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TitleCitizens' action for accountable governance : reflections from South Asia : paper presented at the IRC symposium ‘ Pumps, Pipes and Promises: Costs, Finances and Accountability for Sustainable WASH Services' in The Hague, The Netherlands from 16 - 18 Nove
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsPalakudiyil, T, Joseph, J
Pagination13 p.
Date Published2010-11-16
Place PublishedThe Hague, The Netherlands
Keywordsaccounting, governance, south asia

Citizens’ Action (CA) is an advocacy initiative which aims to transform present levels of state accountability by building an empowered citizenry capable of engaging constructively with governments and other service providers and hold these entities accountable for the provision of quality, accessible and sustainable services. CA is founded on the belief that an informed and empowered community, confident to engage with the government and other service providers to demand that they deliver on their commitments and obligations is an essential precondition for ensuring accountable governance in a given community. As a methodology, CA is designed to facilitate this process of knowledge generation, empowerment and constructive engagement. The paper will reflect on the findings of a review of WaterAid’s experience in South Asia, over the past 5 years,  of using this to ‘bridge the gap’ between responsibility and responsiveness, in the delivery of WASH services.  It will also dwell on aspects of this methodology which call for further reflection and improvement, as for example, the re-designing required to ensure that the process of empowerment does not stop with the leaders of civil society organisations, but reaches also the members of the communities themselves.  It will also reflect upon some of the dilemmas encountered in the course of using CA, as for instance, the dilemma faced by an agency which wants to facilitate a truly empowering process and at the same time is ‘obliged’ to promote its core mission, and hence the inherent risk of ‘outsiders’ determining which of the entitlements a given community might work on! Or in contexts where corruption is all pervasive, the need to go beyond the core mandate of the participating organisations, and instead to focus on the need to making all systems work. Even though there are aspects of this tool that require further reflection and improvement, CA is based on an extremely meaningful and valid insight regarding the role of the community (the ordinary citizen) in ensuring basic rights of people.  It is hoped that the discussions that will be generated by the paper will help refine and fine-tune its application in a way that will draw out the full potential of this insight – not merely people’s right to water and sanitation are recognised and met, but people’s right to all basic needs are met as a result of having established better and more accountable governance. [authors abstract]

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