Making social accountability happen

Eagle Eyes

This is the third of six columns on social accountability.  In the first column, I wrote about why social accountability was an imperative of good governance while last week, in the second column of the series, I discussed its mainstreaming in governance processes such as the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In this third column, I write more in-depth about social accountability—what it really means and how to make it happen.

As with all things new, social accountability requires the aging of practical experience and studious analysis to produce the proverbial finest wine: governance that is to the people’s taste and liking. In the past four to five years that the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability has been in existence, beginning with Africa in 2007, the network, through its regional affiliates, has continued to refine the social accountability concept with each workshop and pilot project.

The Affiliated Network for Social Accountability—East Asia Pacific (ANSA-EAP), for example, believes that the quality of good governance is a result of the transparency, accountability, and public participation in government policy-making and implementation, held against the bad practices of corruption, waste, inefficiencies, ineffectiveness and government apathy. Transparency, accountability, and participation are necessary for responsive governance, and they have to overcome bad government practices. In developing-world countries, bad governance may be the norm rather than the exception, and people will find a lot of opposition from entrenched interests and uninterested public officials in ensuring good governance. Here in the Philippines, we have obstruction, lack of cooperation, and delays in the investigation of anomalies and crimes, inhibiting accountability; the Freedom of Information Act still has yet to be given priority, leaving people in the “governance dark”, inhibiting transparency; and many fear reprisal for exposing corruption and crime, while others feel powerless in the face of bad governance, and simply remain apathetic, inhibiting participation.

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