Hivos International


Political language and political action: An OGP lesson for South Africa

Blog | February 22, 2017 | Gabriella Razzano

A few days ago, Gabriella Razzano from the Open Democracy Advice Centre in South Africa shared her thoughts and reflections on the Open Government Partnership and ODAC's project with Making All Voices Count.

Much of the literature on citizen accountability focuses on citizen voices. This research briefing is one of four which turn the spotlight on the how the state behaves in instances of accountable governance. Each examines a landmark social justice policy process in Africa, asking when and how the state listened, and to which actors; and why, at times, it chose not to listen.

In the public sector, Spain has made big efforts not to lag behind digital leaders in terms of public e-readiness and e-government, but the country's economic and political frameworks have dragged it downwards in global Networked Readiness rankings. Literature shows that the crisis of participation and representation is pushing citizens outside of institutional politics and into new kinds of organisations which are strong in digital and social media.

The vision, design and implementation of e-governance in India with its attendant “datafication” leads to many pertinent questions about the changing nature of governance and state-citizen engagement. This Brief argues that data-based decision-making in India is part of a larger trend that seems to displace the complex ingredients of participatory governance - dialogue, deliberation, audit and answerability - in favour of a fait accompli that disempowers citizens.

Women on the Frontline is a three-year initiative funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Hivos and implemented jointly by Hivos, Oxfam, PwC, and Institute of War & Peace Reporting. It aimed to work towards the full and equal participation of women in transforming societies, by strengthening women’s organisations in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia. 

Politics is central to development discourse, yet remains peripheral.  And, over some twenty years, a civil society narrative has not fulfilled  its potential to ‘bring politics back in’. Reasons can be found in  conceptual confusion, in selectivity in donor thinking and policies  towards civil society and in the growth-driven political economy of  NGO-ism.

This paper is an introduction to available literature on local democratic governance in fragile settings with an emphasis on contexts marked by protracted violent conflict. In this paper the term ‘fragile settings’ is used as it covers fragile states as well as regions within countries that experience state fragility.

For many decades, the main driver of progress in developing countries was considered to be either the state or the market. Civil society existed only in relation to, and by the grace of, these forces. But people-centred development requires that individuals take control and address the problems in their communities. People and organizations should acquire a stronger position in relation to both the state and the market. Real change can only be achieved through challenging dominant political and economic interests.

The Civic-Driven Change (CDC) Initiative provides a story and frame of reference which can add value to the work of (private) aid agencies. However, aid agencies vary, and the stage of development of this understanding - which competes with other methods - is such that a first engagement with CDC would be for agencies to critically reflect on their ‘being’ and ‘doing’ as civic agents of change. In focusing on what this might mean in practice, this briefing paper draws on essay 10 in the CDC volume and complements others policy briefs. It is not prescriptive. Illustrations of what CDC could entail for development strategy, principles and practices can help initiate public discussion, foster organizational debate and invite ‘rediscovery’ of civic agency in aided development.