Our governance programmes focus on the needs and rights of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society, considering the multiple ways in which people suffer inequality and powerlessness.
We have gained expertise in delivering governance and civil society programmes, including through large supplier contracts.
Christian Aid’s accountable governance programming has three main areas of work:
- Our power and voice programmes empower people, increasing the power of poor and marginalised women and men by strengthening their voice, helping them to engage with and influence those in positions of authority, and to participate in their own governance.
- We promote citizens’ engagement with the state, and help them to engage in dialogue to ensure planning and budgeting is inclusive and participatory.
- We aim to change the way that public authorities (governments, state institutions and non-governmental organisations and the private sector) respond to the voice of poor people, so that they change their policies and the way they govern or the manner in which they deliver services.
Good standards of governance require transparency if governments and duty-bearers are to be open and accountable.
Our approach is founded on the principle that citizens, especially those with least power, must have opportunities to actively participate in their own governance and influence their own development if it is to be for their benefit and sustainable in the long-term. This includes:
- Access to basic services or natural resources - the groups that are most marginalised and vulnerable have least influence over how essential services are provided or how access to resources is regulated.
- Access to justice and protection of legal rights - to protect rights, people need an awareness of rights and access to a functioning justice system to defend them.
- Tax justice - working to promote fairer tax systems, the right to information and the opportunity to seek redress and complain about poor services and behaviour.
- Democratic engagement and accountability of government to the people - this can take many forms, but involves a relationship based on free elections and being answerable to the electorate.
- Active citizenship - strengthening communities and civil society to sustainably engage and influence.
- Responsive state - strengthening elected representatives, government officials and service providers to understand, engage and respond progressively to improve service provision.
Rights and power relations are fundamental means by which people can combat poverty, influence policy, make their voices heard, make decisions, and hold decision makers to account.
For those in power and duty-bearers, rights and just power relations means they are held to account, they have to answer for actions and policies, they have to improve how they govern and deliver services and they have to respond to the real needs of people, especially the poorest and most marginalised men and women in the communities they serve.
Our work on voice and governance demonstrates the change we can help people to create.
Community capability, voice and engagement
In Nigeria, the Voice to the People programme helped communities produce their own Charters of Demands as expressions of community need and demand for good governance, services and infrastructure. These demands are presented to local government and the planned budgets and services of the local district councils are followed up on and monitored by the community.
Participatory budget planning
In the DRC, the Civil Society Fund helped to improve engagement between local authorities and citizens. This included giving local people a voice in how and where public resources should be spent where they live. 86 budgets were drafted with citizen participation.
We had a lot of feedback especially when we were trying to explain that the budget process was not the preserve of civil servants.
Marie-Josée Kandiambu, Levain des Masses-CRONGD, Bas Congo
Citizen groups and local authorities are collaborating
In Sierra Leone, the ENCISS programme opened up channels of dialogue between councils and civil society. This included accountability platforms where CSOs came together with councillors, ward committee members, citizens and others to discuss development plans.
By facilitating direct discourse with Freetown City Council, the event allowed residents to address pressing matters that affect their day-to-day wellbeing, to understand the council’s priorities and constraints.
Santigie Kargbo, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Tackling unfair tax exemptions
In Guatemala, unfair tax exemptions for businesses were challenged by Christian Aid’s civil society research and advocacy partner ICEFI. Complex technical information was simplified so that different sectors of civil society could understand how local governments, public education and the judicial system would be directly affected by budget cuts resulting from the huge tax breaks.
This helped to strengthen partnerships and generate new ones. One example is the alliance with the Chamber of Commerce, a former adversary of ICEFI’s proposals on progressive tax reform. The pressure exerted by ICEFI forced the legislators to provide space to openly discuss amendments to the initiative. As a result, the proposed bill supporting the unjust tax exemptions was withdrawn.