Ward Citizens Forum- bottom-up approach for inclusive development

Members of a ward citizens forum
Members of a ward citizens forum. Photo: UNDP Nepal

The 76 households in ward number 3, Assigram village of Dadeldhura have started putting forward their long term development plans in the Ward Citizens Forum, a forum created under the social mobilization and community development component of the Local Governance Community Development Programme (LGCDP) — a joint multi donor funded programme implemented by the Ministry of Local Development, supported by 6 UN agencies (UNDP, UNICEF, UNCDF, UNV, UNFPA, UN Women) in all the 75 districts of Nepal.

With the absence of the elected Government for 9 years, the villages of Nepal suffer from timely delivery of resources and services. The rural people are disconnected from development activities due to illiteracy, remoteness and most importantly the gap in planning and formulation of policies between the local and the central Government.

Highlights

  • There are 9 wards in all the 3915 VDCs of Nepal. By the end of the fiscal year 2011-2012 it is expected that all the VDCs will have Citizens’ Awareness Centre.
  • Similarly, it is expected that by the end of the fiscal year 2011-2012, all the 35235 wards will have Ward Citizens’ Forum.

The Ward Citizens Forum has become the first step of decentralized demand based ‘bottom-up approach’ at the community level for bringing in resources to implement development activities in their villages. The voices of the rural communities through the forum are brought to the Village Council and then through authentic Government channels to be included in the national development plans. It is a new approach for social mobilization in Nepal, stressing the need to engage with local Government to secure services and resources for better livelihood, better access to health services, safe drinking water and education facilities for children.

In Kholi, ward number 3 of Assigram village, there are 19 members in the Ward Citizens Forum which consists of a 5 member executive board. Nirmala Joshi, the treasurer of the group says that the forum has brought about a big change in their lives. She says, “Earlier the women in the village were not aware about the village and district level block grants and where the development budget was spent. Now we know that there is 35% Government budget allocated for the development of women, children and the disadvantaged.”

There are 9 wards in all the 3915 Village Development Committees in Nepal. By the end of the fiscal year 2011-2012, all the VDCs will have Citizens Awareness Centre while the wards will have Ward Citizens Forum. The people of Assigram village are thankful that they have been able to receive so much attention from the Government and donors. They dream of promoting their village as a future tourist destination in Nepal.

Bhagirathi Joshi, chairperson of a women’s cooperative says, “The women and men have started planning for proper utilization of the rich existing natural resources and have put forward their proposal in the monthly meeting of the Citizens Awareness Centre to modernize the farming technology for production of organic vegetables and to expand the market to sell our products.”

The Kholi community of Assigram village is currently constructing a multi-purpose community hall for their development and social activities at the total cost of Rs. 3, 29957 (approximately US$ 4650).

The contribution from LGCDP is Rs. 1, 52,200 (US$ 2143), the Village Development Committee contributed Rs. 7600 (US$ 107) and the unskilled labour works is contributed by the community themselves.

The Kholi community has also established a Child Care Centre in the village for infants who are unable to walk long distance to attend schools, often the case for late enrollment in the hilly regions of Nepal. The Child Care Centre with two teachers serves as a pre-school for the children of the village. One teacher is appointed by the community and one teacher is paid by the Village Development Committee.

The LGCDP within the Ministry of Local Development works to establish and implement a system for building the capacity of the local bodies to provide basic services inclusively and equitably. The District Development Committees (DDCs) are enabled to better backstop and mentor the Village Development Committees (VDCs). The project is providing training programmes for local Government officials, community organisations, user groups and other service delivery agencies. Meanwhile the support of 6 UN agencies to this programme aims at strengthening sector-wise devolution, design and use a local Government performance monitoring system and to mainstream gender equality and social inclusion issues into decentralization processes in local Government.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has played a central role in developing the administration of performance-based grants for the DDCs and VDCs. It is also providing sector wise support and social assistance to the ultra poor. The decentralization of Government is a key factor for including local needs in the plans and programmes developed at the central Government level. LGCDP is providing a national framework to begin to bring about substantive changes in development and service provision for every citizen and their community.