Promoting Participatory Citizen Action

Promoting Participatory Citizen Action

The quality of governance is one of the central factors affecting the delivery of basic services such as health care and education. Citizens as well as state institutions have a role to play in delivering governance that works for poor and marginalized people. UNDP promotes participatory citizen action to support democratic governance. By expressing their views, citizens not only have the potential to influence government priorities but also demand transparency and accountability from their governments. This can take the form, for example, of citizen engagement in policy dialogue, participatory and gender budgeting, public expenditure tracking, and monitoring and evaluation of public service delivery.

Enhancing Social Accountability Mechanisms

The concept of accountability is at the heart of democratic governance. It is also central to all aspects of human development since it contributes to ensuring that the interests of the poorest and most marginalized groups in society are taken into account. There are many institutions and mechanisms through which state accountability operates and can be enhanced. One way this can happen is through citizens demanding that governments live up to their obligations through a variety of mechanisms on a continuous basis (other than elections), and by governments responding to such initiatives from citizens. This type of accountability is referred to as ‘social accountability’. Social accountability emerges through actions by citizens and civil society organization aimed at holding the state to account, as well as efforts by government and other actors (media, private sector, donors) to support these actions. It provides extra sets of checks and balances on the state in the interest of the public.

UNDP encourages countries in their efforts to ground their national development programmes and policies in human rights, in particular by focusing on the principles of non-discrimination, participation and accountability.

UNDP strengthens institutions which bring the state and citizens together, such as citizen report cards, public expenditure tracking, performance based budgets, and gender analysis of government plans and policies.

For example, in 2006, UNDP introduced the Performance Budgeting Programme at the community level in Armenia. The project has increased public involvement in government budgeting and produced greater transparency and more efficient expenditures. Another example is a citizen report card survey, initiated by the Poverty Action Network of Civil Society in Ethiopia (PANE), and facilitated by UNDP through financial and technical support. The report card functioned as a simple but powerful tool for providing Ethiopian government agencies with systematic feedback from citizens about public services.

Visit the Oslo Governance Centre of UNDP for more on the work of UNDP in promoting social accountability mechanisms.

Working with Local Actors on Sustainable Development

The term “local actors” covers a spectrum of groups, formal and informal, rural and urban, that include: communities, indigenous peoples, village associations, local NGOs, micro-enterprises, youth and women’s groups, cooperatives, self-help groups, savings groups, local authorities and municipalities.

Solutions to poverty and environmental challenges will not come primarily by the actions of governments, but will be forged farmer by farmer, household by household, and community by community, with governments enabling this local transformation through policy reform and capacity enhancement. Recognizing that local actors are important agents of change with capacities to innovate and identify local solutions, UNDP works with them to generate livelihoods and strengthen their resilience.

Though poorly recognized, local actors are the chief users and guardians of the world’s ecosystems, managing or administering at least 22% of developing country forests and employing diverse landscape management approaches in over half the world’s 102,000 Protected Areas. The vast majority of environmental decisions (including on investment and land use) are made at the sub-national and local level. Through generations and over hundreds of years, local actors have successfully used traditional ecological knowledge to manage natural resources, conserve and maintain ecosystems, alleviate poverty, secure adequate supply of food, water, and energy, and adapt to environmental changes. They tend to take a comprehensive view that considers interrelationships rather than sectoral approaches that miss linkages.

Work at the local level is a reliable way to build real resilience to the challenges of climate change and the many other environmental, social, and economic challenges the poor face today. Such resilience stems from simultaneous improvements in the health of local ecosystems, in the diversity and availability of local economic options, and in the social capacity of community members to work collectively for common development objectives. By providing a coherent scheme for delivering the appropriate resource rights, capacity development, and financing to local actors, UNDP will contribute directly to such community resilience. In working with local actors to achieve poverty reduction and sustainable development, UNDP is guided by four strategic priorities:

  • Strengthen institutional, policy, and legal frameworks to broaden local access to environment and energy resources and services, and to enable finances to flow to the local level.
  • Enhance the capacity of local actors to access environmental finance and plan, implement and monitor environment and energy programmes, enterprises and service delivery.
  • Facilitate learning to make local action more effective, sustainable, and replicable.
  • Ensure that local actors are positioned to advocate for their rights and entitlements related to environment and energy in national and international fora.

Two key projects with local actors are the Equator Initiative Award and the Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Programme, implemented in 120 countries across the world.

Selected Resources
  • Reflections on Social Accountability (UNDP, 2013) English
  • Donor Civil Society Strategies and Partnerships Modalities (UNDP, 2012) English
  • Fast Facts: Fostering Inclusive Participation (UNDP, 2011) English
  • Fostering Social Accountability: From Principle to Practice (UNDP, 2010) English | French | Spanish
    Arabic
  • Strengthening Local CSOs to Deliver MDG Related Services - Indonesia (UNDP, 2009) English
  • Accountability and Voice for Service Delivery at the Local Level (UNDP, 2008) Europe and the CIS | Arab States
GEF Small Grants Programme
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By providing financial and technical support to projects that conserve and restore the environment while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods, SGP demonstrates that community action can maintain the fine balance between human needs and environmental imperatives.

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UNDP Oslo Governance Centre
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The Oslo Governance Centre (OGC) works to position UNDP as a champion of democratic governance, both as an end in itself, and as a means to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This is done through knowledge networking and multi-disciplinary team work, as well as through close partnerships with leading policy and research institutions in different parts of the world.

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Equator Initiative: A Partnership for Resilient Communities
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The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

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