Final draft sa_forum_khan_younis_13_10_2013


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Final draft sa_forum_khan_younis_13_10_2013

  1. 1. Prepared by: Mo’min Abu Nada Mohammed Yaghi Issued Oct. 13, 2013
  2. 2. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis TABLE OF CONTENTS FORUM OVERVIEW ........................................................................................................... 1 ATTENDANCE .................................................................................................................... 2 OPENING SPEECHES ......................................................................................................... 4 PANEL DISCUSSIONS ........................................................................................................ 5 WORLD CAFÉ ..................................................................................................................... 7 WORKSHOPS ...................................................................................................................... 8 LESSONS LEARNED ........................................................................................................... 9 RECOMMENDATIONS...................................................................................................... 10 1
  3. 3. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis Forum overview The Social Accountability Forum is part of the promotion plan of the Local Governance and Civil Society Development Program (LGP) of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Palestine. The overall goal of the LGP is improving Municipal basic services and enhancing the responsiveness to citizens. The mechanisms of Social Accountability (SA) are considered quite crucial to increasing the level of responsiveness of the municipalities towards the citizens. SA has also an added value for municipalities and their communities firstly, as it contributes to enhancing the principles of Credibility of government, Empowerment of Citizens, Development and Effectiveness of Service Provision, and Good Governance. Secondly, the efforts of including citizens in municipal planning, implementation and monitoring processes need to be rewarded with a tangible ‘return on investment’. LGP initiated its intervention on March 2013 to pilot different mechanisms of Social Accountability. Building on the piloting experiences, the LGP will extract lessons learned to further institutionalize wellfunctioning SA mechanisms on the local level. LGP has organized 4 SA Forums in 4 municipalities in the Palestinian Territories; the first being in Nablus on September 28, 2013; the second in Ramallah on September 29, 2013; the third in Hebron on October 1, 2013; and finally in Khan Younis on October 2, 2013. This report aims to summarize activities conducted, speeches said, discussions held, and recommendations of the forum in Khan Younis. GIZ organized the forum in partnership with the municipality of Khan Younis as well as five local civil society organizations (CSOs). Those CSOs are the same partner organizations of the LGP. They include: The Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR); Bunian Association for Training, Evaluation, and social Studies (BUNIAN); Life and Hope Association; the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership And Rights Activation (PYALARA); and AISHA Association for Woman and Child Protection (AISHA). The forum was conducted also with the presence of The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN). The forum started with speeches from the manager of the municipality of Khan Younis and the representative of the partner CSOs, and then included two activities to present the concept of SA in a comedy-based way. Afterwards, panel discussion was started allowing audience to raise questions about the concept of SA and the challenges that faces the application of SA in Palestine in general and in the city of Khan Younis in particular. The panel discussion was followed by two workshops about two projects being piloted as part of the LGP; the first one being about the pilot project of social accountability; and the second one being about the pilot project: Youth Create Change. Simultaneously with conducting the 1
  4. 4. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis workshops, an activity of World Cafe was carried out that provided a further opportunity for participants to ask and know more about the concept of SA and its main four pillars. The forum was finalized with thanking all participants, and by submitting the second award for the social accountability photo competition to the winner. Attendance According to the entry registration documents, it was revealed that the total number of people who attended the forum was 408. The variation in attendants’ gender as well as the organizations they represent is a significant point of consideration. This is considered vital to the achievement of objectives of the forum to share the concept of SA with citizens from both sexes, as well as people from various stakeholders. Age variation of attending audience was also clear. Participants’ ages varied from being 18 years old to old people in their 70s. Unfortunately, the entry registration documents did not require attendants to mention their age, consequently, it was not possible to make a comprehensive analysis on the age variation of the attendants. However, the variation is clear, and this conclusion is based on direct observations as well as estimates from the municipality of Khan Younis and partner NGOs. Such conclusion is also based on the variance of the types of people who attended from youth coming from youth organizations to community traditional leaders who are, as known about the society of the Gaza Strip, mostly older than 60 years old. Two important aspects about attendants are: the gender distribution, and the agencies or sectors that attendants are representing or are working for. Based on the information revealed from the entry registration, and as represented in figure1, 58% of attendants were males and 42% were females. Gender Distribution of Attendent audience 42% Female Male 58% Figure 1: Attendants. Gender Distribution of The percentage of female attendance is quite successful given the male-dominant culture in Palestine. Such participation of females is considered vital for the success of introducing SA properly to citizens. In regards to the distribution of attendants according to the sectors they represent, three main categories of sectors were measured as per the sectors related to the success of the application of SA in local governance. Those three sectors were: Municipalities; NGOs; and media. Once more the entry registration was used to conclude such facts and the result is given by figure2. 2
