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Malawi

Citizen Participation (MW0002)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Malawi National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development

Support Institution(s): Office of the President and Cabinet, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Tourism; Ministry of Gender, Women and Children Affairs; Ministry of, Sports and Culture, Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development and various city, municipal and local councils. National Initiative for Civic Education-(NICE), Council for Non Governmental Organizations-(CONGOMA), Citizens for Justice-(CFJ), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace-(CCJP), Institute for Policy Interaction-(IPI), Ministry of Local Government , National Libraries and the National Integrity Platform

Policy Areas

Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Malawi End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Malawi Progress Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Status quo: There are mechanisms for engaging citizen’s democratic process through regular elections, participation in local government development planning and consultations on policy frameworks. However, the levels of citizen’s participation are still limited and the government does not adequately reflect the issues raised by citizens in its final policies and decisions that affect them. Apart from limited consultations, there is lack of mechanisms for providing feedback on performance duty bearers and government.

Main objective: Create awareness and empower citizens to promote equal, inclusive and informed participation of citizens to seek increased transparency, accountability and good governance.

Brief description: Informed participation is essential for thriving democratic state. Citizen participation in a functioning democracy requires that they are fully engaged in the processes of identifying their needs and priorities and feedback is provided on performance. This ensures that citizens become partners with their governments and other service providers in a manner that promotes good governance and human rights. If citizens fail to actively participate, there is a danger that policies, programmes and interventions implemented at community levels will be simply imposed upon them. Such top-bottom approaches more often fail to realistically and accurately incorporate the most pressing needs of these communities

Challenges: Increasing space for citizen participation to ensure that inputs from service users are obtained. Such inputs will enable duty bearers to be more informed about the wishes of the communities they service. This will create opportunities for better decisions being made regarding what needs to done to improve the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of service provisions in communities that have diverse social needs, improved promotion and protection of human rights and deepening of good governance.

Intended results: This commitment will foster effective participation and engagement between citizens and decision-makers in order to strengthen transparency, accountability, increase responsiveness and encourage political representatives to address people’s concerns in an open manner. It is anticipated that increasing public participation in local governance and democratic processes will ensure that citizens are involved in actual decision-making on issues that affect them and hold duty bearers accountable. It will speak to the realization of Section 12(1)(c) of the Malawian Constitution, which provides that the authority to exercise power of State is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent Government and informed democratic choice

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Citizen Participation

Commitment Text:

Informed participation is essential for thriving democratic state. Citizen participation in a functioning democracy requires that they are fully engaged in the processes of identifying their needs and priorities and feedback is provided on performance. This ensures that citizens become partners with their governments and other service providers in a manner that promotes good governance and human rights. If citizens fail to actively participate, there is a danger that policies, programmes and interventions implemented at community levels will be simply imposed upon them. Such top-bottom approaches more often fail to realistically and accurately incorporate the most pressing needs of these communities.

Milestones:

2.1. Annual change in knowledge and attitudes among citizens leading to demand for their rights, services and accountability

2.2. Proportion of citizens expressing satisfaction with results of their participation in development and democratic processes

2.3. Proportion of the population confirming having received feedback following their consultation or participation

Responsible institution: Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development

Supporting institutions: Office of the President and the Cabinet, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Tourism, Ministry of Gender, Women and Children Affairs, Ministry of Sports and Culture, Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development, National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE), Council for Non Governmental Organizations (CONGOMA), Citizens for Justice (CFJ), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), Ministry of Local Government, National Libraries, and the National Integrity Platform

Start date: Not specified

End date: Not specified

Context and Objectives

Currently, the level of civic participation in Malawi is low and opportunities to participate in consultations are limited. For example, the 2017 Afrobarometer survey for Malawi found that the vast majority of respondents did not contact a local government councilor, a member of Parliament, or official of a government agency about an important problem or to give their views.[49] Malawi received 15 out of 100 possible points for public participation in the International Budget Partnership 2017 Open Budget Survey, and the country “provides few opportunities for the public to engage in the budget process.”[50] The government of Malawi has prioritized improving civic participation through several long-term initiatives. Civic participation is a focal point in Malawi’s long-term development strategy known as Vision 2020.[51] Malawi’s Public Service Charter calls for the government to “ensure mechanisms of participation and consultation involving the public, and all other stakeholders are effectively put in place.”[52]  

This commitment seeks to improve the levels of civic participation by increasing citizens’ understanding of consultation opportunities, increasing the level of public satisfaction with consultation, and increasing the proportion of the public who receive feedback following their consultation. The commitment’s milestones are indicators of successful implementation (i.e. changes in public attitudes towards and satisfaction with participation), as opposed to verifiable actions to be implemented. Therefore, the specificity is marked as low. The commitment does not explain how citizen feedback on consultations will be collected or how consultations will be incorporated into policy. While public participation is important for determining priority areas for aid and the level of public satisfaction among aid recipients, the commitment’s milestones and activities as written are vague in their description of how public participation will influence policy to have more than a minor potential impact on open government.

