The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), a capacity development institution, on Monday, opened a three-day regional workshop on Social Accountability, to enrich the competences of its grant partners in West African countries.
The workshop, which is being coordinated by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)and sponsored by the Ford Foundation, seeks to strengthen the effectiveness of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that are engaged in promoting social accountability in the nine-member countries.
Participants were from selected Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Sierra Leone and Liberia and others, would go on a study tour of some beneficiary communities in Ningo Prampam, in Greater Accra and Ho in the Volta Regions, to learn from each other’s experiences.
Ms Eva Kouka, the Programme Officer at the Ford Foundation, in her opening remarks, attributed the lack of citizens’ inclusion in governance to the poor organisational abilities of citizens’ groups to enable them to demand for social accountability from the government in with regard to the appropriation of the state resources.
She said her outfit in seeking to ensure open governance and social accountability had heavily invested in efforts to address the root causes of poverty and inequality, and urged participants to strengthen their networks in order to be able to engage properly with their communities and provide them with the requisite information and education to demand for good governance.
Mr Udo Jude Ilo, a Representative from OSIWA, Nigeria, in a presentation on “Scaling-up Social Accountability in West Africa: Opportunities and Challenges”, showed shocking pictures of his country’s development setbacks, indicating the government’s shortfalls in the provision of basic social amenities to both rural and parts of its urban communities.
He said in spite of the barriers that separated governments and citizens, there must be sustainable ways of dealing with the challenges, such as ensuring massive civic education and information, rethinking models, building of networks, mainstreaming of structures of social accountability in government projects and safeguarding long-term commitment of funding.
He argued that a new West Africa was possible if politicians would listen to the views of citizens by engaging them in governance.
Mr Charles Vandyck, the Capacity Building Officer at WACSI, said the learning programme would enhance learning and sharing between the OSIWA and Ford Foundation grant partners based in the region on best practices in citizen engagement in governance processes; enhance the capacities of participating organisations to contribute to pro-poor budget planning; and to monitor public spending.
He said it would also provide a practical platform for the CSOs to better understand the mechanisms that had been utilised by their counterparts in other parts of the region to exact public accountability through the active participation of ordinary citizens and civic groups.
Mr Vandyck said through these learning workshops, participating CSOs would be well equipped to monitor government development projects and increase the use of citizen-generated information to promote accountability, while enabling them to effectively engage in the social audit process in West Africa.
He said the overall objective was to develop a case study publication that would showcase examples and insights into a range of social accountability initiatives.
Dr Ibrahima Aidara, the Economic Governance Programme Manager at OSIWA, said his outfit had over the years invested substantially in enhancing citizens’ social demands for accountability and effectiveness in public service delivery, strengthening natural resource management frameworks, supporting alternative, Information and Communication Technology and arts-based means for multi-corruption enforcement.
He said OSIWA continued to positively influence development in the region as both an advocate and grant-maker by enabling itself to be agenda-setters both within and alongside other organisations working on the ground.