Making social accountability “part of the DNA” of Mongolian society
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the World Bank believe that embedding social accountability in Mongolia’s public sector is an effective way to improve governance and public resource management.
Mongolia has made a good progress in its economic and political transitions during the last two decades. However, the growth has not been fully translated into improved quality of public services for all, particularly the poor and vulnerable groups of society.
Despite the Government’s legal and regulatory reforms to improve transparency and citizen’s participation in the management of public funds, there is still ample room for improvement in the pace of implementation.
So what innovative solutions could be introduced to drive better performance of basic public services for Mongolian citizens?
Swiss Agency for Development and Agency (SDC) and the World Bank (WB) believe that with a new approach to social accountability in Mongolia, real change could be achieved. For this, they are delivering the Mainstreaming Social Accountability in Mongolia (MASAM) program with a focus on the education and health sectors in 10 aimags and 3 districts of Ulaanbaatar, targeting the poor and vulnerable communities.
In the selected areas, MASAM is seeking to deliver an innovative approach to capacity building where local stakeholders are on the driver’s seat in defining the focus of the Program’s interventions.
The goal is to build a new style of collaborative engagement between governments and citizens groups so that they jointly prioritize their most pressing service delivery problems and find ways to solve them jointly by using social accountability as an engagement vehicle to drive the necessary changes.
The project expects to institutionalize an active multi-stakeholder collaboration among public administrations, citizens Khural representatives, service providers, CSOs, media and communities in local level in such a way that - even after MASAM is long gone - social accountability becomes “part of the DNA” of the relationship between local governments and citizens.
The project will also encourage collaboration between local-level multi-stakeholder groups and national NGOs with knowledge of, and experience in, social accountability. The local civil society organisations highlight the importance and timeliness of the project for Mongolia. B. Lkhagvaa, chairwoman of “For Development and Progress”, a local NGO in Khuvsgul aimag said: “With help of the project, local citizens and civic groups could improve their information and knowledge on education and health services so that we could engage effectively with the service providers.”
As champions for social accountability initiatives in their communities, the local multi-stakeholder groups in all targeted areas will select a national NGO who will coach them and help them succeed in addressing the service delivery challenges in their localities. Thus, the selected national NGOs will provide professional technical assistance to build capacity of local stakeholders in the use of social accountability tools and approaches.
In parallel, MASAM will work with line ministries and with national and city sector agencies so that reliable and user friendly information is made available to facilitate the social accountability engagements. Their involvement will also ensure that feedback emerging from the application of social accountability tools at the local level provides valuable inputs into education and health policy forums.
The project was launched in November 2015. As of September 2016, over 650 people representing local key stakeholders have gained a better understanding of social accountability. Self-organized multi-stakeholder groups as local champions (in average 40-60 people per aimag) have taken shape and are collaborating around the activities of the program.
Political will from new local governments’ leadership has already been secured. These groups, together with the selected national NGOs, have prepared their social accountability intervention projects and applied for grants from the MASAM program. The projects are to be implemented in 2017.
At the national level, the Cabinet Secretariat is strongly committed to support MASAM, as well as the sector ministries (Finance, Education and Health). Importantly, the project objectives have been incorporated as a commitment in the 2016-2018 Mongolia’s National Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
The SDC and the World Bank are committed to ensuring that this innovative concept and all its elements guarantee sustainability of the efforts and truly make an impact on the quality of education and health services for all, including the poor and vulnerable groups of society.
Despite the challenges ahead, MASAM stakeholders strongly believe that these efforts will make an important contribution to Mongolia’s equitable and sustainable development.