Using evidence to deliver better services to the citizens of Kenya

Demographic data is key to effective, responsive and evidence-based legislation.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is supporting the Senate of Kenya develop new ways to collect county-level information which will help legislators decide where to improve public services.

Kenya, which will hold a general election on 8 August, is currently going through a process of devolution of powers from the central state to its 47 administrative counties. Parliament is committed to developing policy that takes local issues into account and enables a more balanced distribution of public funds.

The WFD Kenya parliamentary programme aims at enabling a successful devolution of powers and at improving both the legislative and representative roles of the Senate. An important component of the programme is the partnership with the Northern Ireland Assembly, which enabled the study of its geographic information system by the Senate of Kenya.

In October 2016, a delegation from the Senate of Kenya visited the Northern Ireland Assembly as part of a WFD study visit to explore data collection methods. The visit included a meeting with RAISE – the Assembly’s Research and Information Services Department – which focused on how to capturing local data and how to processing this into reader-friendly formats by using a Geographic Information System. This can help legislators consider the needs of constituencies, for example on health, education and infrastructure.

RAISE’s use of geographic information helps representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly take evidence-based decisions for their constituencies.

Following a study visit to Stormont, Mr Ahmed Odhowa, Senior Research Officer in the Senate Liaison Office that has been actively involved informing devolution policy, research and analysis explained how “the WFD programme broadened Kenyan Parliament’s understanding of research and evidence can be used to inform and influence legislators effectively”.

WFD is now helping the Senate of Kenya set up an information system covering all of Kenya’s 47 counties. Such a system has the potential to help committees monitor budgets and the provision of better infrastructure across the country. It can also provide a stronger evidence base for laws that deliver better services to citizens while allocating precious public resources in a more equitable way across different regions.

From ensuring access to healthcare and education to improving investment in agriculture and road networks that many communities rely on, the greater use of evidence by the Senate can transform lives and contribute to a more successful devolution of powers.

As Senator Moses Kajwang from the Senate’s Standing Committee on Roads and Transportation, put it: “the time is nigh for a Devolution Revolution. We at the Senate are best placed to represent the counties interests at the national level.”

(Photos: Main: Representatives from the Senate of Kenya and research staff meet with RAISE in Northern Ireland. Inset: Ahmed Odhowa, Senior Research Officer in the Senate Liaison Office)
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Supporting effective subnational government in Burma

Westminster Foundation for Democracy is committed to supporting the consolidation of democracy in Burma at both the national and regional level. Whilst our programme (in partnership with the UK House of Commons) with the Hluttaw in Naypidaw goes from strength to strength, our team in Burma looks to develop a complementary programme at the State and Regional level.

To ensure the programme delivers local government in line with citizens’ expectations and as outlined in the 2008 constitution, the team conducted a scoping visit to two States and two Regions earlier this year to determine how WFD can support the respective Hluttaws as they too develop their institutional capacity.

Although logistics and time did not enable the team to visit all 14 States and Regions the team were exposed to a range of different contexts and challenges. WFD was warmly welcomed in Sagaing and Magwe Regions, and the States of Kayah and Shan, all of which present a unique context for delivering parliamentary support.

Applying context to programme development

Sagaing is the largest of seven regions, located in the north-west part of the country which is predominantly ethnic Burman, but other minorities such as Zomi and Naga (forming the Naga Self-Administered Zone) reside within the region. It is also the second largest sub-national parliament in Burma after Shan.

Magway is the second largest of the seven regions and though part of central Burma, it is considered remote due to the lack of good transportation. The population is majority Burman with very small numbers of ethnic minorities such as Chin, Rakhine, Karen, Shan and Anglo-Burmese. Shan State, which covers roughly a quarter of the country’s territory, with the largest Hluttaw in Burma is also the most politically complex.

The Shan people are Burma’s biggest ethnic minority, but the growth of other minorities has led to the creation of 4 Self- Administered Zones which provide a certain amount of autonomy for the Danu, Pa-O, Kokang, Pa Laung, and the Wa people. Although small and mountainous Kayah State is no less complex with a number of different ethnic groups although the Karenni are the largest.

The programme will ensure an inclusive approach so that the interests of each ethnic group are represented within the Regional or State Hluttaw and also how in turn these Hluttaws interact with the national legislature in Naypidaw to deliver real change for citizens across Burma.

