In 2011, the demand for democracy and better governance reached the streets of Tunis, Homs, Yangon, Washington and many other cities across the world. Millions of people participated in movements for democracy and better governance. Not only have they demanded democracy in countries where democracy has not been well established, but they have also called for a renewal of democratic governance processes and institutions for inclusive development and growth in countries with long established democratic traditions.
From 3-5 October 2011, UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre, together with UNDEF, ActionAid, ActAlliance, PRIA, the World Bank Institute and NORAD, organized the Oslo Governance Forum. The Forum brought together 270 policy makers, experts and practitioners from more than 75 countries to discuss, from various perspectives, the core question of how to renew democratic governance processes and institutions for a new era. Or, in the words of Olav Kjorven, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of Development Policy, UNDP,
“How can governments be made more accountable to citizens? How can governance assessments contribute to citizens’ empowerment and more responsive democratic governance?”
The Forum provided a space for discussions on the role of democratic governance assessments in developing anti-corruption policies, improving public service delivery, climate change mitigation strategies, post-crisis recovery processes and in promoting democratic change processes in general. These issues are not just fundamental for the nascent democracies now struggling to take shape, they are crucial to societies further in their transition.
The objective of this report is to share some of these rich experiences by presenting a summary of the Forum’s main deliberations and conclusions. Futhermore by linking the 11 ‘Oslo Principles on Democratic Governance Assessments’ (adopted at the end of the Forum) to a selection of cases, each highlighting one of those principles, this report also aims to illustrate how these principles can be operationalized and thereby contribute to better governance and, particularly, to improved social accountability.
Director of the Democratic Governance Group of the UNDP.
The success of the Oslo Governance Forum (OGF), from 1 to 3 October 2011, is a testimony to the innovative and cost-effective ways of organising a global advocacy event and creating a global venue that can enhance the credibility and capacity of UNDP to play a transformative leadership role on the global level.
The clear message the emerged in the course of three days of discussions and debates (www.oslogovernanceforum.org) underscored that in the context of economic, ecological and governance crises , UNDP is expected to play a more active, substantive and visionary leadership role in strengthening Democratic Governance for sustainable development. Implicit in the message is the challenge that UNDP should be in the forefront, and at the cutting edge, of the nexus between democracy and development. It also serves as reminder that the UNDP, especially through its Human Development Reports, is that development is chiefly about communities and people beyond simple economic aggregates such as Gross National Product (GNP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The key question discussed and debated was how we can renew democratic governance processes and institutions for a new era? This debate points to the belief as argued by Amartya Sen that development is freedom. President Nelson Mandela noted that in taking on the transformation of society our goal was to banish hunger, illiteracy and homelessness and to ensure that everyone had access to food, education and housing. We saw freedom as inseparable from human dignity and equality. He also remarked that overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there are no true freedoms. [...]
The events of this year lend deep significance to the Oslo Governance Forum. Since the beginning of 2011, millions of people have participated in movements for democracy and better governance. Millions more have followed with intense interest as dramatic and often inspiring changes have been set in motion. The issues you have come together to discuss are critical to supporting and underpinning the efforts of these movements as they strive to turn their aspirations and early achievements into a working, lasting reality.
How can governments be made more accountable to citizens? How can governance assessments contribute to citizens' empowerment and more responsive, democratic governance? These are among the highly topical issues discussed at the Oslo Governance Forum Monday through Wednesday this week, among 270 policy makers, experts and practitioners from 75 countries. The Forum, organized by UNDP together with UNDEF, ActionAid, PRIA, the World Bank Institute and NORAD, appears to be a smash hit with vigorous discussions around the Arab Spring, anti-corruption, improving public service, REDD, post-crisis recovery and more. Kudos to the Oslo Governance Center, the entire Democratic Governance Group and to fearless leader Geraldine for pulling this off, and thanks for the strong cross-practice contributions, including by CD Director Nils!
A country-led approach to democratic governance assessments
Good governance needs good data. Governance assessments are a mechanism to strengthen democracy. A successful assessment is driven by the country itself and carried out with the active participation of national and local actors. A country's engagement in the data collection process, analysis of results and ongoing monitoring add value to the assessment far beyond its findings.
This video captures the key aspects of a UNDP approach to democratic governance assessmentsm, and the potential of country-led approaches to foster national dialogue and social accountability.