A Toe-hold for Localizing the SDGs: Top 10 things we learned at the HLPF

From July 10-19, 2017 world leaders gathered at the 2017 High Level Political Forum to review progress on the 2030 Agenda – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (See the 2017 Report here). This year, the focus was on poverty, hunger, health, gender equality, infrastructure and the seas.

Here are my takeaways, looking through our “bottom-up” development lens:

  1. Localizing the SDGs: Some countries are beginning to take it seriously. A new report pointed out “At the moment, only 38 of the 63 national reviews … mention subnational government participation in monitoring mechanisms… Just 12 VNRs included data on the proportion of women elected to local government, despite this being a proposed indicator.”
  2. Youth Rising: (See photo!) It seemed like half the participants I saw were under 30, and many nations brought youth delegates. Despite there being very little focus on youth employment, it’s clear youth are determined to influence this process. Youth were given some opportunities to provide interventions during official programs of HLPF, but their representation on panels was lacking and their participation at HLPF arguably tokenistic rather than formally included.
  3. Women must be #InTheRoom: Grassroots women’s organization report that they are are consistently left out of decision-making processes. Some key issues, such as Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and Gender-based Violence, seem to be getting worse, despite pockets of improvements. NGO CSW compiled this useful toolkit for NGOs and Women’s Human Rights Activists in their advocacy at the UN.
  4. Where is the Data Revolution? Despite years of focus by researchers, the world continues to lack the means for gathering data on most of the SDG targets. This is particularly troubling for community-led development, for which no localized indicators have even been proposed under targets 16.6 (strong institutions) and 16.7 (participatory decision making), according to the SDG16 data initiative. There is, however, an overall index and dashboard system which shows, for example, the USA just behind Argentina!
  5. LGBTQ+ Rights: The SDG mantra of “leave no one behind” did not explicitly speak of LGBTQ+ individuals – long a taboo subject in international affairs – but the conversation is now open and present at the HLPF, often in the context of gender equality “getting beyond binary.” In September 2016, then-Secretary General Ban called for LGBT equality.
  6. Migrants and Refugees. Community-led Development has much to contribute to the growing number of displaced persons, migrants and refugees, whose contributions to economic growth appear prominently in the SDGs. Yet, HLPF country reports largely ignored this enormous population. We hosted an event with Church World Service that directly addressed the gaps and challenges in meetings the SDGs for migrants and refugees. The outcome? A need to #GetRealYo about the migration crisis.
  7. Civil Society: In the face of closing space for civil society, the International Forum of National NGO Platforms calls for a coordinated global effort to build the capacity of civil society to play their key role in achieving the SDGs.
  8. Face to Face: One big advantage of the HLPF is that civil society actors have a realistic chance of meeting with the senior government officials from their countries – without all the restrictions when heads of state are in town.
  9. Yay for Web Portals: Kudos to the UN for managing an up-to-date calendar that coordinated both official and side events. The HLPF saw the unveiling of numerous new SDG-related web portals, including MyWorld2030.org, WorldWeWant2030.org, delivery2030.org (for gender equality), Local2030.org, and sdg2advocacyhub.org.
  10. A Bumpy Ride to Partnership: No great clarity emerged for achieving the vision of a “revitalized global partnership” with key roles for the private sector and domestic resource mobilization. Solving the problem of global tax avoidance and illegal financial flows is clearly the top priority. Aid levels increased in 2016, even without counting increased refugee costs. Leadership for corporate involvement continues to depend on a very small number of champions. The UN Global Compact offers businesses a set of tools here.

Measuring SDG16 Locally

Peace, justice, and strong institutions. Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16) aims to achieve these objectives at all levels of society. The SDG16 Data Initiative released its 2017 Global Report, which included a progress report on SDG16, along with calls for incorporating more ‘people-centered’ metrics.

Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) is an organization that offers over 350 indicators and indices used to measure democracy. The SDG16 Data Initiative 2017 Global Report underscores the need to further incorporate these indicators in evaluating target 16.6 and 16.7 at the local level.

Target 16.6 aims to develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels. The SDG16 Data Initiative 2017 Global Report measures this goal using primary government expenditures as a proportion of original approved budget.  However, the report suggests, in the future, evaluating ‘people-centered accountability’ through, “[indicators] which relate to the ways that citizens, civil society, the media, and other public institutions are able to oversee and hold the government to account.”