  5. 5. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis Attendance Distribution in regards to Sector 60% Municipality NGOs Media Other 17% 20% 3% Figure 2: Distribution of attendants in regards to sectors. The fact that 60% of attendants are from NGOs indicates that NGOs are significantly successful in mobilizing citizens to participate in such events. It is essential to mention that the 60% number does not consist of attendants coming from partner CSOs only, but rather from other NGOs as well. Those NGOs include, amongst others: AMAN coalition for accountability and transparency; the UNDP; The Red Crescent Society; the Palestinian Society for Traditional leaders; and some local sport clubs in the governorate of Khan Younis. The participation of other municipalities in the forum was clearly noticed. The 17% number is not calculated for the attendants only from the municipality of Khan Younis but from other municipalities in the Gaza strip as well. Other municipalities included: Rafah; Al-Maghazi; Bani Sohaila; Al-Qarara; Al-Mosaddar; Al-Buraij; Khoza’a; Bet Hanoun; Bet Lahia; Der Al-Balah; and AlNosairat. The participation of Mayors and municipality council members was significant. This participation provides an indication that those municipalities have a tendency to know more about SA and to apply its mechanisms in their municipalities. Media was significantly present. At least two radio stations, two satellite channels, and one private film making company attended. The forum was lively streamed on one radio station and one TV Channel. Such an interest of local media to cover the first SA forum in Palestine may provide a positive indicator that media can be utilized, in the way it should, to maximize the impact of SA in Palestine. Figure 3: Significant participation of traditional community leaders and neighborhood committees. Attendants who were not part of the previously mentioned categories were normal citizens that probably wanted to participate to know more about SA, or are interested in enhancing the performance of their municipality. Some of them were students, some were lawyers, some were university instructors and some were unemployed. 3
  6. 6. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis Opening Speeches General Director of the municipality of Khan Younis, Mr. Mohammed Al Agha. Mr. Al Agha started by welcoming the guests and thanking them for coming. He emphasized the importance of SA in local governance in Palestine and explained some of the measures taken by the municipality of Khan Younis to apply SA. He also explained about the benefits a municipality can obtain if it was committed to the principle of SA. Figure 4: Mr. Mohammed Al-Agha General Director of the municipality of Khan Younis Executive manager of the PCDCR, Mr. Iyad Abu Hjayyer. Mr. Abu Hjayyer spoke as a representative of the NGOs who are partners to the SA project. His speech was directly after presenting the introductory film produced by GIZ to inform community about the project of SA. He began his speech saying: “I hope that this film and this project will constitute an initiation for the reunification of the two wings of Palestine, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” He, then, explained to the audience that SA has two goals: the first being political which is not to misuse the power by powerholders; and the second being operational to enhance the quality of services provided by local agencies. He explained that Accountability should be understood as a social contract between citizens and powerholders in local agencies, whether the power-holder was elected or assigned, that they should be in full commitment to the transparent standards that must be fulfilled to ensure the best service provision to citizens. Having said that, he emphasized that the horizontal accountability, of having different institutions of the state or the local agency to monitor each other, is important but it cannot substitute the other accountability form; the vertical form of having citizens monitor the performance of power-holders by elections. On his explanation for the rule of civil society organizations (CSOs), he explained that CSOs have two main rules: the first is to complement the work of government and local agencies for the better service for the citizens; and the second is to positively monitor the performance of the government. Such an understanding of this integral rule between civil society and government should, as he stated, be the basis for cooperation between the two sectors. He emphasized also that the concept of civil society is not limited to the civil society organizations but rather includes all other non-governmental bodies such as syndicates; workers unions; students unions; women coalitions; as well as political parties. 4
  7. 7. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis The horizontal accountability, of having different institutions of the state or the local agency to monitor each other, is important but it cannot substitute the other accountability form; the vertical forms of having citizens monitor the performance of power-holders by elections, says: Mr. Iyad Abu Hjayyer. In his diagnosis for the problem between government and local agencies on one side and civil society bodies on the other, he stated that: The problem of insufficient cooperation between CSOs and local agencies, or government, that we have in the Gaza Strip is caused by the fact that government anticipates that CSOs will perform their first rule (complementing the work of government by providing services) and not the second (monitoring the performance of government). Also, CSOs have failed to perform their first rule of complementing the work of government and local agencies and intend only to perform the second part of monitoring. Such a status would not result in the proper status of cooperation between government and civil society. CSOs should have a memorandum signed with their related governmental bodies or local agencies describing the rules of each and the commitments of each. CSOs should take a step towards government despite the limitations imposed on them by donors and governmental and local units should take steps, not only one, towards CSOs. Clarifying the advantages of applying SA in Palestine, he explained: firstly, SA strengthens the mutual trust between citizens and decision makers. Secondly, a participating citizen is an asset and an advantage for the state and we have to strengthen this feeling of responsibility in citizens. Thirdly, when a municipality or a governmental agency participate the decision making process with citizens by the various participation tools, citizens will be supporters to the municipality or the governmental agency not an enemy to it due to the fact that they would understand the limitations and capabilities that the decision was based on. Fourthly, SA provides a transparency platform for the local agency to inform citizens about its plans; projects; and timetables. This would make criticism by citizens based on this information spread which was, by the way, one of the secrets for the success of holding power-holders accountable in Turkey. Panel Discussions Discussion was held at the forum where audience was allowed to raise questions to the main guests and also to make interventions and suggestions related to: the concept of SA, mechanisms of SA, possible strategies to make the application of SA in 5
