Rabat, March 15, 2012 – Civil society organizations and representatives of some governments and the private sector from across the Arab World agreed today to launch a region-wide network dedicated to fostering the role of citizens in the governance of their countries and finding ways together to hold governments accountable.
A draft charter for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability – Arab World (ANSA-AW) was discussed by Egyptian, Jordanian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Palestinian, Tunisian and Yemeni teams all gathered in Rabat to articulate next steps in this important space that has opened up for citizen participation following a wave of political change across the region.
“We’re on the minibus!” was the agreed refrain among 90 or so participants who spent four days sharing country experiences, learning about the concept of social accountability and, more importantly, figuring out ways to implement this concept of back home.
“Networks appear and subside but for us ANSA-AW’s sustainability is key,” said Care Egypt’s Deputy Country Director Hazem Fahmy. “It will depend on two major components: the network’s ownership by its members as to its vision and mandate, and for participants to be independent and effective social accountability players both locally and regionally.”
The founding charter for ANSA-AW remains draft because details of the governance structure and the shape of the various representative groups still needs to be hammered out after hours of late-night debate. The network is supported by a World Bank grant to CARE Egypt as the facilitator of the emergent regional body.
“Civil society is a very important actor in helping mobilize communities and holding governments accountable for their actions and policies,” said Junaid Ahmad, Director for Sustainable Development in the MENA region of the World Bank. “I see ANSA Arab World as an important actor that can bridge the communication and interaction gap between citizens and their states.”
ANSA-AW is part of a World Bank-supported global network for social accountability and its creation responds to regional demands for better governance and greater transparency in the Middle East and North Africa. Consisting of a regional network of practitioners, it will focus on participatory governance and social accountability aimed at supporting active citizen participation in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring of public policies.
“The power of social accountability is in collaboration among citizens and the state to take joint responsibility for improving the lives of all,” said Randi Ryterman, Director, Governance, Innovation and Fragile States from the World Bank Institute.
During the debate in Rabat, participants were enthusiastic that the network could help create a wide-spread culture of social accountability in the Arab World building this as a common practice among citizens and in their dialogue with governments.
Their mission statement in the draft charter declared: “A network in the Arab World based on effective partnership between government, civil society, private sector and the media to implement social accountability through awareness raising and capacity building while guaranteeing the rights, freedoms and responsibilities to achieve social justice.”