Next steps for developing the sub-national programme

WFD’s planned involvement with the States and Regional Hluttaws meets the needs of the changing circumstances in Burma as they adapt to the new political dispensation. The process of providing for Regional and State Hluttaws goes back to the 2008 Constitution that allocates a considerable amount of responsibility in the provision of services as well as in economic development, tourism and the environment to the state and regional level.

As new institutions, with newly elected Members, WFD wants to support the Hluttaws to fulfil their responsibilities. WFD will work closely with the Union Parliament, with which WFD signed an MoU in November 2016. Using the full breadth of the UK democratic experience, including the process of devolution, we work closely with the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to support countries transitioning to democracy. This experience has been utilised in our work with sub-national assemblies in Iraq, Kenya and Pakistan and we hope to bring the same experience to the programme in Burma.

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Kyrgyzstan: Launching KLAP to support Local Self-Governance

(Above: Local councillors work together on a group task at a WFD organised induction for new councillors in Naryn City Council, Kyrgyzstan)

Local self-government systems are intended to bring power and decision-making closer to citizens and communities. As in many other post-Soviet countries, the Kyrgyz systems of local self-government have existed since independence in various forms.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s new Kyrgyzstan Local Accountability Programme (KLAP) aims to support local councils to overcome governance issues. KLAP supports three local city councils in the Kyrgyz Republic: Batken, Naryn and Balychy.

The programme provides a comprehensive approach working with officers, councillors and communities in these localities to increase capacities to deliver good governance and local services. In addition to the provision of direct support to the pilot cities, our programme engages the Union of Local Self-Government as the national body representing local councils across the country in the capital, Bishkek, to enhance the voice of local government with national level institutions. The approach was designed by WFD in close cooperation with UK local government experts, working together with the Local Government Association of England and Wales (LGA).

Traditionally, WFD programmes in Europe and Central Asia have focused on providing support to governance institutions at national level, and not without good reason. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, national parliaments took a central role in the governance of their respective countries for the first time. Over the course of the last quarter century, national parliaments and other central government institutions have become the focus of political life yet there are other features of government which should not be ignored, like decentralisation and devolution. Following the tight central control of communist regimes, the challenges of taking decision making and political power closer to communities is not a small one.

Fully launched in January 2017, KLAP has initially provide support to the staff of councils in pilot cities to deliver induction trainings and orientation to their newly elected councillors, following elections which took place in December. This seeks to overcome one of the central issues identified during our assessments, that councillors have limited knowledge of their roles and responsibilities when coming to office. The format of support followed a formula pioneered by WFD in Georgia, following their parliamentary election in October 2016. Rather than the traditional formula of an induction designed and implemented directly by a donor agency, we work with councils so they have the resources and capacities to deliver an effective induction themselves.

For the first time, in February 2017, each of the three councils implemented inductions for their new councillors – constituting 65-70% of council membership with people coming from a variety of backgrounds. Having never been involved in local government before, the inductions providing sessions around the role of the councillor, how the council operates, and engaging with local societies, among others, were implemented by council staff, in each of the three cities. One of the key areas of training has been to increase the new councillor’s familiarity with the local budget process, how it operates and their role in that process. Passing the councils new budget, alongside electing executive mayors, is one of the first items on the agenda.

Throughout the induction process, WFD has engaged representatives of the Union of Local Self-Government as well as State Agency on Self-government Affairs, as two bodies charged with the provision of support to local councils and regional development.

Going forward, KLAP will continue to deliver tailormade capacity building support to the three city councils. It will provide opportunities for councillors to engage with their peers, discuss issues of mutual interest and exchange ideas and good practices. It will support councillors to enhance their direct engagement with local communities and align service delivery with real needs and desires. Working with the LGA, the programme will see the role of the Union of Local Self-Government enhance to represent local government to state-level institutions. KLAP will be implemented initially until 2019 and has potential to expand its beneficiaries.

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Why should WFD care about devolution?

devolution - flickr - Ian Sane

By David Thirlby, WFD’s Senior Programme Manager for Asia

Devolution and democratisation often go hand-in-hand. In practice, though, the process of transferring power away from central government often produces disappointing results and is always a complex business. These difficulties make it all the more important that organisations like Westminster Foundation for Democracy offer their assistance.
Paradoxically, as the world has become more globalised, there have been further demands, and calls for, devolution. In discussing devolution the terminology itself can be confusing.  It is often associated with administrative decentralisation, de-concentration of power and federalism amongst others. For the purposes of this article, devolution refers to where the central government has passed on powers previously held to it to a sub-national unit. Devolution is often seen as a means to improve the provisions of public services, protect local rights, secure peace and reconciliation as well as consolidate multi-party democracy.

