Lessons and Results of SA highlighted in National Conference

The Management Agency of the Ethiopia Social Accountability Program, Phase 2 (ESAP2) held a National Conference on 31 March and 1 April 2016under the theme, “Social Accountability Results and Lessons in Ethiopia”. The conference brought to light societal mindset change and service improvement results achieved during the program’s three years implementation in five basic public service sectors.

In his opening remarks, Advisor to the State Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation Efrem Woldeselassie said, “SA has left a long lasting impression among all stakeholders involved. Service users in the program woredas are better informed about their entitlements. Service providers have also been convinced of the fact that taking service users observations seriously can result in improved basic services. Respect, trust and mutual understanding have been key elements in this complex process.”

The advisor explained the Ethiopian government’s commitment to deepen Social Accountability initiatives with experiences gained under ESAP2. He further disclosed that the government plans to implement the third phase of the program.

Rolf Hunink, team leader of the Management Agency of ESAP2 welcomed participants and thanked the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation for its ever present support and guidance as part of the program. Describing the overall aim of the conference, Rolf said, “It is important to not just list out problems but to move forward by jointly formulating solutions to the problems raised.”

Senior Social Protection Specialist and ESAP2 task team leader at the World Bank Group, Alex Kamurase described ESAP2’s achievements as exceeding expectations. He said, “The fact that about 200,000 citizens have been directly reached and have been imparted with skills on how to constructively seek their rights and negotiate with service providers is something to be proud about.”

The conference was organized with the objective of deepening the understanding of sector ministries and other national stakeholders regarding Social Accountability so that they can support the social accountability activities that are spreading in the country under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC).

In this regard, the representative from the Ministry of Health expressed “respect and awe” for every stakeholders contribution in the SA process to improve health service delivery. He said, “during the past two days, I have had the opportunity to hear about pleasant changes realized through the implementation of SA in different zones and woredas, specifically in the health sector… Good governance is an essential and highly important agenda for the Ethiopian government. Sector ministries are engaged in this initiative. In line with this plan, the Ministry of Health has designed a good governance package that will be implemented at the community level for the next 5 years. I have managed to comprehend that most of the good governance pillars in our package can be addressed through the existing Social Accountability framework. If we can collaborate, we can reach health facilities in a significant number of woredas and achieve greater results through community engagement.”

In a similar note, a representative from the Ethiopian Roads Authority spoke about the organization’s desire to come on board the SA initiative. She said, “we are so happy with this program which alleviates our challenges. ESAP2 goes deep: facilitates arbitration, negotiation, and conflict resolution, and has brought a healthier mindset and mentality to all parties. It strengthens relationships between citizens and government: more love and understanding. Social accountability is the foundation for the democratic development agenda. Please step into our offices wherever you operate – we need to partner more.”

The conference also informed participants about the nation-wide communication strategy of the Bridging Phase between ESAP2 and a follow up program, which aims to deepen broad based attitudinal change among the public as well as the civil service. Social Accountability Expert with the Management Agency Lucia Nass said, “We have developed key messages for the public on SA, Financial Transparency and Accountability and Grievance Redress. These messages are in line with each step of the budget and planning cycle of the government. Collaboration with MoFEC and different regions is expected on how these three programs can come together and have one unified national communication campaign with the resources they have.”

The National Conference was attended by international participants that work on Social Accountability. Siapha Kamara, Chief Executive Officer for SEND – West Africa is one of these participants from Ghana who has been working on SA since 2002 in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia. He said, “the conference has been a great learning experience. The SA tools being implemented in Ethiopia are few, simple and user friendly. The fact that they are tailored to the service users and their simplicity is a plus for the project as it is empowering. Secondly, the commitment of the Ethiopian government to see SA as a tool for good governance and development is really commendable. I have also seen that capacity building has been across the board for the government and civil society organizations. This makes it much easier for them to work together. The project also creates a platform for networking between government and all state actors. Through this initiative, they can build trust on a solid foundation because to have effective SA you need to have trust between all stakeholders. I have also seen that a lot of emphasis has been given to capacity building at the grass roots level. For this reason, the potential for the project to be sustainable is quite high.”

Reflecting on the conference, Zelelew Mamo, SA Project Coordinator at Hope for Children (HFC) said, “the project’s remarkable results achieved in each sector are now being shared. I believe we should also emphasize ESAP2’s innovative ideas and processes that led to these results. The best methods of implementation that made this possible can be used as a strategy in future SA interventions.”

The event positioned Social Accountability in the good governance arena and encouraged a joint and nation-wide facilitation and communication effort, rather than isolated sector initiatives. The event also created a platform to learn from the roles of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as interlocutors and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) as actors in the SA process that have improved basic services and generated an evidence base about basic service performance for policy dialogue. In a closing remark, Bizuwork Ketete, speaking on behalf of the Development Partners that fund ESAP2 said: “CSOs are key, without them none of this would have been possible.”

Prior to the conference, field visits were organized for international participants, sector ministries and their development partners. This enabled participants to meet social accountability stakeholders, and witness the service improvement results they have achieved.

As part of the program, theatre for Social Accountability (TSA) dubbed ‘Kemetyek…’ (Because we asked…) was presented to participants. The theatre created a platform for audience engagement and testimonies from citizens, service providers and local officials in the audience who have participated in the social accountability process.

In its second day of deliberation, the conference closed with high level observations by ministries and development partners and conclusions about the relevance of SA for GTP2 service improvement and good governance objectives. A summary of the main outcomes of the conference was discussed by Dr Flectcher Tembo, SA researcher. He said: “the international community is studying the SAVI program in Nigeria, but I believe they should come and learn from Ethiopia.”

Over 200 participants including high government officials, representatives of MoFEC and regional BoFEDs, directors of sector ministries, representatives of sector ministries, international organizations working on service delivery, Development Partners, Social Accountability Committee members and members of the press, took part in the conference which is co-hosted by the Management Agency (MA) of ESAP2 and MoFEC.

For detail information, please visit http://esap2.org.et/esap2-national-conference/