  8. 8. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis the municipality successful, and the extent to which the municipality of Khan Younis was committed to SA. The main guests for the discussion were: the mayor of Khan Younis, Mr. Yahya Al-Astal; the executive manager of the PCDCR, Mr. Iyad Abu Hjayyer; and the member of the department of social welfare and development in the republic of the Philippines, Mrs. Angelita Gregorio-Medel. The discussion was moderated by Ehsan Abu Obaida, project coordinator for the SA project in Bunian Association. The discussion started with an introduction by Ehsan about the objective of the discussion and the main topics to be discussed. The first three questions were raised by Ehsan to the three guests, the first being about the extent SA is really applied so far at the municipality of Khan Younis, the second being about the role of CSOs in the application of SA in Palestine, and the third being how can we, in Palestine, benefit from the experience of applying SA in the Philippines? After those three questions were answered, audience was given the chance to raise questions. The questions raised were related to the extent citizens think the municipality is really applying SA, the extent to which SA is applicable in Palestine, the legal framework that can be used to apply SA, the elections, the sustainability of the project of SA, the awareness building of citizens in regards to SA, and examples of methodologies related to SA, that were applied in other countries that we can benefit from in Palestine. Suggestions raised by audience were related to methodologies to share information by the municipality, methodologies to enhance the culture of SA in new generations, and voluntarily supportive mechanisms by youth to the municipality. Figure 5: Side of the Panel Discussions The discussions revealed that the mayor of Khan Younis has a different understanding of SA, which is listening to citizens’ complaints only. He also avoided answering questions raised directly to him that are related to SA. He explained that the municipality has received 1600 complaints and 85% of which were replied to. He certified that the strategic plan of the municipality and other information will be shared on the municipality website soon. Mr. Iyad explained, throughout the discussions, the challenges that face the application of SA in the Gaza Strip. He also explained that the role of CSOs in applying SA is integrative and complementary to the role of the government by awareness building and training. As discussions were going, in a serious way, towards the criticism of the political party that is assigning municipality councils in the Gaza Strip, he 6
  9. 9. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis explained that SA will not be as successful if we intend to use it for political interests. He emphasized that SA should be used only for the sake of better service provision by local agencies. The issue of the sustainability of the project of SA was raised many times, and, as a result, Mr. Iyad explained the amount of work needed for the intended change in culture and municipality procedures to adequately apply SA. He also made a recommendation that both CSOs and municipalities allocate a portion of their budgets, time, strategic plans, and employees to continue the efforts to raise the culture of SA if funding was terminated. According to him, there are positive indicators that imply a positive change in the culture of SA. Mrs. Angelita explained some methodologies and approaches applied in other countries that have, somehow, similar situations to the situation in Palestine. She explained about the secret of having organized people to claim their rights (people power). She explained that SA is not about individuals claiming their needs, but it must be organized citizens who are capable of producing data and launching their advocacies. She explained that SA is a new concept that requires so much media and uses other untraditional approaches for awareness building such as jokes, comedies, and technology. She explained about the legal and legislative support that was used in the Philippines to ensure an adequate accountability by society to the government and local agencies. For complete text of the panel discussion please refer to: Appendix A. World Cafe The world café is an activity that was performed directly after completing the panel discussions. It involves having a number of tables with chairs surrounding them, exactly like a real-world café, were each table discusses a certain topic and participants are supposed to spend a specified time on each table and move to the other. There were five tables that discussed five topics: the concept of SA and its four main pillars (participation, response, monitoring, and transparency). Participants varied in ages and sexes considerably. Almost half of participants were females. Their ages varied from being young to be in their fifties. The intention of participants to share varied from one to another. Some wanted to understand more about the concepts and some wanted to propose suggestions. The most important suggestions proposed by them were: 1. Re-form the neighborhood committees by elections. 2. Form an independent committee of volunteer citizens to attend the meetings of municipality council and follow up on the implementation of its decisions. 3. Form a committee to follow up on citizen’s complaints. 4. Form a committee to follow up on compensations for citizens whose 7
  10. 10. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis properties were harmed by the projects of the municipality. 5. Not to assign neighborhood committees by municipality but rather by elections. The duty of them is to try to enhance service provision not to defend the municipality. 6. Employ young people in professions that involve direct provision of service, like cleaning and sewage, since they have better physical abilities to do the work in a more proper way. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Main questions in accountability. Basic elements and pillars of SA. Basic benefits of SA. Potential risks of SA. Factors that facilitate the success of SA. 7. Definition of public hearing. 8. Types of public hearing. 9. Stakeholders of public hearing. 10. What public hearing is used for? 11. The phases of executing public hearing. Figure 7: Side of the Social Accountability workshop. Figure 6: Side of the strong participation in the World Cafe activity. Workshops Two workshops were conducted, the first intended to raise the awareness of participants about the concept of SA, and the second intended to introduce participants to the basics of youth participation. The main discussion topics for the first workshop were: 1. Basic components accountability. of The main discussion topics for the second workshop were: 1. Definition of youth participation on family and community using colored cards. 2. Hart’s ladder of participation and reflecting grades of participation. 3. Where to find your position on Hart’s ladder. 4. Introducing the pilot project performed by GIZ—Youth Create Change (YCC). general 8
