The negotiation of a new political order is underway which may for the first time lead to the inclusion of all Nepal’s diverse caste, ethnic and regional identity groups, as well as women from all groups. Organized civil society now has an enhanced role in helping to put in place stable, responsive and accountable state institutions. In this situation, strengthening civil society organizations to play a constructive role is a key contribution that can be made by the development partners in Nepal.
Limited transparency and accountability undermines governmental capacity for service delivery and hampers the implementation of important reforms. Issues of exclusion are especially significant at the district and village levels, with vulnerable groups poorly represented in decision making bodies, prejudiced in their ability to access services and unable to voice their concerns.
Nepal has a long tradition of civil society organizations. Their effectiveness, however, is constrained by problems of fragmentation, politicization, limited capacity, insufficient coordination, and uneven links with the state. Their participation in governance reforms is also hindered by their limited knowledge of, and capacity for promoting transparency and accountability in public sector programs.
There is a broad consensus among political actors in Nepal and development partners that improved governance is the key to setting Nepal on a path to inclusive pro-poor social and economic development. Good governance requires not only strong and effective government institutions but also active and engaged citizens and civil society organizations. There is a need to promote both the “supply” and “demand” side of good governance, and to link them together.
Two Pronged Approach
Social accountability refers to approaches that enhance the ability of citizens, civil society organizations, and other non-state actors to hold the state accountable and that also enhance the capacity of the state to become more transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs and demands of citizens. Over the past decade an impressive array of social accountability approaches and tools has evolved globally. These practices have been well honed in countries where they are widely implemented and have become powerful instruments to underpin “demand for good governance”. The World Bank is now supporting the use of such approaches in the programs it supports across the world.
The Program for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN) is designed to provide practical training and action learning aimed at developing the capacity of civil society and government actors to promote social accountability in Nepal. It is hoped that the impact of these initiatives, over time, will be to promote more accountable, honest, transparent and responsive government agencies delivering quality public services. The program has been supporting social accountability activities in three focal areas: (i) public financial management; (ii) municipal governance, and; (iii) public service delivery.