Reading: How can citizens actively monitor public policy
When we say “Monitoring Public Policies that affect You”, we mean: knowing mechanisms that enable you to screen and oversee your country’s good governance. Before we go into details, let’s first have a common understanding of key-terms we will be using:
1. Citizen-driven oversight: it’s a form of citizen or community participation in reviewing government activities.
2. Accountability: According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), accountability refers to the need to justify actions or decisions in front of stakeholders and respond to criticisms where necessary［1］.
There are several types of accountability, as shown in the box made by the Institute of Development Studies (see page 2), a research institute affiliated with the University of Sussex which delivers learning and e sustainable development globally.
3. Transparency: refers to a mechanism which ensures that governments share information and act in an open manner. When governments abide by the mechanisms of Transparency, this helps different stakeholders (citizens, interest groups, civil society..) gather information that can help them prevent (or report) instances of abuse of power, misconduct and other wrongdoings.
Ensuring transparency and accountability is vital for democracy. Governmental internal mechanisms to ensure accountability include political checks and balances, accounting and auditing systems, strictly defined administrative rules and legal procedures, etc. But, in this course, we are more interested in mechanisms for citizen-driven oversight to hold the government accountable and transparent: public expenditure tracking, social audits, community scorecards, budget watchdogs, to name a few.
Civil society is looking for ways to partner with state officials and encourage them to be more open and responsive, to co-create a “culture of accountability”. For any of these mechanisms to work, governments have to be open to citizens practicing their right of access to government records. Open Government Data and Freedom of Information are key-requirements that enable citizen-driven oversight.
[1］Sharma, B. (2008). Voice, Accountability and Civic Engagement: A Conceptual Overview. UNDP.