Saturday, May 26, 2018 | ePaper

Democratic governance

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It appears the  participatory development(PD)as a concept has cropped up in the wake of the promotional process to break the chain leading the powerless to reach access point. The idea is to combat structural constraint through behavior change communication. Development practioners have endeavored to upscale efforts at community regeneration as a social movement to enhance the abilities of the left outs to mobilize, manage and control local and external resources by themselves and receive necessary services and supports.
Of late advocacy groups have provided much feedback to give a concrete shape to participatory approach. Sustained empowerment programs attain major significance in policy perspectives. The programs in this respect are many. The state recognized critical importance of  human development for empowerment. Such policy strategy is based on the concept of man capital. This is to facilitate diffusion of ideas, knowledge and skill through extension activities to build leadership capacity among the powerless. Thing is that extension workers have to first empower disadvantaged locus in order that the latter can use development potentials in various productive sectors.
The concept of PD is full of participatory values. The whole range of the theme relates to the improvement of policy environment in social, economic, political and administrative aspects putting the last first. The big challenge of development is to be faced with community involvement and commitment. The ruralities are to be approached directly with program inputs and the stated purposes of advocacy for social change. The feedback from their participatory approach may serve as a channel of information for objective allocative decision and planned development.
Participatory development (PD) is influenced by the cultural, socio-economic and political characteristics of the community organization. Such characteristics vary at various cultural sets and sub-sets. At times, PD seems to be the function of the society exposed to the forces of political development. Here the individuals as policy consumers are both individually and collectively aware about their own problems and predicaments and about human rights and public affairs. PD by implications involves all promotional activities and modern extension services tilting policy intervention to the favour of community interests. Organizationally liked both horizontally and vertically participatory institutions are effective tools for communications, networking and planning and directing all promotional and extension functions at the rural-local point.
For the development of rural society with the proponents of participation the need for governance is increasingly realized. Rural development is in fact a part of development administration at the local point. So the issue of local governance is conceptually linked with the participation based on the doctrine of development administration.
Now rural development in Bangladesh is at the crossroad passing through various stages of action research and pilot experimentation. At the beginning of the new millennium rural development in this country has become a daunting problem with numerous challenges and predicaments. This has happened to be the challenges of local governance in the new millennium.
Rural development at this stage emphasizes the motivation of the people and wider network of community organizations. The first step of rural development through motivation is conducive to changing thinking pattern, outlook and aspirations of the common man.
It is a truism to state that participatory structure of the dynamics of development administration operates at the micro level albeit with local government institutions, promotional agencies and non-governmental organizations. Participatory structure is the essence of decentralized local self-government based on the concept of development administration.
Defining accountability and transparency
Accountability  means  responsibllity  to 'someone for actions taken; about being able to explain, clarify and justify actions. It implies that someone has a right to know and hold an organisation to account; and that the organisation has a duty to explain and account for its actions. Charities have this duty as they have a privileged status because their purposes must be for the benefit of the public.'
Transparency  demands frankness  and honesty in 'all communications, transactions and operations. It is possible to be accountable by providing a lengthy and technical explanation of every detail, but if this information is not easily understood by the audience, and if key facts are hidden by the sheer volume of information then the information is not presented in a transparent form. Accountability and transparency go hand-in-hand, and involve being aware of who charities are accountable to, what the important pieces of information are, and how they can be communicated most effectively.'
Key principles
Michael Howard , Teamstar Retiree and Daytone Aluumni(2014)  projected  their working experiences  that promote   understanding about popular image of government and participation  with accountability and transparency.
There  are  four principles-accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion that is contained in democratic governance. The authors have been  trying  to 'protect democratic governance by organizing and mobilizing the civil society organizations, but, no funding agency responded positively. But, they speak always about the four principles. This is the process of democratization.  NGOs sometimes connect with indigenous development NGOs. International players need to do more in country institutional homework in order to strengthen these four principles. Democratization NGOs are everywhere, although they are often repressed.'  
