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87 Citizens face significant challenges in trying to monitor government actions, as the Open Budget Initiative data reported in chapter 4 demonstrate . But the emergence of more open societies argues for a complementary form of monitoring by civil society organizations that we have called independent monitoring organizations. Although bottom-up accountability in developing countries is still in its infancy, a framework for accountability, such as the one presented in this book, with government entities acting as agents of citizen-principals, is nonetheless possible. Independent monitoring organizations have the potential to become agents in making bottom-up accountability work, by turning the free flow of information and mediation between state and society into organized analysis for the purpose of accountability. Independent monitoring organizations and similar organizations are vital for the development of social capital and citizen networks, both core components of a vibrant society that can counterbalance other interests and provide a check on the prerogatives of those holding powerful positions. This chapter presents an overview of the landscape for independent monitoring organizations—the roles that they can play in ensuring accountability between citizens and the state, what still needs to be done to strengthen them, and lessons for independent monitoring organizations and those supporting them. What is an independent monitoring organization? Civil society organizations have proliferated over the past 20 years, particularly in developing countries. India alone has an estimated 1 million Independent monitoring organizations at work Chapter 5 88 Chapter 5 or more such groups, and Kenya registers some 250 new organizations each year. Civil society organizations have traditionally acted as substitute service providers, working in the arena between households, the private sector, and the state to negotiate matters of public concern and filling the void left by underperforming or disinterested governments. They have built schools and clinics, supplied microcredit, offered aid and counseling in conflict and disaster areas, and provided many other vital services. Their successes have inspired many of them to aim higher and to involve themselves directly in policy processes at the national and local levels. This increased activism has coincided with a movement in the international donor community to promote greater civic participation in aid projects and to foster a sense of ownership in developing country communities. Civil society organizations have become focal points in many donors’ propoor agendas and frequent recipients of technical assistance and development funds. Another converging force is the emergence of good governance as a priority among development practitioners. Recognizing that greater spending has not resulted in commensurately better development outcomes, donors and international advocacy groups such as Transparency International have targeted corruption and public sector inefficiencies as obstacles to improving growth and reducing poverty. Governments face greater scrutiny of their policies and greater pressure to demonstrate efficient use of government funds and more effective service delivery. Transparency and accountability have become the watchwords of better governance. A natural outgrowth of these trends has been the development of independent monitoring organizations, whose mission is to monitor and analyze government policies and services and demand more transparent and accountable behavior. The use of research and evidence-based advocacy by independent monitoring organizations has given them new grounds for dialogue with policymakers and other development agents. These groups have grown in number and sophistication over the past decade with the help of the Open Society Institute, the International Budget Partnership, Revenue Watch Institute, and bilateral donors. Their greater engagement and exposure make this a timely moment for assessing their role in improving transparency and accountability in public spending. Putting independent monitoring organizations on the map Measuring the number of independent monitoring organizations is difficult, let alone identifying those focused on particular issues. Many come to budget monitoring or analysis indirectly, through their engagement in more traditional social sector issues or from an advocacy background. The difficulty is compounded by the great numbers of grass-roots organizations that form and disband each year. Independent monitoring organizations at work 89 Nevertheless, a growing number of independent monitoring organizations are developing a reputation for sustained work on public spending. Perhaps the simplest measure of their number is the informal network created by the International Budget Partnership to provide training and technical advice to groups engaged in budget work. This network now boasts nearly 100 members from some 80 countries. Revenue Watch Institute has a similar network of partners that pursue its agenda of transparency in resource-rich countries. The Global Development Network includes more than 3,000 organizations engaged in policy research and advocacy, many of...


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