  11. 11. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis Figure 8: Side of the YCC workshop. Lessons Learned 1. Distinguish should be made between the preparations for an event in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Since the Gaza Strip has a special situation in regards to the freedom of movement, not all kinds of guests can attend. The fact that GIZ did not take that distinguish in consideration has resulted in a threat that the forum in Khan Younis would not have an important activity—the TEDx show. Performers of the TEDx show were denied access by the Israeli side, only four days before the forum. Consequently, the team who was preparing for the forum in Gaza was in a chaos situation to solve the problem. The problem was solved by a stand-up comedy video that was created in only three days. The video would, of course, have been better if it was given more time for production. 2. Consideration should be made during planning not to have two events to be held too close to each other. The forum was planned to be on Oct. the second, and another event was planned on the directly previous day—the visit of the BMZ delegation to Gaza. As the team was busy with the activities related to that visit, some of the preparation activities for the forum could not be performed and the team was in a stressful situation. 3. Procurement procedures that require long administrative time should have started earlier as they delayed some other activities and made preparation more stressful to the team. The printing of brochures and other forum-related-printings, for example, takes long administrative time this has resulted in that the team had no choice but to do the biggest deal of preparations on Tuesday, just one day before the forum. 4. Other municipalities in the Gaza Strip should have given the chance to participate in the preparation of the forum. Some mayors and municipality directors informed project coordinators that this was an important day for all municipalities, not only the municipality of Khan Younis. Their participation in the preparation process could have had improved the forum even more. 5. Special invitations should have been sent to the directors of other municipalities. Representatives of other municipalities were either mayors or employees from PR department. The participation of 9
  12. 12. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis municipality directors would provide a better impact on the level of application of SA in their municipalities as they deal more with technical administrative issues. 6. Panel discussions would have been better if they were based on a discussion agenda that limits the topics of discussion, and if a preparation meeting was held with Ehsan, Iyad, and the mayor. 7. Ehsan should have exerted more effort to control the discussions during the panel discussion, and should have given priorities to persons who have more potential to enrich the discussion like the mayor of Rafah who raised his hand all the time but was not given the chance to participate. 8. Booths should have been located away from each other to provide more space for guests to visit them. The locations of the booths next to each other made the relatively high number of guests packed with discomfort. Recommendations 1. Angelita recommends to run smaller types of discussions with the presence of the mayor that will be more focused and with fewer number of participants who are related. The workshops should be held episodically (like once every week or 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. month), and shall be topic-identified like this week we will discuss the service of water for example. The promises of the mayor in the forum are something that can be used. They should be written down, printed, and distributed to citizens. (Angelita) The production of short films, comic books and similar things to build the capacity of the citizens and NGOs in SA. (Angelita). Youth project should not be separated from SA project. Social Accountability must be an element of everything. (Angelita) Labels from the local culture and religion should be found to facilitate the change in culture. Because in change management it cannot be too new. It should be linked to something familiar. (Angelita). NGOs should allocate a portion of their budgets, time, and employees outside the framework of the projects funded by GIZ to activities that will promote SA to maximize sustainability when funding is terminated. (Iyad ) Municipalities shall include SA in their strategic plans and exert every effort to ensure its application. (Iyad) 10
  13. 13. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis Appendix A: Panel Discussions Content. Ehsan started by introducing the main guests of the panel discussion: Mr. Yahya Al-Astal, the mayor of Khan Younis (referred to later as Yahya); Mr. Iyad Abu Hjayyer, the executive manager of the PCDCR(referred to later as Iyad); and Mrs. Angelita Gregorio-Medel member of the department of social welfare and development in the republic of the Philippines. Ehsan: Before we start our discussions, I would like to give the word to Mr. Al-Astal, the mayor of Khan Younis to tell us about his impression about the forum and his understanding of the concept of SA. Yahya: I would like to begin by welcoming all people who attended the forum, and especially the mayors and managers of CSOs, and all who have participated to make this event successful. In fact, this effort is a continuation to what we have started before—the direct communication with citizens, those we offer our services to. Those citizens must feel satisfied about our service, and should know about all aspects related to it, such as its content, its cost, the objectives we intend to achieve by providing them, and the places where those services are delivered. Based on that, our communication with members of society is open: we deal with them in markets, and we pray with them at mosques. So, we hear from them, and our doors are open for them. We have specified times for dealing with citizens, since the mayor is not available at the municipality 24 hours. The mayor has other duties to perform. So, there are specified days to hear from citizens about their complains. Communication with citizens is not limited to the direct contact, but also, we read what they write to us by email and Facebook. This communication, I believe, would bridge the gap between service providers and service receivers. We hope that all decisionmakers--whether they were in municipalities, in governmental units, or in other organizations-believe in the concept so they will be creative doing their work. Before that, I hope that citizens will understand this concept and understand what they want so they can participate with their: views, complaints, suggestions, and, sometimes, with their objections. Social Accountability is good and important, and I think it is a duty that every citizen should raise his voice with: advice, suggestions, complaints, and also with work to support us. Thank you very much. Ehsan: Mr. Iyad, Do you think that CSOs have a positive role to play in applying the concept of SA? Like being a communication channel between the municipalities and citizens? Iyad: Thank you so much for inviting me, and I thank all participants. We have the right to be proud of this effort; a participatory effort between the municipalities and all CSOs, that I represent. In regards to SA, it is both a new and an old culture. I mean it existed before in our culture, but it was not applied in the proper and technical way. CSOs have started to be 1
