On the 25-27th of January, 2023, as part of a conference organized by WaterAid and alongside representatives from countries including Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Ghana and Tanzania, VNG International celebrated and shared the implementation best practices and lessons learned from the “Ethiopia Social Accountability Program” (ESAP) which has been on-going for over 15 years.
The conference was on the theme of “Scaling Up Social Accountability Practices in East Africa to Improve WASH in Healthcare Facilities” and took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With more than 30 participants from the field of Social Accountability (SA), the conference brought together key people such as researchers, experts and consultants from multiple countries in Sub-Sahara Africa to facilitate inter-regional and cross-community learning and cooperation. As such, during the three days, they not only shared experiences and best practices, but also success factors and major challenges in the process of social accountability implementation.
VNG International has worked on the concept of Social Accountability for over ten years in Ethiopia. Social Accountability is defined as the process to build trust between civil society, citizen and the government in participative planning and budgeting of local service delivery. ESAP’s programmatic features were designed to produce supply-side and demand-side change, both independently and interactively: A more engaged citizenry in local governance is therefore both a means to improved service delivery as well as a goal in itself.
The program during the January conference entailed presentations from the East and West Africa regions on the specific experiences of implementing social accountability projects for WASH services in healthcare facilities.
Ms. Yeshimebet Aynie, representing the ESAP Management Agency, delivered a presentation on the experience and lessons learned from the implementation of ESAP, including the use of the Citizen Report Card methodology to gather data for improved service delivery. In this, she highlighted the need to work with viable citizen structures.
On the whole, the conference underlined the ESAP’s contribution to strengthening the opportunities for citizen participation, thereby improving their engagement. This was achieved through the creation and implementation of inclusive spaces, improving access to information, and the building of trust and confidence within the community, as well as between the community and local government officials. Tamrat Getahun, Senior Capacity Development Expert of ESAP, added that the “Ethiopian government ownership and leadership in the designing, implementation, and monitoring of SA projects has been considered SA best practice for regional learning.” Furthermore, he emphasized that the ESAP has brought a revolution in the mindset of the citizens. “Now, the citizens are confident to demand their rights to services and hold the local government officials accountable for their decisions and actions.”
The conference also involved a visit to the Felege Hiwot Health Center in Addis Ababa – one of the ESAP’s important outputs. This allowed participants to observe the social accountability practices and outcomes in person. According to the Center’s manager, the ESAP was responsible for the transformation of the formerly abandoned health facility into a fully functional and high-quality facility within two and half months. Additionally, to ensure sustainability of these achievements, the project established a monthly consultation platform bringing together the facility’s healthcare workers, service providers and the community to discuss progress and challenges.
The conference was concluded with a consensus to establish a regular platform that brings together social accountability expertise across the region. VNG International, finalizing their ESAP programme in 2024, will put emphasis on more of these knowledge sharing events on the lessons learned, with the first one coming up in March 2023 in Addis Ababa in collaboration with the World Bank, Helvetas and the British Council.