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Inclusive, Pro-Poor Government Programming: Lessons from Afghanistan, Indonesia and Uzbekistan

 

Participants of Indonesia’s Pekka Program. | Credit: Pekka

 

 

The October call of the Movement for Community-led Development saw government, World Bank and NGO representatives share lessons from implementing national level Community Driven Development programs across three countries: Afghanistan, Indonesia and Uzbekistan. This article was originally posted by the Movement for Community Led Development. View the presentation slides here.

Presenters

  • Mr. Moujeeb Habib, Head of CCNPP Capacity Development Division, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Afghanistan
  • Ms. Nani Zulminarni, Founder and Director, Pekka (Female Headed Household Empowerment Program), Indonesia
  • Ms. Rano Tlepovoa, Social Development Specialist, World Bank Country Office in Uzbekistan

Featuring

  • Brigitta Bode, Social and Participatory Development Expert, Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE)
  • Rasoul Rasouli, CDD Operations Advisor, ISE and former Director General of the Citizens’ Charter program in Afghanistan
  • Nelly Mecklenburg, Senior Program Officer, ISE

Communities Take Charge of Their Own Development  

Community-driven, or community-led, development (CDD/CLD) is “a development approach that enables communities to identify, prioritize, and implement their development needs and manage resources by themselves,” explained Mr. Rasouli. In such programs, citizens are key assets and stakeholders within the communities, making development more inclusive and cost-effective than top-down programs. In CDD/CLD, people monitor and maintain development projects themselves, fostering “demand-driven approaches” with a strong sense of ownership among communities. Multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, are increasingly utilizing the platform of CDD/CLD programs to deliver key services to people around the world. Consequently, the CDD/CLD approach also contributes to improved governance with engaged citizens deliberating about and maintaining projects.

As part of an introduction of The Citizens’ Charter National Priority Program in Afghanistan, Mr. Rasouli outlined how the processes of community-driven development strive to take soft components to a transformative scale by applying resources towards community mobilization and capacity building. As COVID-19 stretches the limits of government services in Afghanistan, the Citizens’ Charter is playing a key role in providing critical services to citizens and responding to humanitarian needs. Mr. Rasouli emphasized the implementation and monitoring processes that community members partake in, especially because CDD and CLD encourage “programmatic, bottom-up and inclusive development approaches through increased community participation.” Rural communities gain the opportunity to strive for self-reliance as they take ownership of their own development. The Citizens’ Charter National Priority Program is one example of CLD implementation at the national level.

Lessons from Afghanistan: People are Assets

Started in 2017, the Citizens’ Charter National Priority Program (CCNPP) in Afghanistan has reached 12,213 communities and is a cross-ministerial program, including line ministries such as the Ministries of Education, Public Health, and Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The Citizens’ Charter has the capacity to disperse $300 million USD per year in grants to communities in 123 districts across every province – one-third of the entire country. Citizens’ Charter programs are chosen and maintained by locally-elected Community Development Councils (CDCs), made up of members from the community.

Mr. Habib described the first phase of three-phases that the Citizens’ Charter program has planned. In this phase, nine participatory learning and action (PLA) tools including resource maps, women’s mobility maps, and gap analysis are used to understand existing gaps in the community’s health, education, and infrastructure. In social mapping exercises, community members physically map the neighborhoods in their village to determine election units, making sure there are representatives from each neighborhood on the CDC. Women’s participation in CDCs is around 50% and is intentionally brought into the decision-making processes for development projects and PLA tools.

Not only do these PLA tools allow for an analysis of a community’s assets, but also improve the inclusion of marginalized groups and help prevent elite capture, where more well-off members of the community reap most of the benefits of development projects. To ensure these exercises reflect the whole community, 60% of community members must be present during participatory processes. To collaborate with governments and ensure that community members are treated as productive partners in programming and decision-making, CCNPP has created a policy to coordinate with district governments and delegate projects; this policy creates partnerships to ensure sustainability. 

The Citizens’ Charter maintains minimum service standards (MSS) across all their communities, including access to clean drinking water and a menu of rural infrastructure projects (roads, electricity, irrigation, etc.). Additionally, the Citizens’ Charter maintains specific health and education standards for the community, such as mandated clinic hours and staff capacity and a minimum level of training for teachers, which are overseen by their respective line ministries.