Completion

Due to the lack of specific indicators for this commitment’s milestones, it is difficult to determine the accurate level of implementation. While the public trust National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) has implemented various participation projects in Malawi, it is unclear if these projects are related to the commitment in the action plan.

Next Steps

Improving opportunities for citizens to participate in decision-making processes is an important long-term strategy to ensure Malawi’s future development projects are based on citizen needs and feedback. Future action plans could include participation commitments with more measurable indicators of implementation, such as training specific numbers of officials in participation best practices and providing citizen forums with the ability to formally hold government accountable.

[51] Malawi Vision 2020, http://www.sdnp.org.mw/malawi/vision-2020/chapter-1.htm#1.1.3 Citizens' Participation

IRM End of Term Status Summary

2. Citizens Participation

Commitment Text:

Informed participation is essential for thriving democratic state. Citizen participation in a functioning democracy requires that they are fully engaged in the processes of identifying their needs and priorities and feedback is provided on performance. This ensures that citizens become partners with their governments and other service providers in a manner that promotes good governance and human rights. If citizens fail to actively participate, there is a danger that policies, programmes and interventions implemented at community levels will be simply imposed upon them. Such top-bottom approaches more often fail to realistically and accurately incorporate the most pressing needs of these communities.

Milestones:

2.1. Annual change in knowledge and attitudes among citizens leading to demand for their rights, services and accountability

2.2. Proportion of citizens expressing satisfaction with results of their participation in development and democratic processes

2.3. Proportion of the population confirming having received feedback following their consultation or participation

Responsible Institution: Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development

Supporting Institutions: Office of the President and the Cabinet, Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Tourism, Ministry of Gender, Women and Children Affairs, Ministry of Sports and Culture, Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development, National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE), Council for Non Governmental Organizations (CONGOMA), Citizens for Justice (CFJ), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), Ministry of Local Government, National Libraries, and the National Integrity Platform

Start Date: Not Specified

End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to raise awareness of and promote equal, inclusive and informed participation of citizens to seek increased transparency, accountability and good governance. The commitment was a result of several studies, including one that showed that most citizens did not contact a local government councillor, a Member of Parliament, nor a government agency official about an important problem or even to give their views. Afrobaromter Round 7, Summary of Results for Malawi, 2017, http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Summary%20of%20results/mlw_r7_sor_eng_09102017.pdf.

Status

Midterm: Not Started

The IRM Progress Report noted that the commitment’s milestones and activities were vaguely formulated in describing how public participation will influence policy. The completion level was therefore difficult to accurately assess.

End of term: Not Started

By the end of the action plan, few activities had been carried out for this commitment. The civil society members who had been involved in a similar project bythe German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) that covered nine districts emphasised the importance of this commitment. Interview with Mr Reinfold Mwangonde, who was Executive Director for Citizen for Justice Network (CFJ) as the Action Plan was being formulated in 2017. However, the government point of contact mentioned issues related to resources and the fact that the programme copied the approach of GIZ but did not take into consideration the required resources to fully implement it due to difficulties of including the project in the budget. Interview with the Malawi Government Point of Contact, Mr Wezi Kayira.

Did It Open Government?

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

Due to the vagueness of the proposed activities, this commitment did not lead to improved levels of civic participation. Apart from limited consultations, there is a lack of mechanisms for providing feedback on the performance of duty bearers and local government. A number of areas in this commitment were similar to the project implemented by the public trust National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE), including strengthening democratic processes and good governance, and deepening citizens’ voices to ensure that Malawians not only claim their democratic rights and hold duty bearers accountable for their performance, but also play an active role in democratic decision-making processes at all levels. http://www.nice.mw/index.php/about-us/goals-and-objectives However, as mentioned above, the commitment lacked proper indicators to assess its implementation.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing this report, Malawi has not started to develop its next action plan.

Improving opportunities for citizens to participate in decision-making processes is an important long-term strategy to ensure Malawi’s future development projects are based on citizen needs and feedback. The government could consider including participation commitments with more measurable indicators of implementation, such as training specific numbers of officials in participation best practices and providing citizen forums with the ability to formally hold government accountable.