V-Dem provides on index on accountability, in addition to indicators for civil liberty, civil society, and the media. Specifically, the accountability index includes metrics for vertical accountability, the extent to which citizens have the power to hold their government accountable. Similarly, the civil liberty, civil society, and media indicators evaluate government harassment, censorship, and direct consultation. Combined, these indicators illustrate a clearer picture of the way central and local institutions interact, and are held accountable at all levels.

Target 16.7 strives to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels. While the 2017 Global Report examined proportions of representation in public institutions and the amount of people who believe decision making in their country is inclusive and responsive, it also recommends future incorporation of localized measurements.

The report on Target 16.7 calls from enriched analysis on inclusive and representative decision making by, “…adding people’s perceptions and experiences of whether candidates are prevented from running; whether media coverage favors a particular party; and whether journalists provide balanced coverage.”

V-Dem offers informations on these indicators through their Elections and Media indices. Indicators 3.3 and 3.31 measure restrictions on candidates due to government intimidation or based on ethnicity, race, religion, or language. Under the media index, indicators 13.6 and 13.11 evaluate political bias and representative reporting in the media. These indicators will aid the SDG16 Data Initiative to measure the localization of Target 16.7 in future Global Reports.

It is important for the SDG16 Data Initiative to incorporate V-Dem indices and indicators into their Global Reports. V-Dem indicators allow for the analysis of SDG16 targets at the local level, and provide a better idea of where we stand in the process of localization. SDG16 must be met at all levels to truly achieve peace, justice, and strong institutions.


Featured image courtesy of AGORA.

Putting Public Services to the Test

In “Do Public Services Actually Reach the Public?”, a new methodology for assessing the allocation of funds and responsibilities to local governments was explored. With this methodology in mind, I set out to put the local public sector (LPS) in developing countries to the test. After careful evaluation, it is clear that a lack of decentralization and transparency can hinder the ability of governments to provide public services to all citizens.

Note: While LPSI focuses on four areas to profile LPS -organization/structure, function, finance, and institutions-the following report utilizes organization and finance most frequently. This is a result of available information and translation.


chart (12)

The graphic above depicts a public sector expenditure profile of eleven developing countries. It is clear that central governments are overwhelmingly the source of public sector expenditure, with subnational governments only contributing over 20% of expenditure in five countries. The question then arises; how much of public sector expenditure is spent at the local level? 

While some information about subnational spending is available, very little exists at the local government level. Few countries make this information available online to the public. This lack of transparency poses a challenge to assessing the LPS. Of the original eleven countries under consideration, two possessed the level of budget transparency necessary: India and Indonesia.  


India overview
Currency in Rupees (crore)

In India, only a small fraction of LPS expenditure comes directly from the central government. While the central government contributes to nearly 50% of the public sector expenditure, only about 2% (shown in grey) is used for direct local public service delivery. A majority of local public services are paid for by state governments, with less than 10% provided by local (rural) governments.

India LG per capita
Source: Local government websites

India is known for its commitment to the Open Budget Initiative. However, of the 29 states that comprise India, only nine offered a functional government website, translated budget documents, and/or public access to financial records at the local (rural) level.

To examine the reach of the LPS in these nine states, panchayat (or rural) government tiers were considered. The results, illustrated by the graph above, demonstrate discrepancies in per capita spending.

At first glance, it appears that village level governments, which are closest to rural communities, largely contribute to LPS expenditure. However, it is evident that densely populated states spend significantly less on public services per person than less densely populated areas. Sikkim accounts for less than 1% of the national population, yet its local government spends 672 rupees more per citizen than in the most densely populated state, Bihar (8%).

chart (11)
Source: OGD Platform India, 2015

Further, the expenditure of local government tiers pales in comparison to the amount spent on the public sector by state governments. At the local level, Sikkim’s per capita expenditure is a little less than 800 rupees. At the state level, per capita expenditure is over 7000 rupees. In the remaining 8 states with local per capita information, the local level per capita expenditure is around 200 rupees, while the state level per capita expenditure is 1000 rupees or more.

Shown by the graph above, the three states with the highest per capita expenditure, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, and Sikkim, each comprise less than 1% of the national population. Meanwhile, the three most densely populated states, Bihar (8%), Maharashtra (8.5%), and Uttar Pradesh (15%), represent three of the lowest per capita expenditures. 