By their very nature authoritarian regimes tend to be unitary forms of government where power and decision-making are centralised. It is therefore not surprising that following periods of authoritarian rule, a democratisation process is often accompanied with devolution.  We saw this in Pakistan after Musharraf’s regime, where a return to parliamentary democracy at the national level was mirrored with provision of substantial powers to the constituent provinces, and recently, to elected government bodies. This logic applies elsewhere: post-Franco Spain’s 1978 constitution provided for strong autonomous regions whose power has extended as local democracy has been entrenched. However, it is difficult to determine how much power should be devolved before it brings into question the unity of the state itself. In the last couple of years, both in Spain and the UK, movements towards independence has called into question the nation state. Interestingly, neither are federal countries.

The principle of subsidiarity states that governments work best, so the logic goes, when they are close to citizens who benefit from better frontline services based on decisions which are more attuned to the local context.  When decisions are made closer to the people, people are also better able to oversee the execution of decisions thereby providing further pressure on accountability.  After Suharto’s New Order in Indonesia, basic services including the provision of health, primary and secondary education are the responsibility of the districts. However, when there are multiple layers of government, it can be difficult for the citizen to identify who is responsible for what – is it the local council/ municipality, region/ state or the national government?  Arguably, this is further complicated in supranational bodies such as the EU. A problem often witnessed is that although many central governments are keen to devolve powers, they are often unwilling or unable to provide the financial resources that go with them.

Protecting local rights is another key drive for devolution. In many cases these are often tied to issues concerning distribution of resources. In many resource-rich countries, local communities feel disempowered because they suffer disproportionately from the extraction of natural resources, which often are highly polluting. This was the case in the petroleum-rich Delta Region in Nigeria, which experienced especially severe conflict during Sani Abacha’s military regime.  Many countries, such as Peru, have regional governments that get a share of royalties from local developments which benefit local communities. However, often it is difficult to determine how the royalties of natural resources are shared, not just between the local region and the central government, but also between regions. This is especially the case in countries where human development index scoring is  low and money is scarce. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s vast natural resources are confined in a few states – such as Katanga– with the resource-poor states, such as Province Orientale, grumbling that the funds are not being fairly distributed. Likewise the 2010 constitution in Kenya created 52 counties with powers that sought to redress accusations that certain ethnic groups had not benefitted equally since independence. However, when resource allocation is tied to that of a region or ethnic group, it can lead to divisions. At independence in 1960 Nigeria consisted of three regions – tellingly now it consists of 36 states.

Most controversial is the role that devolution has played in conflict resolution and reconciliation. In the UK, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement provided for a system of power-sharing between both communities in Northern Ireland. In Indonesia, giving Aceh a degree of autonomy and allowing it to adopt a form of Sharia law were part of the main provisions that brought an end 30 years of conflict between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the national government. Questions of devolution are a factor in countries like Burma and Sri Lanka that are in the process of resolving long-standing violent secessionist movements by minorities.

Why WFD can help

The UK has a good story to tell about devolution – made all the more valuable by being as much about its pitfalls and challenge as its successes. Our asymmetric approach means the three devolved assemblies each have their own unique focus. In Wales there are interesting lessons on how to cope with the language issue; in Northern Ireland devolution comes in the context of conflict resolution and power-sharing; and in Scotland we see an example of devolution attempting to win the confidence of a small nation while remaining in a much larger one.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy draws on all this experience and expertise – not just from the Commons, but all the devolved assemblies. And not just from their hugely knowledgeable and insightful staff, either, but also from Westminster’s political parties. Our approach utilises the strong sister-party relationships between the UK’s parties and their overseas counterparts to encourage the growth of multiparty democracies in the countries where we operate.

In countries either going through the process of devolution, or getting used to the new system, we should be ready to work with new representative bodies at the sub-national level. It is not about being an advocate for devolution in itself. What matters is that it is often the devolved units which receive powers over the areas like education or health which can make the biggest difference to fighting poverty. The challenge is in making the devolved institutions more effective at connecting them up with their citizens and helping them understand where the responsibilities lie.

Where next?

As we look to the future there is room for both optimism and concern. We can expect many of the newly devolved units to establish themselves more effectively.For example, Lagos in Nigeria or Jakarta in Indonesia have shown how effective sub-national systems can be at improving and delivering front line services that make a real difference to citizens’ lives.

