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Citizen engagement and deepening democracy

Empowering Society, 3 February 2012

Joanna Wheeler

on 3 October 2013

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Transcript of Citizen engagement and deepening democracy

Citizen engagement and democratic governance
Citizen engagement can lead to both negative and positive outcomes
Outcomes of citizen engagement
The type of
Practices of
Local associations
Social movements and campaigns
Social movements and campaigns
Social movements and campaigns
Formal spaces for participation
It takes time
Citizenship is learned through action
BUT...citizen mobilisation is not immune to every-day realities of clientilism, patronage and local politics
Collective action works best
Citizens are more than consumers
Legislative & policy change is not enough
Pressure from 'above' and 'below' is essential for strengthening accountability frameworks
Citizen engagement supports reformers on the inside
BUT...movements for accountability must have legitimacy
The right to create new rights is essential for democracy to evolve
Rights are made real by concerted citizen action
Social mobilisation extends and deepens democracy
Increased civic and political knowledge
Increased dependency on a few intermediary experts
Greater sense of empowerment and agency
Disempowerment and reduced sense of agency
Increased capacities for collective action
New capacities used for 'negative' purposes
Greater access to state services and resources
Deepening of networks and solidarities
Denial of state services and resources
Lack of accountability and representation in networks
Enhanced state responsiveness and accountability
New forms of participation
Tokenistic or 'captured' forms of participation
Violent or coercive state response
Greater realisation of rights
Inclusion of new actors and issues in public spaces
Greater social cohesion across groups
Increased horizontal conflict and violence
Social, economic and political reprisals
Reinforcement of social hierarchies and exclusion
Associations can be schools of democracy
Associations can challenge established hierarchies...though within limits
Imparting knowledge is not enough...a strong social mobilisation ethos is essential
Coalitions with media, intellectuals and allies within the state are most effective
Success is more than policy change - persistence is key
Engaging at multiple levels increases chances of success...but is context dependent
Language and style are crucial to avoid exclusion
Clear legal & institutional context
Without effective mobilisation, such forums can be tokenistic
Outcomes of citizen engagement
6 Key Factors:
Factors for analysis
Responsive and accountable states
6 NGOs all with group-based strategies; ranging in approach from pure microfinance to social mobilisation for rights
The number of significant impacts, for both governance and economic development work, decline consistently from the social mobilisation end of the spectrum to the microfinance end
Case study: Bangladesh
Case Study: Angola
At national level, little progress has been made towards democratisation since the end of the war, despite much donor funding and pressure, leading to assumptions that little progress can be made under the current regime
However, local associations that emerged from post-conflict reconstruction, such as displaced persons groups and water committees have been able to group together and build effective working relationships with local government and spaces for participation have opened up
Case Study: Nigeria
The Governor of Abuja was implementing a urban regeneration scheme without popular consultation which was causing serious popular discontent
The popular outcry against the scheme strengthened the voice of a group of senior civil servants who had been internally lobbying for greater popular consultation for some time
Consequently a series of formal and informal spaces for citizen-government dialogue were established, including Town Hall Meetings, public radio phone-ins, 'meet the Minister' events and a telephone helpline
Low-income council-flat tenants in Mombasa campaigning for housing rights
Kenya constitution does not recognise right to adequate housing although they have signed the ICESCR
Group prefers to use equivalent vernacular phrases rather than internationalised 'rights language'
Have used a range of strategies including direct mass action, legal action, alliance building and circumventing corrupt local councillors by appealing directly to more powerful officials
Outcomes have been successful resistance to land-grabbing, eviction and higher rent
National housing policy now being developed
Case Study: Kenya
Case Study: Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa
Successfully campaigned for public provision of ARVs in South Africa and right to produce generic drugs
TAC deployed highly effective strategies of mobilization at local, national and global levels that can best be described as ‘grassroots globalisation’ or ‘globalisation from below’; these strategies drew on litigation and media campaigns alongside grassroots mobilisation
Case Study: Brazil
Indigenous women campaigning for right of access to forests
Used traditional self-help groups 'mutirões' to mobilise the population
Built alliances with politicians and lawyers and successeded in getting municipal laws passed recognising their rights
meanings of citizen participation
Overcoming poverty
Challenging power
Deepening democracy
From Users and Choosers to Makers and Shapers
We don’t have much control, and what control we do have isn’t over much
Narrow and Shallow Democracy (Wright 2010)
How to broaden democracy?
How to deepen democracy?
Intensify democratic accountability beyond formal mechanisms (elections)
Make more aspects of society/people's lives democratic
Gaventa's powercube
empowering society
Joanna Wheeler
4 October 2013

Blurring the boundaries between state and society
The meanings of citizen:
what does it mean to you?

Inclusive and
Full transcript