The lack of decentralized funds and responsibilities is likely a factor that inhibits India’s ability to provide local public services.


chart (4)
Currency in Rupiah (trillions)

In Indonesia, while subnational LPS expenditure accounts for more than 60% of total LPS spending, only 0.9% comes from village level governments. At nearly 32% of the total LPS expenditure, Indonesia’s central government directly provides more public services than regency and village governments combined. This lack of decentralization poses a challenge to ensuring that these public services actually reach the public.

chart (5).png
Source: State government websites

The graph above provides evidence for the effects of largely centralized funds in Indonesia. Central and South Kalimantan, provinces that each account for less than 2% of the total population, spend more per person than the most densely populated provinces, West Java (18%) and East Java (15%). Further, four out of five provinces with the highest per capita expenditure (Central Kalimantan, Jambi, South Kalimantan, and Yogyakarta) comprise only 5% of the national population combined.

Unlike India, local government financial statements are not readily available online in Indonesia. Of the 37 provinces in Indonesia, only 14 offered functioning government websites, translated financial information, and and/or public access to budget documents. Regency and village governments lack their own official websites, and therefore financial statements at these levels are nearly impossible to access. Thus, it is difficult to determine the level that public services actually reach.

Note: Some provincial governments do accept information requests. The public is able to submit a request for information such as budget reports and other official documents. However, access to government portals requires a password in some cases, and there is no guaranteed response time.

Looking Forward

Decentralization is key. If public services are to truly reach the public, then we must empower local governments to provide them. LPS spending by local governments must be increased to ensure that services are provided to even the most rural villages. The World Bank agrees that decentralization is a promising method to improving public service delivery, but institutional arrangements will affect the success of implementation. Accountability, transparency, and access to public information are essential for effective decentralization.

In order to reap the greatest benefits of decentralization, budget transparency must be a priority. Proper record keeping and public access to information will allow citizens to hold their local government accountable. Updated government websites, translation of budget documents, and public access to financial records are essential to ensuring the delivery of public services.

The CLD movement aims to empower communities to be leaders in their own development. Decentralization moves funds and decision-making closer to local communities, essentially giving citizens more of a voice. CLD supporters should encourage transparency and accountability in developing countries to assure that decentralization leads to more efficient local public service delivery.

Featured image courtesy of The Hunger Project


United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Agence française de développement (AFD), 2016: “Subnational Governments Around the World: Structure and Finance”

Open Government Data (OGD) Platform India, 2015: “Per capita total expenditure from 2007-08 to 2013-14”

Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), n.d.: “The local government system in India”

International Monetary Fund Government Finance Statistics (GFS), 2015: “India”

Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), 2016: “India-Federal Country”

Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), 2016: “Indonesia-Unitary Country”

Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), 2016: “OECD Economic Surveys: Indonesia”

Shah, Anwar, 2006: “Local Governance in Developing Countries”

Bank Indonesia, 2015: “Economic Report on Indonesia”

Reserve Bank of India, 2017: “State Finances: A Study of Budgets”

Ministry of Panchayati Raj, 2014: “13th Finance Commission Report”

Government of Himachal Pradesh, 2014: “Report of the Fourth State Finance Commission”

Bora, P.K., Dispur, Guwahati, 2012: “Report of the Fourth Assam State Finance Commission”

Government of Bihar, 2016: “Final Report of the Fifth State Finance Commission”

Government of Gujarat, n.d.: “Statement of Income and Expenditure of District Panchayats of Gujarat From 2006-07 to 2010-11”

Government of Gujarat, n.d.: “Income & Expenditure of all District Panchayats”

Government of Gujarat, n.d.: “Income & Expenditure of all Taluka Panchayats (2012-2013)”

Government of Gujarat, n.d.: “Statement of Income and Expenses of Village Panchayats 2012-13”

Government of Haryana, 2008: “Report of 3rd State Finance Commission”

Panchayati Raj Department, Government of Odisha, n.d.: “Annual Activity Report of Panchayati Raj Department for the Year 2016-17 [Panchayat Samiti]”

Panchayati Raj Department, Government of Odisha, n.d.: “Annual Activity Report of Panchayati Raj Department for the Year 2016-17 [Zilla Parisada]”