However, clear dangers lie ahead too. Critics of devolution rightly point to the perils of having multiple layers which unnecessarily absorb state resources and detract from directing those resources to where they are needed. There is a risk of creating hollowed-out institutions which do not have the manpower, or even the political will, to be effective.

WFD, and parliamentary strengthening organisations like it, have a critical role to play, but we have to be careful not to approach this with our own preconceived ideas in mind. The complex relationships between the different tiers of representation are all context-specific. All our work has to be driven by our partner parliaments. It is only where there is political will for reform that we should seek to operate. When that exists – and it’s clear that assisting regional bodies will help improve people’s lives – we should always be ready to offer our support.

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Improving parliamentary performance in Pakistan

By WFD’s programme manager Ali Imran in Lahore

WFD’s programme ‘Deepening democratic engagement in the province of Punjab’ was designed to improve the effectiveness of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab – Pakistan’s largest province in terms of population and a major contributor to the national economy. By working with the Assembly’s members and secretariat staff the programme has contributed to a greater understanding of legislative, oversight and representative roles.  This has assisted the parliament to pass legislation after devolution – a highly significant development in Pakistan’s recent history when the constitution was amended to allow for greater distribution of powers to the provinces.

Delivering democratic reforms

The programme has delivered reform initiatives to improve governance, including the Assembly’s rules of procedure, making standing committees more effective, shaping policy and passing legislation that protects the rights of women and children.  There has also been progress in more cooperative relations between parliament and civil society.  In addition the programme benefited from ‘south on south’ engagement with parliamentarians gaining insights into how counterparts in other countries have made progress on issues of mutual interest such as greater representation of women in politics.

Ownership was an important consideration in designing the programme which required close consultation with the Speaker’s chamber and the Assembly’s secretariat.

Improving parliamentary performance

The timing of the programme was critical as it coincided with Pakistan’s first ever transition of power from one civilian government to another through the electoral process.  The greater devolution of power to the provinces created new opportunities for better governance of citizens in these provinces.  Welcome as these democratic developments were – they created clear need for support: a striking 55% of newly elected members had no previous parliamentary experience.  The programme succeeded in reaching more than 100 newly elected members through its training sessions which covered topics such as the Assembly’s rules of procedure and parliamentary techniques including questions, resolution and adjournment motions.  Once this understanding was developed the programme focused on other key areas such as budget analysis and developing a deeper understanding of devolution.

South-South engagement

In addition the Punjab Assembly members benefited from gaining insights into how other parliaments and politicians have made progress on issues such as the greater representation of women in politics and engagement with civil society.  WFD’s programmes in the Middle East enabled us to work with Iraqi politicians who shared their experience on forging stronger links between parliament and civil society organisations.  Similarly, a caucus of women members of the Punjab Assembly was able to benefit from the experiences of their counterparts in the Jordanian Parliament and explore how they have tackled adversarial debate to fight for greater legislation to protect women and children. This resulted in a particularly rewarding development when a member of the Punjab Assembly’s women caucus presented a resolution demanding stricter action against child marriage on her return from Jordan.  Earlier this month the government passed a bill to reform existing child marriage law.

                                                                 Britain’s democratic history and the ‘Westminster brand’

Members of the Punjab Assembly also benefited from Britain’s democratic history and were able to find out about parliamentary techniques deployed by their counterparts in the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons.  The concept of institutional accountability through the scrutiny of departmental standing committees was not only appreciated but also resulted in discussions about how to best reform the Punjab Assembly’s standing committees.  The work of Britain’s regional assemblies proved informative in enabling Pakistani MPs observe at first hand the work of the select committees, parliamentary procedures and how powers had been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and regional assemblies.  Peer-to-peer dialogue was invaluable in advancing this understanding.

                                     Towards greater representation – from aspiration to reality 

Another key area of WFD’s work was in forging cooperative relationships between civil society and the Assembly which resulted in tripartite discussions between MPs, Assembly staff and civil society organisations.  This enabled a range of organisations to really develop their understanding of parliamentary work and seize opportunities for greater advocacy in political life.  In sum the programme resulted in reform initiatives and debates that demonstrate tangible evidence of improving parliamentary performance in Pakistan.  Although the programme is scheduled to close this month its work demonstrates a clear case for continuing to support Pakistan’s fragile democracy and turn more hopes into reality.

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