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"People want accountable governance"

Dec 19, 2012

The Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA), funded by the World Bank Institute (WBI), is an initiative to promote, strengthen and sustain the concepts and practices of social accountability globally. OneWorld speaks to Naimur Rahman, Chief Operations Officer, ANSA South Asia and Global, on how citizens can hold public institutions accountable in terms of delivering public services.

Naimur Rahman

OneWorld South Asia: What motivated ANSA to organise a conference on governance and public service transformation in South Asia?

Naimur Rahman: ANSA primarily focuses on social accountability. Social accountability as we define is, looking at governance from the demand side. Improving governance is central to ANSA, hence we thought it was important to handle governance from a holistic point of view, with a focus on social accountability. Therefore, we partnered with other organisations so that we can deal with the issue of governance from a broader viewpoint and invited academicians and practitioners to the conference.

The idea was to explore and examine the governance reforms journey of South Asia, and look at it from a citizens’ perspective. We also looked at leadership, which is an important element of any kind of governance reform.

OWSA: Governance is multi-dimensional. Why did ANSA focus only on public service transformation aspect?

Rahman: Governance is definitely multi-dimensional. We could have gone into details of each aspect, but due to time constraint we focused primarily on the public service transformation aspect.

Also from ANSA’s perspective, since we talk about demand-side governance, it is basically that dimension which focuses directly at the citizens. Public services constitute a major part of those citizen-centric demand side governance. The idea thus was to primarily focus on how citizens benefit from the idea of good governance and figure out how we take governance framework as an approach of improving public service delivery for citizens.

OWSA: What were the highlights of the conference?

Rahman: I think we managed to bring together people belonging to varied strands of thought. This opened up the debate in a much larger dimension, which I think was an important highlight of the conference.

At the same time, within a short span of two days we managed to organise all the ideas and knit them together in the form of ‘Dhaka Declaration’, which I think was an achievement of its own. Also, this declaration then went to the ‘Parliamentarian and CSO Forum’ the next day and would also factor in the emerging discourses of post-2015 development agenda.

OWSA: How will it feed into the 2015 development discourse?

Rahman: When the MDGs were framed in 2000, one element went unnoticed. This element was governance. There were goals and targets and indicators. The assumption at that point was that as long as we make resources available for those goals and targets, things would happen.

But the experience of the last 10-12 years has shown that the key ingredient for development has indeed been governance. It’s not about resources, because you can keep pouring in resources into a badly governed State, but it would not evolve into development.

Such examples are in plenty in African nations, and these have now brought governance in the emerging thought process in the post-2015 development agenda. Also within governance, people are actually arguing very strongly with regard to the accountability aspect of the governance and the human rights dimension of governance. We feel that our work as ‘Dhaka Declaration’ will be able to contribute to post-2015 development agenda significantly.

OWSA: Can you explain the role of ANSA in enhancing and expanding social accountability and government initiatives in South Asia?

Rahman: ANSA was initiated as a programme to bring together practitioners and academicians with regard to various aspects of social accountability. It started in Africa, after which we established a chapter in East Asia. We started working in South Asia in 2009. ANSA does not limit itself to doing small projects in social accountability, but we are continuously trying to push forward the boundaries of knowledge with regard to social accountability, and by continuously raising relevant questions in this regard.

ANSA thus proves to be an incubator of new knowledge in the emerging discipline of social accountability and works as a connector of social accountability practitioners across the region.

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