In its design, the Citizens’ Charter is intentionally structured to link wider sub-national governance systems and policies. To prevent overlapping systems, CDCs are utilized as a gateway to governance interventions for the community, with clear roles and responsibilities for engagement with district and provincial governors. The program also hosts grievance redressal mechanisms to ensure monitoring from the community is acted upon by the government. Through these mechanisms, the Citizens’ Charter seeks to act as a sustainable and effective program into the future, which has clear linkages and roles within formal government structures.

The Indonesia Story: Focus on Making Women Visible

Pekka, the Female-Headed Household Empowerment Program, has reached almost 70,000 people across 87 districts of Indonesia. Ms. Zulminarni explained how Pekka emerged to change how women are viewed within Indonesian communities and heighten support for widows. It originated in 2001 to both better support widows, particularly in conflict areas such as Aceh, who were demanding access to resources, and in response to identified gaps in the government’s World Bank-funded Kecamatan Development Program (KDP) CDD program, which was not reaching “the poorest of the poor.”

Ms. Zulimanarni described the program as a unique paradigm. On one hand, Pekka is a traditional development program that seeks to provide greater access to money and other resources to impoverished communities, while on the other hand, seeks to directly address the power relations between men and women within their communities and fight the traditional stigmatization of widows. Prior to releasing direct cash transfer as part of the KDP program, Pekka organizes women in the community to discuss how they can address the problems of corruption in gaining access to the money, where widows have historically been forced to pay “taxes” to receive the grants.

Pekka has continued to focus on the visibility of women-headed families, aiming to fill gaps that governments have left first in KDP, then its successor program PNPM, and now in the Village Law program. It focuses on access to resources and access to justice, particularly on issues regarding legal identity. Through the association of women-headed families, Pekka also builds women’s grassroots capacity by training women to be facilitators and community organizers in their own villages, actively engaging with public decision making. In some cases, women have become parliament members and heads of the village.

The organizers seek to empower women to take full advantage of Village Law No. 6, which devolves powers to village governments to make decisions on issues of development and elect village heads. So far, the association of women-headed families has reached over 69,000 beneficiaries across 20 provinces in Indonesia. Ms. Zulminarni emphasized that the empowerment program was, and continues to be, intended to “reach the most marginalized and vulnerable groups.”

Uzbekistan: Starting New Projects for Poverty Reduction

Ms. Tlepova talked about Uzbekistan’s recent effort to empower citizens through the Obod Qishloq State Program (Prosperous Villages). This program is Uzbekistan’s first-ever CDD program, launched in 2018, with the goal of establishing a presence in over 300 villages in five regions of the country. The Prosperous Villages program is a portion of the government’s wider reform efforts to move towards a market economy, increase transparency with citizens, and prepare Uzbekistan’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy in partnership with the World Bank. Historically, speaking of poverty in Uzbekistan was a taboo topic. Ms. Tlepova noted there has been a distinct shift in the thinking on governance in Uzbekistan, saying that citizens are no longer being asked how they can serve state institutions, but asking how state institutions can serve the people.

Aiding the Prosperous Villages program is the Rural Infrastructure Development Project (RIDP), which is working to make the program more inclusive and participatory for rural citizens, who make up the vast majority of impoverished Uzbeks. During the door-to-door needs assessment for the Prosperous Villages programs, key gaps emerged. These issues included an overdependence on Mahallas – formal and informal local communities – for governance administration and a distinct lack of representation of women and the poor in the Mahallas’ leadership. The assessment also determined that villages close to urban areas were more often chosen to be part of the program and that there were complaints of forced labor among citizens.   Due to COVID-19, the Prosperous Villages program has paused operation and the RIDP has moved along as a standalone project to meet these identified gaps.

The RIDP is targeting over 300 villages across 21 districts in Uzbekistan. The government has allocated approximately $500,000 USD per village and is implementing the RIDP through its Ministry of Economic Empowerment and Poverty Reduction. Working with existing local governance structures, the government will form Mahalla Development Units (MDUs) as the key decision-making authority for the RIDP. MDU members cannot be part of existing Mahalla leadership and, similar to the Citizens’ Charter in Afghanistan, must be composed of members from all neighborhoods in a community and be 50% women. MDUs also host sub-committees focused on young men and women. Trained facilitators – half from NGOs and half direct hires by the government – will facilitate the formation of the MDUs and lead communities through the participatory deliberation and monitoring processes.

