Making Democracy Work - Taking part in public life

This Voice and Accountability campaign is to improve transparency and accountability at all levels of governance in Malawi. NICE endeavours to provide civic education that not just aims at providing information but rather contributes to the empowerment and transformation of citizens leading to increased popular participation and improved service delivery at all levels of governance.

NICE believes that democracy should be a celebration of an informed public. Democracy requires an active citizenry because it is through discussion, popular interest, and involvement in politics/public life that societal goals should be defined and carried out. Without public involvement in the process, democracy lacks both its legitimacy and its guiding force.

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

The overall objective of NICE "Making Democracy Work - Taking Part in Public Life Campaign" is contributing to the strengthening of the democratic process and the increase of good governance in Malawi, for accelerated economic growth and poverty reduction. NICE strives to see an empowered citizenry that has the capacity to hold duty bearers accountable of their actions.

HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED

NICE functions are managed and implemented by 86 members of staff including district officers. At local level, NICE activities are supported by volunteers called Area Civic Education Coordinators (200), Zone Coordinators (500) and Para Civic Educators (8000).
NICE supports community based dialogue groups like the Citizen Forums with the view of promoting good governance at all levels of governance, in pilot districts of Mzimba, Karonga, Rumphi, Kasungu, Balaka, Chikwawa and Machinga. NICE, in partnership with the Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) have embarked in Nkhotakota district on a three year pilot Service Charter project. The aim of the project is to “to improve public services and strengthen the inclusion of the public in service delivery, by consolidating the commitment of the government to ensure that basic public services are provided in accordance with well known, transparent, accountable and realistic standards and are accessible and acceptable to all people.

CAMPAIGN INNOVATIONS

1. Public Service Charters, Citizen's Forum and other participatory and monitoring mechanisms
2. The mobilisation of 8000+ volunteers, throughout the country.
3. The establishment of a Governance Monitoring Platform which shall facilitate the rapid collection, analysis and reporting on status of governance in Malawi.
4. Radio Listening Clubs in the most remote rural communities. The benefits linked to information and knowledge acquired through radio and exchanges : improved knowledge of rights (in order to be able to claim them more effectively) and awareness-raising on themes that closely affect communities.
5. NICE with Young the Politicians Union launched a ‘Young Leaders Summer Camp’ in October 2014.

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

NICE’s image and reputation has been enhanced as a leader in democratic governance. Media reports and feedback from all key government and CSOs stakeholders as well as development partners have revealed that NICE did a commendable job in providing civic and voter education for the 2014 tripartite elections. NICE is also among very few organizations that have continued providing civic education intensively beyond elections.

NICE is now a fully recognized member of the District Executive Committee (DEC) in all the districts. This is a positive development as it had positioned NICE to play a critical role as part of the preparations for the tripartite elections and post elections’ initiatives.

CHALLENGES FACED

1. Continued inadequate assessment of the capacity gaps among elected leaders, thus both MPs and Councillors by Council and line CSOs on governance;
2. The implementation faced various challenges that included: high expectations and demands from communities owing to the fact that NICE during this reporting period was only key player in the field of democratic governance and civic education which had resources and a country wide outreach. The deteriorating governance levels in the country which were compounded by the Cash gate scandal and continued patronage syndrome in all strata of our societies further increased demand for NICE services throughout the country.

LESSONS LEARNT

1. We recommend that civil society organizations be well funded and supported to enable them intensify their efforts and emerge on top in civic education on a continuous and permanent basis in between the ballots.
2. Empowering women to break through the glass ceiling requires action on many fronts. The just ended May 2015 tripartite elections saw the number of elected women diminish significantly to about 30%. Such efforts should include: deliberate action or reforms to establish a robust and well-resourced programme like the 50-50 campaign in addition to affirmative action e.g. a legislative quota, where there would be reserved seats for women representatives both in parliament and council level.
3. Autocracy, patronage and lack of internal democracy in general are characteristics of most party which threatens their survival.
4. Courses (ToTs) in facilitation, issue identification, advocacy, community awareness and mobilization, should be undertaken for staff and volunteers.

COUNTRY

Malawi

CITY

Lilongwe

WEBSITE

http://www.nice.mw/

FACEBOOK PAGE

https://www.facebook.com/NicePublicTrust/