These principles apply to  those governments which are mainstreaming and scaling up the Community Driven Development approach to poverty reduction. It is very true that while we are advocating and really implementing  and inclusion at the ground level and is more understood now than before by poor communities, we are never sure that those  in the local governments which have jurisdiction over these communities would be willing to sustain such process when the special projects are done. Constant and consistent dialogue and planning with these local governments with their respective communities must be also part of the bigger undertaking.'
Over and above   transparency and accountability contain some key principles  like the  following:
"Charities must be honest and truthful, and comply with the law. It is best practice for charities to respect the reasonable requests of donors and other stakeholders, and operate in order to give donors, beneficiaries and other stakeholders a better understanding of how the charity works, its clients, and it's fundraising".
In democratic  'government officials - whether elected or appointed by those who have been elected - are responsible to the citizenry for their decisions and actions. In order that officials may be held accountable, the principle of transparency requires that the decisions and actions of those in government are open to public scrutiny and the public has a right to access government information. Both concepts are central to the very idea of democratic governance. Without accountability and transparency, democracy is impossible. In their absence, voters are necessarily ignorant in their electoral choices; elections and the notion of the will of the people lose their meaning and government has the potential to become arbitrary and self-serving.'
Democratic governance-giving citizens a say in how decisions are made-is fundamental to ensuring that democracy delivers for all of society. Strong democratic governance is characterized by transparency and accountability in both the public and private sectors. An open, participatory governance process responds to citizen and business needs, resulting in better and fairer government policies.
Democratic governance demands improvement of the status of accountability and transparency in government and NGO sectors and in civil societies  and increasing support for human rights and freedom. The Role of Civil Society & NGOs "Civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have the power to influence individual behaviour and the institutions that are involved in healthy diet and physical activity promotion. By collaborating with national and international partners, they can support the implementation of the Global Strategy principles areas of public policy.
Civil society is the "third sector" of society, along with government and business. It comprises civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. The UN recognizes the importance of partnering with civil society, because it advances the Organization's ideals, and helps support its work. Here are some useful websites for members of civil society and also for those interested in the work of the UN (United Nations).
The  international NGOs and agencies 'provide' strategic information, analysis and support to a wide range of constituencies, using its unique convening and networking capacity to strengthen multistakeholder dialogue and alliance-building on issues like culture and education, human rights, peace and security, environment, economic and social development, health, and population, all from the perspective of the entire UN system. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can participate in the work of the UN in one of two ways:  either through consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), or association with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). To cite United Natopns:Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council provides NGOs with access to not only ECOSOC, but also to its many subsidiary bodies, to the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, ad-hoc processes on small arms, as well as special events organized by the President of the General Assembly. There are three types of ECOSOC consultative status for NGOs. ECOSOC consultative status is separate and distinct from association with DPI.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' mission is to work for the protection of human rights for all people; to help empower people to realize their rights; and to assist those responsible for upholding such rights in ensuring that they are implemented. (www.ohchr.org)
An intergovernmental body with membership encompassing forty-seven states, the Human Rights Council has the task of promoting and protecting human rights internationally. Its mechanisms to forward these ends include a Universal Periodic Review which assesses situations in all 192 UN Member States, an Advisory Committee which provides expertise on human rights issues, and a Complaints Procedure for individuals and organizations to bring human rights violations to the attention of the Council.UNESCO's goal is to build peace in the minds of men.  Its work in the field of human rights aims to strengthen awareness and acts as a catalyst for regional, national and international action in human rights.(www.unesco.org)This office directs and coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.(www.unhcr.org)The US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor strives to learn the truth and state the facts in all of its human rights investigations, annual reports on country conditions, etc. The bureau takes action to stop ongoing abuses and maintains partnerships with organizations committed to human rights.(www.state.gov)The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, comprised of fifty-six participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America, is engaged in human rights activities focusing on freedom of movement and religion and preventing torture and trafficking in persons.(www.osce.org/odihr)
(The writer is a columnist and retired Professor, Chittagong University)

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