Christian Aid believes that poverty is structural, caused by imbalances in power.
We want to see all people having the power to influence institutions, so that the decisions affecting their lives are made responsibly and fairly.
Our governance programmes focus on the needs and rights of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society, considering the multiple ways in which people suffer inequality and powerlessness.
We have gained expertise in delivering governance and civil society programmes, including through large supplier contracts.
Christian Aid’s accountable governance programming has three main areas of work:
- Our power and voice programmes empower people, increasing the power of poor and marginalised women and men by strengthening their voice, helping them to engage with and influence those in positions of authority, and to participate in their own governance.
- We promote citizens’ engagement with the state, and help them to engage in dialogue to ensure planning and budgeting is inclusive and participatory.
- We aim to change the way that public authorities (governments, state institutions and non-governmental organisations and the private sector) respond to the voice of poor people, so that they change their policies and the way they govern or the manner in which they deliver services.
Good standards of governance require transparency if governments and duty-bearers are to be open and accountable.
Our approach is founded on the principle that citizens, especially those with least power, must have opportunities to actively participate in their own governance and influence their own development if it is to be for their benefit and sustainable in the long-term. This includes:
- Access to basic services or natural resources - the groups that are most marginalised and vulnerable have least influence over how essential services are provided or how access to resources is regulated.
- Access to justice and protection of legal rights - to protect rights, people need an awareness of rights and access to a functioning justice system to defend them.
- Tax justice - working to promote fairer tax systems, the right to information and the opportunity to seek redress and complain about poor services and behaviour.
- Democratic engagement and accountability of government to the people - this can take many forms, but involves a relationship based on free elections and being answerable to the electorate.
- Active citizenship - strengthening communities and civil society to sustainably engage and influence.
- Responsive state - strengthening elected representatives, government officials and service providers to understand, engage and respond progressively to improve service provision.
Rights and power relations are fundamental means by which people can combat poverty, influence policy, make their voices heard, make decisions, and hold decision makers to account.
For those in power and duty-bearers, rights and just power relations means they are held to account, they have to answer for actions and policies, they have to improve how they govern and deliver services and they have to respond to the real needs of people, especially the poorest and most marginalised men and women in the communities they serve.
I have benefited a lot. I have learned about lobbying. I have lobbying skills. At first I thought I needed cash before I could do things. But now I know how to negotiate. I pay tax too and the assembly helps us
- Sulemana Zainabu, seamstress, LEARN Project, Ghana.
Our work on voice and governance demonstrates the change we can help people to create.
We had a lot of feedback especially when we were trying to explain that the budget process was not the preserve of civil servants
- Marie-Josée Kandiambu, Levain des Masses-CRONGD, Bas Congo.
Engagement between citizens and state
Through large governance programmes we have been supporting new spaces for dialogue between citizens and the state, and mobilising citizens and civil society to demand accountability from decision makers.
More than half of the organisations we have supported through the UK aid-funded £23m Strengthening Transparency, Accountability and Responsiveness programme (STAR-Ghana) have engaged with and influenced official decision-making bodies. For example, civil society groups developed a national campaign to address illegal mining and its economic and environmental effects: contributing to changes in the law.
In Sierra Leone, our Strengthening Accountability Building Inclusion (SABI) programme has fostered positive relationships between citizens and the state. Data collected by our consortium partner Restless Development shows that the programme has directly engaged over 44,000 people as change agents for improvements to service provision in their communities.
In Nigeria, the Voice to the People programme helped communities produce their own Charters of Demands as expressions of community need and demand for good governance, services and infrastructure. These demands are presented to local government and the planned budgets and services of the local district councils are followed up on and monitored by the community.
South Africa’s Parliament passed the country’s first-ever national minimum wage legislation in 2018. The Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII), a Christian Aid South Africa partner, directed the minimum wage negotiations as Community Constituency chief negotiator through discussions with the government, business and organised labour, achieving a higher rate than initially tabled.
By facilitating direct discourse with Freetown City Council, the event allowed residents to address pressing matters that affect their day-to-day wellbeing, to understand the council’s priorities and constraints
- Santigie Kargbo, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Holding governments to account
Power to Change Institutions is an objective that cuts across most of our work. It relies on citizens being able to challenge powerful institutions, such as governments, and hold them to account. This is easier in some countries where democratic spaces or platforms exist, or can be created, for citizen-state engagement.
In our economic justice work, we aim to focus more on the opportunities and problems of using private sector finance to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. Developing countries are sometimes encouraged to attract investment by offering tax incentives. However, poor management and a lack of transparency can undermine good governance and provide opportunities for corruption.
We have developed a scorecard for civil society organisations to assess their own government’s use of tax incentives. We worked with a partner in Central America, ICEFI, to create scorecards for three countries in the region; these will be used to inform research and advocacy in Latin America and globally.
There has been an increase in women’s participation in decision making at community, local government and state levels. The position of women is gradually changing due to sensitisation and the enlightenment of the people. The women are no longer waiting for men to take decisions for them, they are now part of decision making.
- Eucharia Anaekwe, V2P programme, Nigeria.