The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Improving Community Dialogue

Strengthening civic participation is one of the Government's priority areas that will ensure that public and private service providers are more transparent and accountable to the communities they serve.

As a result, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), together with USAID, partnered with Rwanda's Government through ministries, the local government and other agencies like Rwanda Governance and Advisory Council (RGAC) to further this goal.

Through this partnership, an MoU was signed between MCC and RGAC to ensure that the civic participation programme is implemented in all the 30 districts of Rwanda.

Last week, MCC unveiled the Community Score Card project (CSC) in Huye District, Southern Province, serving as a kick start to its first phase which will end in August this year. The project will begin at local community levels, starting with cells and villages.

According to Linda Trudel, the Chief of Party of the Rwanda MCC Threshold Program, this will ensure that the program stays in line with Government's decentralization programmes in order to become successful and beneficial to all the people.

"The role of strengthening civic participation should not be perceived as a platform where residents can point fingers at officials for underperforming, but rather, as an opportunity to collaborate and discover the most important needs of the community," said.

"For this to happen, MCC's program is training local residents and giving them necessary skills to coordinate activities and make them successful," Trudel said.

The process is well defined in a recently published MCC handbook.

It states that: "The initiative will be to bring service providers and residents together, to dialogue about the needs of their society."

One of the basic tools that will be used during this exercise will be the Community Score Cards (CSC).

"CSC is a monitoring tool designed to exert social and public accountability and responsiveness on service providers.

The interface meeting between service providers and the community allows immediate feedback and collaboration on an action plan to improve services," describes the statement.

The Civil Society Technical Advisor of MCC, Jennifer Orgle, said that monitoring the degree to which service providers respond to citizens' needs is a key role played by civil society organizations in the process of ensuring development and accountability.

"If for example, the residents find it necessary to improve their Health sector before the Education sector, then that will be noted and the service providers will be compelled to act accordingly," explains Orgle.

"The goal is to involve residents in things that affect them directly and to have a say and understanding about subjects that affect them such as the annual budget, national laws among others," she added.

To effectively implement this, MCC will provide trainings to Civil Society Organizations to acquire the requisite technical skills to monitor community participation, collect data, prepare and analyze reports.

Their findings will then be communicated to relevant Government and private officials.

Just as Trudel put it, "The program will monitor the performance of services, projects, as well as Government administrative posts. And this will be done by the community members themselves."

Although there was limited knowledge about what civic participation is all about, a strong publicity campaign was carried out to ensure maximum participation from the community and other local stakeholders.

As with any instrument of social and public accountability, the Government is at the forefront of ensuring that Rwandan citizens understand and participate in the socio-political context of governance and structures at a decentralized level.

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