Understanding the 'Governance and Rights' program
Participatory governance is a form of governance in which citizens and other non-state actors and institutions are empowered to participate in decision making, which results in formulating, implementing and evaluating public policies that produce positive changes in the citizens’ lives.
The participatory governance approach ensures that citizens are engaged in the decision making cycle, thus allowing them to be involved in policy formulation, implementation, selection and evaluation. The inclusion of citizens in state-sanctioned venues means that they are now in constant contact with government officials. These institutions thus generate new forms of interactions among citizens as well as between citizens and government officials.
Participatory governance is one of many institutional strategies of development governance which if all actors and citizens are involved in planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, it increases ownership and sustainability of socio-economic development policies and programs. Participatory governance takes two forms namely direct or indirect. On one hand, direct participation refers to the involvement of citizens in a particular public activity without the intermediary of any other stakeholders. Such participation may include direct vote or election of leaders to hold office at any level of government. It might also include direct consultation through media, meetings, suggestion boxes, forums, media, demonstrations and a lot more.
Indirect participation, on the other hand, takes place in situations where it is not possible or easy for all people to make a decision or take an action and therefore resort to their representatives or other relevant stakeholders to do it on their behalf. That level of participation may use various methods including engaging CSOs to advocate for their needs and concerns; engaging council’ members, legislators, political parties and media to advocate for their needs and concerns. The adoption of participatory governance is often based on the perception that representative democracy is unable, on its own, to improve the quality of state performance and make reasonably good use of scarce public resources. For participation to be effective, therefore, government actors need to open up and be more transparent and responsive decision-makers.
Without transparency, citizen participation is less effective. More so, without accountability, those in positions of power can safely ignore the will of the people. By demanding responsiveness to social and economic needs, organized civic activity can have a real and tangible impact on local government’s performance and the quality and responsiveness of public services.
Societal Healing and Participatory Governance
Through its “Societal Healing and Participatory Governance for Sustainable Peace in Rwanda (SHPG), Never Again Rwanda (NAR) in partnership with Interpeace provides a wide preference the participatory governance approach. In this context, the participatory governance axis aims to strengthen the link between citizens and policy makers by minimizing the vertical space between the beneficiaries of public policies and decision-makers therefore strengthening government accountability. By facilitating citizen participation in the development, implementation and evaluation of public policies and programs, NAR and Interpeace seek to contribute to the government’s efforts of aligning policies with citizen needs and priorities. Responsive and participatory governance can thus provide the space for citizens of all backgrounds to engage in an open debate and peacefully pursue a shared vision of the future.
The Governance and Rights Program aims to empower citizens to be active in decision-making at local and national levels, and increase the capacity of youth to advocate for their rights and those of the vulnerable populations in their communities. NAR facilitates citizen participation in the development, implementation and evaluation of public policies and programs, which serve to increase the link between citizens and policy makers, and ensure that decision making at local and national levels reflects on needs, rights and priorities of citizens within an accountable system of governance
By promoting the values of participatory governance, enhancing principle of rule of law, human rights promotion within the local and national government frameworks, NAR seeks to minimize the vertical space between the beneficiaries of public policies and decision-makers, strengthening government accountability
Under governance program, citizens are equipped on facilitating dialogue and citizen participation strategies, establish citizen forums as a space for dialogue on needs an priorities, support citizen inclusion in existing decision making spaces and train media on participatory reporting and dialogue facilitation. Through this intervention; there has been increased citizen dialogue, facilitation and participation, and increased use of new existing spaces to identify and communicate citizens’ needs and priorities
‘Human Rights’ based approaches
The human rights pillar aims to contribute to the promotion of peaceful dialogue and democratic values through human rights based approaches influencing the understanding of the rights of the most vulnerable groups in Rwanda.
This is achieved by supporting young people to express and debate their views on democratic values, to take on board leadership roles as part of their wider political participation to effectively promote and protect human rights and celebrate their diversities. Never Again Rwanda’s approach is based on the theory of change that ‘if youth capacities are improved and, oriented towards independent thinking and a given space for engagement THEN they will develop self-confidence and influence communities, local authorities and government decision-making in policy making implementation’. This change is effected through trainings, roundtable discussions, policy dialogues and confidence building sessions.
‘Citizen Forums’ are established permanent spaces where local populations gather every month to discuss, evaluate and propose solutions for issues related to governance and to communicate their ideas with decision-makers. Never Again Rwanda has created thirteen citizens' forums in ten districts of Rwanda, with the aim of empowering citizens to become more involved in governance. "Enhance the capacity of citizens to analyse the root causes of conflicts and to facilitate peer dialogue in order to generate ideas and activities aimed at sustainable peace and socio-economic development".
The ‘Citizen Forums’ provide an opportunity of well-defined and organized forum for citizen to discuss about their needs and priorities, within communities and exchange between them and decision-makes. Citizen Forums are made up of 30 people from a given sector in ten district with members selected to ensure gender balance and to include people of diverse backgrounds with the aim of ensuring the diversity of Rwandan society within the dialogue groups. The forums are led by two facilitators who ensure that members of the forums have equal time to speak and express themselves.
The facilitators also help the Citizen Forum members to build consensus and develop recommendations on governance-related topics that affect their lives. The forums are also designed to help citizens build partnerships with their leaders and to hold them accountable. Never Again Rwanda under the Governance and Rights Program, has established the citizen forums in districts of Karongi, Nyabihu, Gicumbi, Musanze, Rwamagana, Bugesera, Huye, Nyaruguru Nyarugenge and Gasabo.