aimed to provide a space for partners and resource organizations to reflect critically on lessons learned, exchange experiences of best practice, and to explore strategies to improve citizen engagement in local governance, as well as strategies to hold local governments accountable to the communities they are meant to serve.

Many countries in Southern Africa have undertaken to decentralize government institutions – ostensibly to deepen democracy and to improve service delivery, especially to poor and rural communities. Yet, in most countries local government is perceived as the weak link in efforts to consolidate democracy and reduce poverty. In some countries, local government has failed to fulfill their constitutional obligations on service delivery and has not lived up to communities’ expectations for accountable and democratic governance.

In other countries, the decentralization process is quite recent and it is more appropriate to speak of local administration rather than local governance. In these cases there are no elected local assemblies and there are few formal structures for average citizens to hold local governments accountable to their needs. This is the context for the issues the delegates grappled with during three days in Durban.



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