Browse by Theme: Social Accountability

In the development community, we typically interpret a government pushing for greater decentralisation as a positive step for governance reform and an opening for greater citizen participation and voice. Donors invest considerable funds in supporting the decentralisation processes of global governments, and NGOs focus energy and resources on preparing citizens to influence public decision-making as it comes closer to them.

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For those of us that sing the praises of social accountability (citizen-driven initiatives to hold those in power to account), making a claim about “impact” (or transformative change) is a challenge we face on a daily basis. And CARE’s not alone. The title of the first session at an NGO political economy analysis working group at which I’m presenting this week (“Building the Evidence-base for Social Accountability”) speaks to the same concern.

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After disasters many international agencies, including CARE, undertake a whole range of projects to help affected people recover, including the construction of houses. These may be described as all sorts of things, including temporary shelter, transitional shelter, durable shelter, semi-permanent shelter, core houses or permanent houses. Which description is used often seems almost arbitrary, decided by a mixture of assumptions about people’s recovery, donor mandates and priorities, government policy and the level of expertise available in agencies. The description rarely matches reality.

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CARE has been working in India for over 65 years, and over that time a large part of its work has been responding to and supporting recovery from disasters. Many of these humanitarian projects have involved emergency shelter and housing reconstruction. Indeed, since 2000, CARE has built over 8,000 houses for some of the most vulnerable people who have lost their homes in disasters. A number of other agencies have undertaken similar construction programmes over the years. So what has the long-term effect of these projects been? Is the approach right, and given both the scale of typical disasters in India and the increasing quality and reach of government response, is the approach still relevant and appropriate?

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Bangladesh has been quite successful in working towards the Millennium Development Goals, even receiving a Millennium Development Goal Award in 2010 for its notable progress toward reducing child mortality (MDG 4). But how far did this progress reach? Does the way we measure progress fail to account for the experience of millions of the country’s poorest people?

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When it comes to monitoring impact, the SDGs have got it wrong. National Statistics Offices have a central role, but official data in developing countries is often incomplete, inadequate and unreliable. It cannot tell the full story, especially in countries where paper-based systems struggle to reach the very people the SDGs are meant to help.

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the first time a global compact on overcoming poverty has been created in the digital age. Harnessing the promise of technology will be key to transforming poverty and power in the next 15 years, but we must make sure the most marginalised are not left behind.

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