EU supports civil society monitoring the management of local government units (26/04/2012)
G-WATCH LOCALISATION EXPO
"Monitoring and Improving the service delivery of local government Units using G-Watch as a social accountability tool" - Ateneo de Manila School of Government
CrownePlaza Manila Galleria – 26 April 2012
Ambassador Guy Ledoux and Interior Secretary Robredo with Joy Aceron and Project Director Tess Briones
I am very pleased to be with you today on the occasion of this G-Watch Localisation Expo. This event is in many ways the culminating activity of the 2-year G-Watch project, which as you know is funded by the European Union. The expo provides a very convincing snapshot of the work done by the Ateneo de Manila School of Government and their partners over the past two years: it explains what happened in the six locations of the project and shows the achievements of the monitoring process of the public services in each place.
In recent weeks, we have tried to make plans for Secretary Robredo and I to go on a joint visit to one of the project's locations.... The field visit has not yet materialised, but it feels today as if the entire project was all of a sudden coming to us instead of us visiting it. Needless to say, this expo gives me a great opportunity to learn about the achievements made and, perhaps more importantly, to meet with all the participants and to hear about their experiences. I would like to thank the coordinators of this event, Joy Aceron, the Project Director, Tess Briones, and the whole project team for their hard work, for their enthusiasm, and for making my participation in this activity such a rewarding experience.
As many of you already know, the European Union has been supporting over the past few years a number of actions in the field of "good governance". Many – or most of these actions – actually focus on the strengthening of local governance, seen as a key factor of the improvement of public services and the strengthening of good democratic practices.
We share the assumption of the project, which is also the assumption of Secretary Robredo and the government of the Philippines, that a greater participation of civil society, a more systematic engagement of the citizens with the public authorities in general - and with the local authorities in particular – positively contributes to the improvement of service delivery, to a greater transparency, and will reduce the risk of mismanagement and corruption.
In 2009, the European Union launched, jointly with the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Strategic Projects Facility with a grant of 360 Millions Pesos - aiming to support models of good governance in participatory local governance, and to disseminate and institutionalise good practices of local governance.
A total of 14 projects have been approved in the scope of the programme. These projects have reached a cumulated total of roughly 6.5 Millions inhabitants in 22 provinces and over 110 cities or municipalities. Most of these projects are implemented by Civil Society Organisations. In some cases, the projects intend to institutionalise mechanisms that ensure participation of local communities and stakeholders in the area of resources management, coastal law enforcement, or alternative livelihood activities for fishermen or farmers' communities. In other cases, the actions aim to increase the participation of the population in the decision making, in order to make sure that public policies better address social needs at the local level. The main underlying objective in all of these projects is however to improve good governance, and is therefore completely in line with the priority areas of the Philippine Development Plan.
In the case of the project that we are discussing today, the G-Watch project, civil society groups volunteer to monitor the delivery of public services by the local authorities, in terms of efficiency and transparency. They then issue a number of conclusions and recommendations that the local authorities commit to take on board.
Interior Secretary J. Robredo and Ambassador G. Ledoux present a plaque of appreciation
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the representatives of different Local Government Units (LGUs) who are here today. I see their involvement and their strong engagement in the project as an expression of their commitment to the improvement of the functioning of their provinces, of their municipalities, and of the quality of the lives of their constituents. My comment also applies to the public servants of these LGUs who have devoted time to the project and who accepted the rules of the monitoring.
This participatory approach implies a cultural change in the way public institutions and public servants work. They expose themselves to the scrutiny of the community, to their constructive criticism, which is always challenging. They open their offices, their files, for trained citizens to look at the way they operate. In the case of the municipalities who volunteered to be part of the project, this approach seems to be quite natural and normal, but I am sure that it is not the case everywhere in the Philippines.
Of course, I would also like to extend my warmest greetings to all the members of civil society, the monitors, who have been involved in the project. They have been privileged observers of the way of public servants in different project locations, and they devoted time and energy to their work. They played an important role for the good functioning or the improvement of their communities. And, by doing this, they became better citizens. This is also what the project is about: to generate citizens who are more knowledgeable of the way the municipality is working and more aware that they have a say on the way services are delivered. In any case, the monitors really deserve all our appreciation and recognition for time, efforts, dedication and contribution.
Now that the EU funding is ending, it is time to evaluate and to identify what are the next steps.
Despite the successful results of the project which we have heard about today there are a number of challenges. Replication is certainly one of them. While appreciating the work done by the partners from the different LGUs who are present today, ways need to be identified to expand this approach to other LGU's. How can we move from a handful of successful pilot experiences to a standard practice of good local governance? How can we reach a critical mass of LGUs that would allow not only local improvements, but a structural change? In fact, the LGUs that are open to the scrutiny of civil society are, in most cases, already delivering well in terms of services, but also in terms of transparency, of accountability, and more generally in terms of good governance. The challenge is to reach the others. I hope that today's presentation will convince other LGU's to follow the same path.
DILG is in fact working hard to encourage all LGU's to replicate this experience of participation of local communities to improve the management of their administrative structures. I would to praise the work of Secretary Robredo who is a great advocate of the cause of local governance and emphasize the quality of our collaboration with DILG.
In this context, I would like to mention that the EU Project also includes the provision of Technical Assistance to DILG for activities related to the objectives of the programme. Within this scope, technical assistance has been provided to DILG in order to design the Local Governance Watch Programme and the Volunteer and Citizenship Programme, which are both DILG priority programmes. We are convinced that these two programmes will contribute to institutionalise the participation of civil society at the local level, and to create proper conditions for replication and sustainability of initiatives like the one of the Ateneo School of Government.
In addition, and in line with the Philippine Development Plan, the European Union has also recently approved a 450 million Pesos project to support Local Government Units for more effective and accountable Public Finance Management. This project aims to enhance the capacity of local governments to increase revenue collection and to allocate and spend public funds more effectively and efficiently.
With all these initiatives, the European Union reaffirms its support to the Philippine Development Plan in particular in the area of good governance.
I would like to congratulate all of you again for your great work and I hope that the achievements reached under this project will not end here, but that the G Watch tool will continue to be implemented in the future; in the six project locations but also be replicated elsewhere in the country.
Thank you very much and Mabuhay!