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Civic Participation and Accountability

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First Arab Regional Forum on Innovations in Governance November 13-15, 2006 Dubai School of Government, Dubai UAE Sponsored by Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation and Dubai School of Government Civic Participation and Accountability Resource Paper: Strategies for Increasing Civic Participation and Accountability Adel Abdel Latif, [email protected] What lessons should innovators learn to facilitate civic participation and accountability? There are four strategies essential to increasing civic participation and accountability in government reform: 1. Innovators must strengthen the legal and institutional framework that defines the relationship of the public sector to citizens and civil society. 2. Reformers must also solicit the consultation and participation of citizens and civil society by establishing and strengthening government institutions. 3. Improving communication among the public sector, citizens and civil society can ensure efficient public service delivery. 4. Public officials must be encouraged to adhere to standards of excellence and good conduct in their interactions with citizens. What are some suggestions for innovators in civic participation and accountability? First, to address legal frameworks for public sector and citizen relationships, innovators must analyze current regulations. Passing laws delineating the rights and duties of the public sector and guaranteeing privacy of personal data and access to government information by citizens can have a major impact on improving public sector relations with individuals and with civil society. In seeking to improve institutional frameworks, many countries have successfully: • Created parliamentary committees for public sector reform.  Consolidated independent institutions for processing complaints from citizens. This has been done by establishing an institution, such as an ombudsman, or by strengthening administrative laws that grant and enforce the right of citizens to object to and appeal government actions. Improved the coordination of citizen complaints. Functions considered range from judicial, administrative, and parliamentary to presidential and executive branch. Consider reviewing current practices and developing a unified approach for dealing with citizen complaints.  Improved public service delivery to citizens. Consider deconcentrating and decentralizing public sector departments and local authorities to improve the proximity of and simplify service delivery. Review current policies of service delivery at the national and local levels with an eye to devolving and decentralizing service delivery. Second, innovators must generate citizen participation in the public sector. To strengthen citizen and civil society participation in national councils, many nations have created additional councils allowing public participation in government reform initiatives. Governments seeking to increasing public sector and citizen cooperation have also committed to strengthening already existing councils such as: economic and social councils, council for competition, offices of the ombudsman, and committees for coordination among municipalities. Augmenting these councils can include capacity building and review of the legal and institutional frameworks governing their operations. Communications are essential for facilitating citizen participation; the goal of improving communication can be approached on two fronts. First, governments must improve the monitoring of public sector performance to provide analyses of the nature of citizen inquiries and complaints. Second, reformers must consider tools to improve communication between citizens and the public sector; methods can include the implementation of a Center for the Client’s Voice in individual ministries or departments, which would be dedicated to receiving and processing citizen complaints. Innovators may also choose to support civil society participation in e-administration programs. Finally, reformers must reinforce good conduct of public officials interacting with private citizens. This can be achieved by implementing a code of conduct for public officials, by assessing training needs to build capacity of public sector officials and employees in participatory management, and by promoting the use of incentives to encourage public sector performance. Such promotion of government and citizen partnerships can be achieved by creating an office of incentives, such as the Council for Excellence, to be responsible for rewarding outstanding work and projects with annual awards and prizes. Awards might include those for the best public institutions, best director or the best service to the citizen website. Another creative solution is an Initiatives Fund for projects that improve the services and simplify administrative procedures for citizens. Adel Abdel Latif is the Director of the United Nations Development Program’s Program of Governance in the Arab Region (POGAR), a position he has occupied since the Program’s inception in 2000. POGAR works in partnership with key governance institutions and civil society organizations to advance good governance, rule of law, citizen participation, and transparency and accountability in the Arab region. A formerdiplomat, Dr. Abdel Latif has served in the Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in New York, Geneva, and Ethiopia since 1979. Dr. Abdel Latif has also presented many papers on social and legal reform and anti-corruption measures in the Arab World at international conferences and forums. He holds a doctoral degree in political economy from the Graduate Institute of International Studies,


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