  14. 14. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis interested in SA only recently. SA was not amongst the traditional duties of CSOs in Palestine, especially when a clear understanding of the mechanisms of SA was not available for the CSOs and citizens. In regards to municipalities, there is a mechanism (a SA mechanism he means)that existed before but it was not activated until recently; that is the neighborhoods committees. Those committees are considered one of the links between citizens and municipalities to deliver: the interests, expectations, priorities, problems, complaints, and suggestions of citizens to municipalities; for those municipalities to satisfy those ambitions and needs of those citizens. There are some municipalities that took serious steps in the neighborhood committees field, and there are some municipalities who have been working on that field since ancient times. And as part of this SA project being held now, efforts are being taken to reactivate those neighborhood committees in more municipalities. Those neighborhood committees are social and popular objects, and they are the ones that build the framework for the full application of SA mechanisms in municipalities. So, neighborhood committees are the basic gate for us to apply SA in municipalities. In regards to the interest of CSOs in applying SA in municipalities, honestly, I am sorry to say that their interest, or the interest of most of them, to apply SA in municipalities is triggered only by the interest of the donor. But I think that we need to take some more efforts to make CSOs take the initiative by their own. And I hope that the relationship between citizens, on one side, and citizens and the municipalities, on the other, will develop from the level of coordination and participation, to the level of complete partnership in making decisions that directly affect citizens in their cities or neighborhoods, and this is what we hope to achieve during this forum. Ehsan: Dr. Angelita, you have started your career as a social activist in the poor neighborhoods in cities and villages, and you have now the sufficient experience in the field of SA, and as you are a member of the department of social welfare and development in Philippines, I would like to ask you how can we benefit from the experience of applying SA in the Philippines in Palestine and how far can we apply such an experience? Angelita: Thank you very much for allowing me to be here. You may be wondering why a philipina from far away land is here talking to you now about SA in Palestine. I think the value of my visit and this opportunity for me to talk to you is because this is one big but small world. We are interconnected. Anything that happens in any of the small villages in our country, if it attracts me, it is actually, immediately, talked about in the parts of the world. One third of the Philippines population are Muslim brothers and sisters particularly in the south. Although my country is performing economically very well, we come from a history of impoverished communities and big disparity between the rich and the poor. My country too starts on a very authoritarian culture. So, in many ways, we share many things. What did work in the Philippines on SA, one other thing, you must have heard about a lot, is people power. This is the non-violent protest of citizens when we try to kick out a corrupt, an authoritarian, and marshal low government. There was no accountability in the past, and how do we achieve it now? Primarily 2
  15. 15. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis through the work of very strong citizen organizing. We have student and youth organizations and very strong women organizations. We have workers, farmers, and professional organizations, educational institutions and even businesses have, what we call, corporate social responsibility. So, in trying to relate to government, it cannot be individuals complaining about their needs; it must be organized citizens who are capable of producing data and launching their advocacies. So, we use their numbers. The number of the citizens is a strong power against government. But, it cannot be only mob mobilization, it must also be reason negotiation. When we say that the provision of educational resources is not enough, we should not say just not enough, but we show them numbers from our schools, parents collecting information why the books are not sufficient? Why teachers are absent? We count when teachers are absent or when nurses are not around, so we give them data and information to prove our complaints. So, it’s not only shouting, it is also counting. The other thing that works is that we had reform champions inside government. Those are government officials who believe in this work and believe SOs can work in very close coordination. And, these people must help put in place policies and laws to encourage citizen participation and SA. Finally, this is a new concept, but at the same time you use a lot of media, a lot of awareness building, we use jokes, comedies, we use dramas, because these are more easily understood by people, and we use technology, but we must understand that technologies that worked in other countries will not necessarily work in your country. So , you have to see what is possible and to push what is possible until you achieve your objective. Ehsan: We will now hear questions and interventions from the audience in the framework of SA. Please take into consideration that we are discussing the concept of SA not particular problems of the municipality that were discussed before. Participant1 (female): My name is Wafaa abu Zarifa, a journalist. Firstly, you are speaking about the concept of SA which is a too big concept, as I think, compared to the environment we live in that is not adequate for such a concept; despite the fact that we are in actual need for it. Secondly, the question is raised to the mayor, you are partners in the project and implementers of the SA forum, For what extent the municipality of Khan Younis is welling to receive complaints from citizens and to stand in front of justice? I mean that the municipality will be in situation to be accountable. Is the municipality of Khan Younis ready to be in a real situation of accountability? Today in the forum, you are talking about the first SA forum, I noticed that, even in the comedy video, it was the society that was in the situation to be accountable not the municipality. There was grooming for the municipality to a level that I got the indication that the municipality has no fault in the lack of service provision. It was totally far away from putting the municipality in an accountability position. My second question is raised to Angelita. I don’t know if you have enough idea about our environment here. I want to say that here, in my point 3