Government of Sikkim, 2013: ”Report of the 4th State Finance Commission, Sikkim for the Award period 2015-2020

Government of Tamil Nadu, n.d.: “Third State Finance Commission-Summary of Recommendations”

Government of Rajasthan, n.d.: ”Rajasthan State Budget 2016-17”

Government of Bali, n.d.: “Public Information Collection”

Government of Banten, 2014: “Reports of Realization of SKPD Budget”

Government of Central Java, 2016: “Report on the Realization of Central Java Provincial Budget Year 2016”

Finance Bureau, Central Kalimantan Provincial Secretariat, n.d.: “Budget Transparency”

Government of East Java, 2015: “Financial Statements”

Government of Gorontalo, n.d.: “Regional Financial Transparency”

Government of Jambi, 2013: “Budget  Revenue & Regional Shopping”

Government of Jambi, 2013: “Summary of PPKD Budget  Document Implementation (DPA)”

Government of Jambi, n.d.: “Summary of Document Implementation of Budget (DPA) SKPD”

Government of Lampung, n.d.: “Budget Management Transparency 2016”

Government of North Sulawesi, n.d.: “Budget Transparency 2017”

Government of North Sumatra, n.d.: “Budget Utilization”

Government of North Sumatra, n.d.: “List of Public Information of North Sumatra Province”

Government of South Sulawesi, 2013: “Summary of Realization APBD”

Government of South Sulawesi, n.d.: “Document Finance- LRA”

Government of West Java, 2015: “Budget Management Transparency Year 2016”

Government of Yogyakarta, 2015: “Performance Report Year 2014”

10 Ways to #ShiftThePower

How can we track progress on “localizing the SDGs” and building strong communities?

I had a striking experience this Spring in rural Benin (photo above). Young villagers were learning to use the web at their Hunger Project epicenter. What were they looking up? How to access their local government — information still all too rare, and information that is power.

July 10, 2017 began the second UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Forty-four nations have submitted reports on their progress towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the focus on Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.

From our perspective in the Movement for Community-led Development, the key is to shift the power from top-down to bottom-up. Countries must put resources and decision making in the hands of local communities. In the words of Pope Francis, we need to empower people to be “dignified agents of their own development.”

Is this happening? Are grassroots people gaining power? And how would we know?

One good sign is that many of the 44 countries are putting it in their Voluntary National Reports (VNRs). The VNRs cite planning and consultations with local governments and civil society, and making “localizing the SDGs” a priority. For the first time in years, the Human Development Report 2016 writes about fiscal decentralization.  Yet grassroots women’s organizations and youth continue to express frustration at their lack of inclusion — particularly given their critical roles in society.

Here is a top 10 list of best practices that some countries and donors have begun applying — and we believe all should follow suit. Click on the links to learn more.

  1. Grassroots Women’s Leadership and Organizations. The most important place to #shiftthepower is to strengthen the collective voices of women as agents of change in their communities by funding women’s organizations and providing leadership training to women who’ve never before had that opportunity. Women are on the front lines of ending hunger and poverty, yet a tiny share of aid supports these critical organizations.
  2. Young women’s cooperatives. Recent commitments to women’s entrepreneurship are wonderful, yet only a small fraction of women want to be entrepreneurs. The best pathway for broad-based economic progress for women is through investing in their cooperatives, particularly for young women.
  3. Citizen Charters. This simple device informs citizens of the standards they have a right to expect in the full set of public services, and how to access them. Afghanistan is in the process of transforming its highly successful but narrowly focused community-driven National Solidarity Program into a comprehensive community-led development program based on Citizen Charters.
  4. A Fair Share of Public Resources. The lowest income countries tend to allocate a far smaller share of public resources to local governments than do wealthier countries, yet a growing number of countries such as Kenya have committed to rapidly reverse this trend.
  5. Community Philanthropy. Impoverished communities need not only depend on public funds — many communities establishing their own Community Foundations and tapping into the desires of community members and their own diaspora to invest their own resources in improving lives.
  6. Social Capital. Aid has never been the primary resource for development — it has always been people power — the hard work of women and men to improve their own lives. “Social Capital” comprises the organizations and linkages people have which leverage their efforts, and there is a resurgence of evidence in the process of building and measuring social capital.
  7. Bottom-up BudgetingThere is now a wealth of evidence that mobilizing citizens to directly allocate a share of the government budget pays enormous dividends in improved services, transparency and accountability.
  8. Data for the People. National quality of life surveys do not empower communities to set their own priorities and track their own progress. Proponents of community-led development have devised numerous innovations — community score cards, citizen report cards, and community-level household surveys.
  9. The Future for NGOs. As civil society has gained influence, some governments are cracking down, particularly on “foreign-funded” NGOs. Do international NGOs (INGOs) have a future, and what is it? Civil society, like a free press, will always be needed to help people hold their governments to account. Civil society must be locally led — backed up by global networks and INGOs. NGOs have a competitive advantage in community mobilization, process facilitation, training, and capacity building — a role that many governments see as partners rather than opponents.
  10. District Coordination. The “middle” level of government — the county or district — is often where local community aspirations can access the technical resources of government and the mainstream economy. Monthly district coordination meetings among NGOs, academia and government departments can work strategically to truly ensure all communities are empowered to achieve the SDGs.


