Improving Local Government Accountability for Poor and Marginalized Communities in Uganda
Through case studies in Uganda, this project will test dominant international and government approaches to improving local government participation and accountability. Addressing poverty through governance Uganda faces a number of development and good governance challenges. This is especially true for rural areas where 94% of the country's chronically poor live. Stronger local governance institutions, together with increased participation and citizen engagement, offer key strategies to address poverty in countries such as Uganda. These strategies seek to bring government closer to citizens, so that public officials can more easily meet the demands of citizens and be accountable to them. The result is better designed and targeted interventions across a range of basic services. Raising voices, improving accountability In recent years, social accountability tools have gained popularity as informal and easily accessible strategies for increasing citizen voices and improving public accountability. These tools include a broad range of actions and mechanisms that citizens and communities can use to hold public officials accountable, in both local and national arenas. Examples in Uganda include: -citizen scorecards -public media campaigns -performance agreements for top district officers -client charters -community meetings on accountability (known as Barazas) Results, however, have been mixed. Social accountability actions are often uncoordinated and can be seen as "going through the motions" of participation. That is, they spur participation by using technical tools, which may be prone to political control or may not confront deeper political obstacles. Ensuring the legal right to participation This project seeks to examine the use of social accountability tools in Uganda from a legal perspective. Researchers will draw on lessons learned from past international experiences. This project takes the position that social accountability mechanisms have fallen short of their goals because they have not been fully institutionalized or linked to formal accountability mechanisms. Creating stronger links could help formal mechanisms be more responsive to local needs. Many of the goals targeted by social accountability mechanisms already exist. They may be better viewed as legal rights to participation through the guarantee to citizen participation in public affairs under the Ugandan Constitution. Project methodology The project team will analyze case studies, comparing different participation and social accountability interventions used by an international development donor, government, and civil society organizations. The case studies will look at the Barazas and water user associations created under the Water Act. Researchers will use standard social science methods and legal analysis. Their tools will be designed to capture relevant gender dimensions with an emphasis on rural communities. The project will aim to generate concrete solutions for improving participation and public accountability at the local government level. It will also generate lessons to help guide and improve established approaches to participation and social accountability.