  16. 16. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis of view, social accountability is not a possibility as our government is our oppressor, and we have a status of political division, and we don’t have a real state. The laws that concern our rights as citizens are not raised for discussion by both of our governments. Can such forums make SA a possibility in such a political status? Yahya: I will answer briefly, in regards to your question if we receive complaints, yes we do receive and hear complaints. Every citizen has the right to submit a complaint. We, in the municipality, have received 1600 complaints. We did reply on time on more than 85% of them, which I think is good. Some complaints require more information which makes us not able to reply on them, this is why we could not reply on the rest. But, we receive people in all places, in and out of the municipality, we receive complaints and we deal with them friendly and in accordance to the law. In regards to your question about the laws, I want to say that laws that regulate our work in municipalities exist and you can refer to them in courts. Laws don’t change, but administrative decisions do. Angelita: That is not an easy question! But let me try my own reflection in experience from other countries. It is not the Philippines that I bring to the table, but I also had the privilege to look at the transition in Cambodia, Mongolia, and many other countries. I think, even in the smallest space of freedom, in the most impoverished place you can give. There will always be a room to strengthen the relationship between those who hold the authority and those who are being governed. What we’re talking about is the social fabric of your capacity to work with each other to build your own country and nation. You can be under the power of a foreign oppressive force, but you cannot allow yourself to be weaker because you are not internally able to engage each other. This is a personal lesson: I, myself, came from a political oppression and I had a prison experience myself. I believe, that we, the government, the little that you can have, the confusion you are in, the oppression you are suffering as a people, can be material for you to become stronger, to become transparent and to trust each other more, because the worst that can happen to us is when we turn against each other so that those who want to oppress us become stronger. The social fabric of the government and the people in the municipality must be built on trust. It is not going to be perfect! You will be forever fighting! That’s OK. In families, we fight! But you can have strong communities and families if: 1. If there is truth telling, that’s the heart of transparency; 2. If there is forgiveness and willingness to try and try again; and 3. If there is a continuity of what you are doing. I think that in my society, as in yours, the young and women should fight their place in building the country and the nation you could wish for -- a strong, participatory, transparent, and truly accountable. 4
  17. 17. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis Participant2 (male): My name is Ahmad AlGharbi, legal consultant. My question is to Angelita. Through the experience you had in the Philippines, What legal measures and legislative frameworks did you use to activate SA in the Philippines? Participant3(male): It was mentioned before that some of the municipalities in the Gaza Strip did not have elections for 55 years. It was mentioned also that recently, elections were held at the municipalities of the West Bank and those elections were successful. My question is: Why don’t we have elections to choose our municipality council in the Gaza Strip? Don’t tell me that the conditions are hard. The conditions are the same whether here or in the West Bank. The MDLF is funding municipalities both here and in the West Bank. So, why the municipalities of Gaza were not different when it comes to funding? Another point, when no elections are being held in the municipalities of the Gaza Strip, and municipality councils are being assigned, why aren’t they assigned from all sectors and political parties of the Palestinian society? And why don’t we see the program followed by those assigned councils? Councils should have clear programs when they get first created, so we as citizens will have the possibility after two years or so to hold those councils accountable and to raise questions about their performance based to their programs. Participant3(male): My name is Hani Abu Mustafa, director of Activists of Palestine network and a member of neighborhood committee in Wadi Al-Salqa. I congratulate Palestinians to have such a forum because we really lack an important aspect between citizens and the local agencies, which is the aspect of trust! This lack of trust has many external causes related to the political division that I don’t want to go through now, but there are some internal causes related to us; the most important being: our complacency, the lack of information shared by municipalities with citizens, and, the fact that municipalities do not have enough appreciation for citizens and the importance of their participation. This results in that SA would lose one important pillar, the pillar of participation. This, consequently, would result in that we lose any significant output for the application of SA. I hope that municipalities would have more awareness campaigns to inform citizens about the developmental plans to ensure that citizens play their role in this developmental plan as they are the main pivot for it. Finally, I suggest that the forum would results in the creation of youth groups that will work in coordination with the partner NGOs to be supportive to the municipalities in their work to activate SA and to conduct other activities related to it. Participant4 (male): I suggest that SA be applied not only in municipalities, but also in ministries such as the ministry of social affairs and the ministry of education to allow for more participation of citizens to the aspects in those ministries. For example, we should participate developing the school syllabus for our children. Participant5 (male): My first question is raised to the mayor. How will the municipality convince and deal with citizens who lack the knowledge and awareness in regards to SA? My 5