Devolution in Kenya: Gender and Public Participation Dimension


The World Bank hails the devolution process in Kenya as one of the most ambitious decentralization efforts in the world. Since 2013, counties have been allocated an increasingly generous portion of the total annual government expenditure, currently standing above the minimum 15 percent threshold. Historically marginalized regions have benefited from the resource allocation to prioritize citizen needs. For instance, Marsabit county built its first tarmac road since independence, thanks to county government resources. (Kipchirchir, 2016) The county government also sunk boreholes and constructed dams and water pans that cut distance traveled by constituents in search of water from 70km to 20km. (Muchui, 2016) One goal of devolution was to establish and guarantee that citizens are fully involved in the governance processes. Positive economic impacts aside, public participation under devolution in Kenya faces some challenges: county governments have failed to carry out adequate civic education; insufficient dissemination of information; inadequate entrenchment of public participation in county laws; and lack of a framework for sharing innovation and best practices.


In August 2010, a 67 percent majority of Kenyans voted to enact a new constitution after a reform process that had lasted five years. (Nation, 2010) The constitution elevated the place of the people, “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya… The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.” (National Council for Law Reporting, 2010) Among the provisions of the new constitution was the establishment of a devolved system of 47 county governments with both executive and legislative functions and a bicameral house (national assembly and senate). (Kimenyi, 2013) The devolved system of government was envisioned as a tool to bring the power closer to the people, expand the political space, and “enhance the  participation of people in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them”. (National Council for Law Reporting, 2010, Article 174(c ) )

In March 2013, Kenyans voted for the first time for 47 governors and their deputies, women representatives to the national assembly, senators and members of county assembly. These new counties, headed by the governor with oversight from members of county assembly (MCAs) would be in charge of some functions such as health care, pre-primary education, and maintenance of local roads. (Kimenyi, 2013) Since then, the counties have seen varying degrees of success in distributing resources, reducing marginalization, enhancing national unity and intensifying public participation. The proceeding will focus on the place of public participation and women in leadership as contemplated in the constitution and in law.

Women in leadership

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for equal rights among citizens of both genders. Article 27 goes further to protect representation of women in leadership “…the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” (National Council for Law Reporting, 2010) This essentially assures the place of women in leadership, a protection from past discrimination. It is for this reason that the election of March 2013 saw Kenyans vote 47 women representatives to the national assembly. However, no single woman was elected as a senator or governor, and only 6% of the more than 1400 elected members of county assembly (MCA) were women. (NGEC, 2014) These legislative bodies, therefore, resorted to nominating women in order to fulfill the two-thirds gender rules.

A 2016 rapid assessment performed by CREAW Kenya, a nonprofit that advocates for women’s rights, revealed that the role women play in leadership is still limited. The assessment was carried out in Nyeri and Meru counties. It showed that the respondents were unaware of the leadership positions that were available to women for contestation. For instance, only one woman in a sample of 90 mentioned that she could run for the presidency. (CREAW Kenya, 2016) Further, the study shows that most respondents indicated being aware that women could participate in MCA and Member of Parliament positions, but fewer than a third indicated that women could contest for positions of governor and senator. (CREAW Kenya, 2016) The major challenges mentioned by women hindering their participation in leadership include family responsibilities, violence and insecurity, lack of confidence in their abilities, lack of awareness of positions available, lack of resources and cultural norms that discourage women from seeking leadership opportunities.