A key challenge for the RIDP has been overcoming the highly centralized and bureaucratic nature of the government’s administrative system, where state programs have often been planned in an ad hoc and reactionary fashion. To address the issue, the RIDP is working to build constituencies and support outside of the government. The program is also learning about the tradeoffs of working with versus work through government systems at the local level, where the capacity for outreach and mobilization, especially among vulnerable groups, is still very low. A pilot of the RIDP program, starting with health and wellbeing analyses, is currently ongoing in rural Sokhil village.

Q & A


CDD in Conflict Areas

Mr. Rasouli outlined previous experience from the National Solidarity Program (2003-2016), the precursor to the Citizens’ Charter, wherein community members showed the ability to negotiate for their program even in conflict. Communities negotiated directly with both the government and local armed groups to ensure the safety of the facilitating partners and staff. The government has also developed a high-risk implementation strategy to aid the rollout of CDD programs in insecure areas. Mr. Rasouli iterated that all of these measures are based on developing trust with all the involved stakeholders in the project. 

Infrastructure Meets Social Mobilization 

Though the CDD projects may appear as predominantly infrastructure-related projects, local civil society institutions are essential to their successful implementation. Mr. Rasouli described how the success of CDD programs is reliant on both a hard competence to build the infrastructure but also the soft competence of a truly engaged, organized, and informed community of citizens, NGOs, and CDCs to deliberate on and maintain services in their villages. The goal is not only the building of infrastructure but also the development of a community’s capacity to own such projects.

Combating Corruption on Cash Disbursals

Ms. Zulminarni explained how, unlike many World Bank programs, the KDP/PNPM programs do not require locals to raise 10% of the required funds. However, government agencies were placing illegal “taxes” for the grant dispersals for the programs. A key part of the Pekka program is mobilizing women around how to deal with these taxes and reporting the corruption to other government ministries and the World Bank. Ms. Zulminarni said that, due to their mobilization efforts, the  PNPM/Pekka programs were the only ones in the country not having to pay for the disbursal of funds.

Ensuring Good Facilitation While Scaling Up

A common issue with the scaling up of CDD programs to the national level is that the quality of facilitation – key for understanding the community’s needs and mobilizing citizens – suffers. Ms. Zulminarni described how in Indonesia, the Pekka program focused on grassroots training and mentorship to address this issue. In this way, the women in the communities themselves act as facilitating partners, with less need to rely on NGOs or the World Bank. The Pekka program is lobbying the government to implement this strategy at a larger level to ensure the facilitation of Indonesia’s CDD programs do not suffer as they grow. In Uzbekistan, Ms. Tlepova said the RIDP is focused on hiring high-quality facilitators and educating the government on the importance of facilitation and working with international partners like the World Bank to ensure they are hiring and investing in experienced facilitators. As a result, the government has agreed to allocate 9-10% of the RIDP’s budget for hiring and training facilitators.

Finally, Ms. Bode explained how Afghanistan’s Citizens’ Charter emphasized the importance of “holding a mirror” to the community, helping them understand what poverty looks like in their village, and showing the link between power structures and existing community resources. Citizens’ Charter Facilitating Partners completed several weeks of workshops learning the PLA tools used in the program’s facilitation process, including recording facilitators as they led community discussions so they can learn how their actions and body language impact the PLA activities. Ms. Bode also described how instead of “cascading” facilitation training across a number of Facilitating Partners, the Citizens’ Charter trained a core group of facilitators who then were shadowed by new Facilitating Partners as they worked on the job. After completing the facilitation process in 10 communities with their more senior counterparts, they were then allowed to lead the Citizens’ Charter facilitation on their own in new communities.

Final Reflections

Ms. Bode noted the incredible success of the Pekka program in training women to become grassroots organizers themselves, with some becoming village leaders and even members of parliament. In this sense, CDD programs are not only about building infrastructure for service delivery but also mobilizing and empowering citizens to become leaders themselves.