  18. 18. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis second question is raised to Mr. Iyad. In regards to the CSOs, we see that they cooperate with municipalities in more than one project, but, the problem is that we see the project being implemented for one year and finishes after that. There is a problem with the sustainability of any project. What are the plans that ensure the sustainability of the SA forum? Participant6 (male): My name is Mahmoud Abu Haya from Khan Younis municipality. My question is raised to Mr. Iyad. We know that SA needs the cooperation of two parties: municipalities and citizens. Based on your experience working in the civil society field, how much percent of citizens in the Gaza Strip are aware of the concept of SA and the aspects related to it. And what is the role of the CSOs in reaching citizens and raising their awareness about their rights and the proper way to help local agencies implementing or developing projects? Angelita: The legal is a little bit more complex because after the people’s revolution, we were able to change our constitution. There was really a solid attempt to redraft the constitution, and, in the constitution, there is a vision of people’s participation. So, right in the constitution we have this. And another one is in our local government code for the revolution, where there is a law that says: regional development councils must have one citizen representative. There are also many laws, even in procurement that requires that citizens must observe the procurement process. There are even laws that require 20% of the budget should go to women and children. There is the constitution, there is the national law, there are mayors who actually put in local laws on SA. And beyond laws, our programs that push the boundary of the law and allow us to experiment on what we can, as citizens, propose and advocate for new laws to strengthen this practice. Iyad: In regards to the questions raised about the role of CSOs to apply SA, our role is integrative or complementary to the role of the government and the local agency to raise and build the awareness about the culture of SA. In regards to the question about the sustainability of projects, you are right. This is a pain for the CSOs. Our problem in CSOs is that projects are not permanent. One project may last 6 months and another project may last one year. CSOs have a crisis or a gridlock in this regard. Government, or the state, is supposed to fund those CSOs, but this, unfortunately, is not happening. Another factor is that most of the funding that CSOs receive is not sustainable fund. Funding is more like funding to provide services or to provide relief, but it does not create foundations for a solid fermentation such as in SA. Such aspects requires projects not less than 5 continuous years for the CSOs to be able to create an impact on society. Thus, we have to think about alternatives to make our work to apply SA properly more sustainable. In regards to the question about the awareness of citizens about SA, there is no percentage I can answer with. But, there are some indicators. Citizens tend to be more aware about their rights and the methods of claiming those rights. This is a good indicator that should be promoted by the 6
  19. 19. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis various types of organizations. And there are some positive indicators related to power-holders such as the fact that they started to have better understanding for the needs and expectations of citizens. One last point I need to add is that, based on my experience, SA may not be successful if it was used politically. If SA was used to serve objectives related to the political division or other political interests, there is a big risk that it will have minimum opportunities to be successful. We are talking about issues related to the services provided to citizens and we must always have the assumption that politics do not intervene. So, issues like elections and oppression are of higher level than the level this forum intends to discuss. Those issues are to be solved by political talks and agreement between the Palestinian political parties, but this can’t be solved in such a forum. Until we reach this point of political agreement, we should not sit doing nothing, but rather we need to find practical methods that facilitate the participation of society through civic participation. Yahya: Firstly, I would like to thank all participants who raised questions without any exception. I believe that this is part of the SA, that a citizen do not be afraid to say what he wants. Secondly, in regards to the elections, I agree with the participant that elections should be held, but, unfortunately, the conditions are not adequate right now to have elections. Unfortunately, the municipalities of Gaza and Khan Younis did not have any elections since the British mandate. But, the mayor of Khan Younis and the mayor of Gaza are elected during the Palestinian Authority era by all engineers. The mayor of Gaza was elected as the head of the syndicate of engineers in Gaza, and the mayor of Khan Younis was elected as the head of the syndicate of engineers in Khan Younis. So, transcended, we can say that they are elected. There is no mayor, here or there, that is one-sided for one group against the other. When we first came to the municipality, we made a decision not to allow any political slogan in the building of the municipality. The municipality is a house for all and should be for all. Another thing, the strategic plan is available at the municipality for anyone who wishes to see it. We created the strategic plan with participation of 500 people. There was projects proposed for funding, and more than 90% of those projects are priorities in the new strategic plan. So, there is a harmony between the ideas of the people in the municipality and the ideas of society, even before their participation in the creation of the new strategic plan. In regards to the fact that some municipality employees may say that this is not your business, if an employee in the municipality tells you as a citizen: this is not your business, come to the mayor and the mayor will tell you: it is your business. In regards to the youth groups to support the municipality, I want to say that the municipality is in need of the support of all, not only the youth. The municipality is in need for the support of youth, women, educated people, and neighborhood committees. I would like to express my gratitude to all who helped, especially the neighborhood committees that proposed projects to donors to be implemented in their neighborhoods. 7