Legal and constitutional framework for public participation

In January 2016, the Ministry of Devolution and Planning in conjunction with the autonomous Council of Governors published guidelines for improving public participation in governance. The document noted that though the constitution provided for public participation in all matters concerning them, there didn’t exist any national guidelines on how to go about it. This left county governments to engage in tokenistic participation which “deprived the public the ability to engage with trust at every stage, to ensure development of sound policies and quality legislation, effective planning and budgeting and efficient service delivery” (Ministry of Devolution and Planning & Council of Governors, 2016). Further, the County Government Act, 2012 requires that the county governments should “ensure that there is public participation, coordinate the participation, and develop capacity of the public to participate”. Further the Urban Areas and Cities Act 2011 sets provisions for urban areas and cities to provide public forums for active citizen participation in the affairs of an urban area or city. Moreover, the Public Finance Management Act of 2012 requires public participation in county public finance matters through the establishment of a County Budget and Economic Forum. (IEA, 2015)

Case study of four counties

A review of public participation by the Institute of Economic Affairs in Makueni, Isiolo, Kisumu and Turkana counties revealed that the county governments fared variously in establishing the legal frameworks, disseminating information, performing civic education and engaging civil society.  

County-level legal frameworks

The four counties are at various stages of fostering public participation in the law and engaging substantively with their electorate. According to the 2015 study, the Kisumu County Assembly has not enacted a County Public Participation law as required to provide a legal basis for policy formulation. Further, the bill on information access is still in draft stage. The county publicized the FY 2014/2015 county budget via Ramogi FM, a vernacular radio station, giving the public an opportunity to scrutinize expenditure planning. Turkana county has already enacted a County Public Participation Act which established the governor-led County Budget and Economic Forum to engage the public in financial planning. The county government also publicized the FY 2014/2015 budget via a gazette notice on a national newspaper. Further, public ward meetings are held quarterly where county budgeting and planning is discussed. In Isiolo county, the County Executives and MCAs held public budget hearings for FY 2013/2014 although the forum was unclear on how input from the public informed government agenda. Disagreements between the executive and legislative branches of the county reduced opportunity for deliberation of FY 2014/2015 budget at the community level, and the government failed to pass the appropriation bill by the June 30th deadline. Makueni county has established a policy to award county public the priority in providing goods and services for government contracts. (Institute of Economic Affairs, 2015)

Information dissemination

Strengthening public participation requires an informed public. Makueni County Government has established a County Disclosure and Communications Policy to guide its provision of information to the public. Further, it publishes a quarterly newsletter (ENE: The Makueni People’s Magazine) to provide information on government projects. The government also provides agricultural information via two vernacular radio stations, Musyi FM and Mbaitu FM and Facebook pages. Isiolo county uses community radio stations and its website to disseminate information. The county website, however, is missing crucial information such as budget estimates and finance bills. Turkana County Government established two periodicals, Turkana Mirror and Turkana Times (now defunct), and its website to inform citizens of development activities. Kisumu County Government established a toll free number in conjunction with the Ecumenical Church Organizations which the public can use to call and find out information about development projects. (IEA, 2015)

Civic education

An educated public will be able to participate fully in governance. Makueni County Government trained over 900 community members as public interlocutors in FY 2013/2014. This is in recognition of the importance of a civically engaged public in development. The County also established a Public Participation Office to coordinate efforts across all departments and also set aside resources in FY 2014/2015 to facilitate planning and civic education. Isiolo and Turkana counties have not put in place any civic education mechanism. (IEA, 2015)

Civil Society

The last aspect of public engagement involves the place of civil society. Kisumu county has a number of civil society organisations advocating for various causes. Transform Empowerment for Action Initiative (TEAM) is a grassroot civil society organization that advocates democratic governance, human rights and civic engagement. It also educates citizens on policy issues through dialogue forums, local radio stations and dissemination of education material. Another CSO, DUKOKE advocates for greater involvement in county governance for persons with disabilities. In Turkana county, Friends of Lake Turkana and The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) – Lodwar Diocese are two CSOs that are working to educate the public on matters to do with their rights, environmental protection, greater participation in governance and better natural resource usage. In Isiolo county, the Pastoralist Women for Health and Education (PWHE) conducted social accountability trainings for community representatives, who then conducted social audits for projects and shared the results in an audit forum. The Makueni County Government contracted civil society organizations and professional associations such as Teachers Association Union of Makueni, Makueni Churches and Pastors Associations (MACOPAP) and Transformational Education Initiative (TEI) to conduct civic education and facilitate public participation. (IEA, 2015)

Lessons and Recommendations

The study reveals that the county governments have made a number of attempts to engender public participation in running the counties. Further, counties are at different levels of establishing the enabling environments for an informed and engaged public. Moreover, the role of women in national and county leadership is still insufficient to fulfill the requirements of the constitution.  Below are some recommendations to further improve the situation.

