KAMPALA, March 27, 2009 – Civil Society Organizations in Uganda have welcomed the World Bank’s outreach efforts but say more needs to be done to support non-state actors in their development efforts.
At an open dialogue and networking dinner with the major civil society networks in Uganda, World Bank Country Manager for Uganda Kundhavi Kadiresan assured the heads of the ten agencies present that the World Bank greatly values and appreciates their important role in the development process, and promised to always carefully consider their views.
“The reason we want to foster this regular dialogue is to give you an opportunity as civil society to hold us accountable, to tell us whether we are on track and advise us on where we need to improve or consolidate our development efforts,” she said. “We want to listen more to your feedback instead of telling you what we think we are doing so well.”
Executive Director of the Uganda National NGO Forum, Richard Ssewakiryanga, said if the Bank was to be a more effective partner, it needed to make deliberate effort to commit substantial funding to civil society organizations.
“I wish to encourage the Bank to undertake an analytical study on the impact of civil society organizations in the development process in Uganda; after that you may change your mind about how much funding you commit to us,” he said.
Ssewakiryanga also said that in countries where the public systems have failed to deliver essential services, the role of the civil society is critical in bridging the gap for efficient service delivery. He said the over 400 civil society organizations that make up the NGO forum, are bridging a huge gap left by Government and their contribution needed to be recognized and appreciated by the World Bank and other development partners.
National Coordinator of the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) Jasper Tumuhimbise said whereas the Bank has made great strides in reaching out to the public, it still needs to demystify itself especially for people to whom Bank assistance is targeted.
“We welcome the World Bank’s continued effort to reach out to us but we also want a more open policy; and improving our capacity to monitor their programs,” he said.
Tumuhimbise said that there was need for the Bank to explain why it continued to report that the country’s economy was growing yet there is evidence of widespread poverty in the countryside. “We need to be helped to understand why despite the reported growth, we who work at the grassroots don’t see people getting out of poverty,” he said.
ACCU brings together over 50 organizations committed to fighting corruption and promoting good governance in Uganda.
The Executive Director of the Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA), Prof. Jassy Kwesiga, noted that sometimes the Bank is blamed unfairly for everything that goes wrong because of its close association with the Government. He expressed concern that the Government had fully embraced private-sector led growth neglecting its basic role of basic and efficient service delivery.
“Some of us see Universal Primary Education, which you support, as a failure, because of the great numbers of drop-outs, but the Government will explain it away by emphasizing private sector-led growth. We need the Bank to work with Government to come down to earth and be in touch with these kinds of realities,” Kwesiga said. DENIVA has about 700 member organizations spread across the country.
Prof. Kwesiga also said one of Uganda’s key development challenges was having many oversight institutions that are dysfunctional but serve as a “democratic cover” before the international community.
“ Uganda has the most profound oversight institutions to fight corruption and ensure good governance; the laws are all in place but these organizations are most times not respected and the laws are not at all enforced. That is a serious problem,” he said, adding that the multiparty dispensation has not matured to a level of meaningfully holding Government accountable.
Other civil society organizations present at the dinner included Actionaid Uganda, Uganda Debt Network (UDN), Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), the Council for Economic Empowerment of Women of Africa – Uganda Chapter (CEEWA), and the Uganda Health Communication Alliance.
They called on the World Bank to strengthen its involvement in promoting good governance and fighting corruption, which they felt was the single biggest threat to development in Uganda.
“Whatever we do and whatever the Bank does all borders on governance and more attention must be paid to this area,” noted Charles Businge, ActionAid Uganda Country Director.
The CSOs also noted the immense knowledge resources of the Bank and urged that these are shared transparently in simple, easy-to-understand language that enables greater civil society participation.
“How the Bank uses the great knowledge it has will determine its relevance to development. You have excellent analytical studies but they are not being well utilized by the people who need to use them,” observed Onesmus Mugyenyi, Ag. Executive Director, ACODE.
Kadiresan thanked the CSOs for their candid contributions and promised to continue regular dialogue with CSOs especially as the World Bank prepares its new Country Assistance Strategy for Uganda. She also undertook to support a CSO workshop on the World Bank portfolio as a platform to provide updates on the status of programs being implemented and those planned in the near future.