  20. 20. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis Participant7 (male): My name is Alaa Younis a coordinator for the SA project for the Life and Hope Association. My question is raised to Angelita. Can you give us an example of methods used by your people that can be used in our country to apply SA? Participant8: (male): My name is Mohammed Al-Najjar, the mayor of Al-Maghazi. I believe that the information about SA shared by this forum reached only the people who participated in the forum. Such concepts need to be shared with as many citizens as possible to ensure a proper understanding. To maximize the level of understanding for the concept of SA, we need to include it in our education and teach it to our children. This is how we can build a new generation that has solid understanding of the concept. The proper application of SA needs a proper mechanism that involves institutionalization of SA in all fields. For a citizen that needs to know information, there should be a clear guide from the agency or the authority on how to find those information. The mechanism should also involve objects related to local community such as neighborhood committees or a SA committee or a social cooperation committee that includes elected representatives. This would result in a balance between citizens who receive services and power-holders who provide that service. SA means that there should be questions raised. Those questions will be raised only by citizens who care, and for them to be able to raise useful questions, information is needed. Thus, SA needs a proper spread of information so that citizens will raise their questions based on right information not on gossip or rumors . This requires from authorities, and specially the local agencies, to have channels to spread information. Also, there should be clear standards for the work of municipalities, standards on things like: recruiting and project implementation. I also think that when a citizen raises a question, his question must be answered without confusing information or ambiguity. I think those factors will result in the proper application of SA as SA does not result in from nothing, but rather from successful civic participation. Participant9: My name is Mohammed Mansour, from the municipality of Al-Buraij. As we are talking about SA, I think one of the most important elements of SA is elections. My question is: Are we willing to accept the results of elections given the complex situation we have in Palestine? Participant10: Firstly, to convey information properly to citizens, I hope that the municipality issue brochures to be delivered to the houses of citizens just like water invoices are conveyed. Secondly, a strategic plan was created for the municipality of Khan Younis and I was one of the members of the stakeholder committee, but until now, we have not received the final draft of this strategic plan. Thirdly, I hope that the municipality will share the strategic plan with all citizens, for them to be able to know the strategy of the municipality during the next 5 years. Fourthly, I suggest that the municipality make regular meetings with stakeholder figures from the city including: highly educated people, women, and youth, for them to be able to propose ideas that will develop the performance of the municipality. Municipality officials should listen directly to citizens so they can provide their input before they make their complaints. Finally, we have to think about how to make SA a part of the culture of the Palestinian society. I hope that 8
  21. 21. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis the ministry of local governance would suggest to the ministry of education the inclusion of SA in the syllabus of the “National Education” in the preparatory level for them to be raised with this concept as part of their culture. Iyad: It is clear that the majority are raising questions to me related to sustainability of the projects. To be honest, we in the CSOs have problems related to funding. As soon as funding provided for a project is terminated, we have so limited resources to continue the activities of the project. But, I said and I emphasize that we have to think about alternatives that do not required foreign funding. The GIZ will not fund us to eternity. This is why we have to create other alternatives. The work required to introduce the concept adequately is huge. I will give you one example; we in the PCDCR are working with the municipality of Rafah and the municipality of AlMaghazi. One of the activities that we intend to perform is to re-form the neighborhood committees. For this to be done, we have to make elections for them, then train them, then follow up with their performance, and all the meetings and conferences needed for it. All this requires trained crews to perform those tasks. Such work cannot be achieved with carrying out a oneworkshop. But, I say again CSOs and municipalities should allocate a part of their time, budget, and personnel for the application of SA. But, I doubt that it will be with the same productivity when funding is terminated, because the load of work is not small and when we analyze the work required, we will find that we have considerable expenses to be encountered. I make two recommendations in the framework of this forum. The first is that CSOs should start to allocate even a tiny part of their budget to the application of SA when funding is terminated. The second is for municipalities to include the application of SA in their strategic plans, and to have SA practically existent in all the measures they take. Angelita: There are several examples, I would like to cite example of elections. Before elections we use to have a community gathering and all the candidates will stand, and they will have a contract with the people. Sometimes people will ask for a kindergarten or whatever is most important to them. And then the candidates will be asked: Who among you if he wins will promise this? Of course everyone says yes if they want to win. And they will sign the contract. Whoever wins will have to be measured by that contract. So, there is information and there is monitoring. Whoever wins must show: the plan, the budget, to whom it will be contracted, and when it will be finished. So, there is a continuing basis to tract the promises of politicians. That’s one example. Another example is to monitor the schools via the internet to check how many students are there, how many teachers, budget, and how many books, for example. I ask permission to respond on some of the concerns that came out. One is political accountability in elections. Election is episodic, it happens after four or six years, that’s political accountability. Social Accountability is different. SA is what happens between elections. Second, no accountability can happen without participation and transparency. You just cannot participate without clear information. You have to have an access to information and information 9
  22. 22. The first Social Accountability Forum in Khan Younis must be complete and must be user-friendly. You cannot give me any technical information, ordinary people cannot understand. So, you have to have participation and information (transparency) before you can actually have accountability. Yahya: In regards to the information, information will be shared on the website of the municipality soon, including the strategic plan. It is the right of the citizen to know the information he needs while being home, without the need to come to the municipality building. In regards to listening to citizens, I meet with people in different places and I try to pray in different mosques so that I can meet as many as I can. But, this of course cannot substitute the public hearing and this forum is part of those public hearings. At the end, Ehsan thanked all participants, municipalities, and partner CSOs. 10