Firstly, the succeeding 12th Parliament needs to enact the legislation on two-thirds gender rule as directed by the High Court and required by the Constitution, a move that has failed several times in the current 11th Parliament due to lack of quorum. (Shiundu, 2017) Maendeleo ya Wanawake – CSO in Kenya that advocates for women’s issues – chairperson Phoebe Asiyo called for the national assembly to enact laws to protect women against political violence to ensure a level playing field for political contestation. (Nyaundi, 2016) Further, Kenya is likely to have its first female governor in the coming 2017 election as the two frontrunners in Kirinyaga county are women. This will set a precedent for future elections and encourage more women to put themselves up for other elective and appointive positions. As with other marginalized citizen groups, civil society and county governments need to raise awareness and increase affirmative actions to produce meaningful and substantive women leadership.

Secondly, the government may want to consider establishing a county public participation index that ranks counties on various indicators for involving their constituents in the running of the county affairs. Devolved county government units encourage competition among the counties. It is in the best interest of the county governors to perform well, as some seek to enter the national leadership platform. This index, would among other things, place the onus on every county government to do better than their peers, and thereby improving service delivery to the communities. For instance in Elgeyo Marakwet county, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), together with the Kerio Center for Community Development and Human Rights (KCCDHR), suggested a program-based budget proposed by the communities as opposed to a line-item one. This alternative way of budgeting, proved very popular with both citizens and community based groups, because it was simpler and more relevant to the communities’ wellbeing. (Gatere, 2015) These best practices could be shared on a common platform to ensure quicker diffusion of ideas and knowledge.

Thirdly, the study revealed that there is an abundance of grassroots CSOs. These engage the government and public to create the forums for greater participation and strengthening of devolution. There has also been a great innovation in the way government and CSOs engage to drive the civic education and participation agenda. A representative of the Ministry of Devolution and Planning called for “closer harmony between civil society groups working to enhance public participation in the counties.” (Musau, 2016) Civil society groups need to work together and share best practices as well as form a larger pool of advocates for specific issues. This will increase the voice on public participation issues and move to encourage greater engagement by the citizenry in governance.

Thirdly, local FM radio has emerged as the most important media of communication for a majority of citizens. This is the media tool with the widest reach to inform and engage the most number of Kenyans. Most counties use it well although a few underutilize this key tool. The Institute for Social Accountability, TISA, suggests that information should be disseminated in a timely and accessible manner. While all counties had websites, the information posted was usually outdated, haphazardly structured, inaccessible and difficult to understand. A study by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG) in Baringo county showed that print media is inaccessible to a majority of citizens. The report suggested the use of more effective forums for dissemination of information such as churches, mosques, local markets and social media. It stated, “The choice of the mobilization strategy should be informed by the preferences of the target group” (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung – Kenya Office, 2014)

Finally, a UNDP report compiled on an evaluation of devolution noted that there was inadequate funding to ensure sufficient citizen mobilization and civic education. (UNDP, 2016) TISA recommends that county governments set aside funds to facilitate civic education, and also engage other stakeholders such as development partners and private sector to mobilize for resources. (Omolo, 2010) Citizens need to own the governance processes as theirs, and therefore, be willing to contribute financial resources for development. To achieve this more effectively, citizens need to form citizen interest groups through which funds can be channeled, deliberations made and issues prioritized. This should take advantage of the already existing social cooperatives that Kenyans already participate in e.g. financial groups (chamas), water action groups etc.. As Grace Maingi of Uraia Trust, a Kenyan CSO that deals with governance issues, notes, citizens must begin engaging in governance, “…If we do not engage, we cannot participate, if we cannot participate we cannot begin to cause a change”. (Maingi, 2014)


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