Since independence, Angola has built a centralized government, a tendency reinforced during the armed conflict, which has not promoted democratic and participatory governance, providing basic services from a central perspective, distanced from the needs of the poor. Angola is characterized by a highly centralised state with weak institutional and technical capacity, poor macro-economic management and low administrative capacity, increasing inequality, and a weak, fragmented civil society.
Decentralisation and the promotion of local governance are needed in Angola in order to contribute to the promotion of reconstruction, build social cohesion, bring government closer to the people by providing greater participation in the decision making process, including the identification and prioritization of local public policies and better basic service provision. Good governance is essential for poverty reduction. Good governance brings about a proper balance among state action, the private sector, civil society, and the communities themselves. Such a balance enables governments and local communities to organize themselves to provide a complete response to poverty.
In 2001, the Council of Ministers in Angola approved the Strategic Plan for decentralisation and deconcentration reforms, setting out a comprehensive vision and strategy. As part of this process, pilot experiences need to be developed and an institutional environment created to facilitate an effective decentralisation. There is increasing recognition on the government side of the role of civil society and public participation in local governance. Civil society is one of the key pillars necessary for effective local governance. There is growing recognition that local authorities and civil society can work together in participatory planning and service delivery. Civil society can fill some of the capacity gaps in local government in participatory assessment and planning skills, as well as budgeting skills.
To ensure that sustainable change is made to reduce poverty, the capacity of citizens to demand their rights to basic services and to dialogue with local authorities needs to be strengthened. Active citizens need to be supported to participate in planning processes for local services and local authorities provided with technical and managerial support to create the conditions for effective service delivery. In short, there must be a focus on the interface of effective state institutions with active citizenship.
Civil society needs to grow in capacity to articulate demands for poverty reduction and to enhance dialogue and engagement with local government. Poverty reduction cannot be achieved without significant changes in the profound inequalities that exist in Angola and without bringing in the many groups that are currently socially excluded.
Implementation of the decentralisation process and inclusion of key Millennium Development Goals (i.e. health and education) in the Government of Angola’s own programmes provide great opportunities and entry points to continue to promote pro-poor policies and good governance in Angola. To support the Government of Angola’s own plan to reduce poverty will require a great deal of drive and commitment and the allocation of funds at the lower administrative levels. Most importantly it will require active citizens to be organised, able to articulate demands and to plan and dialogue with local government. It is essential that countries which benefit from Angola’s oil wealth also invest in more effective systems to ensure that economic growth is inclusive and narrows the increasing gap between rich and poor.
LUPP has been supporting Angola’s efforts to promote good governance and participatory democracy by demonstrating practices on effective interaction, partnership and participation between local authorities, NGOs, civil society and communities, which show what is possible within the vision of decentralisation and the impact on social and economic development. LUPP has aimed to promote the involvement of vulnerable groups, especially women and children, in decision making and planning at communal and municipal levels of government in Sambizanga, Cazenga and Kilamba Kiaxi in Luanda. LUPP has promoted the participation of citizens in the processes of local governance and encouraged more accountability by local authorities to the population. LUPP has demonstrated the roles and responsibilities of different elements of society in local governance and service provision while ensuring greater accountability to citizens.
LUPP has been working with local administrations in several municipalities in Luanda to build their capacity to engage, dialogue and plan with citizens, and in this way, address priority needs identified by communities. At the same time, LUPP has worked with communities and civil society to build their capacity to engage with local administration in order to discuss their needs and work together to try and identify and implement solutions. Dialogue has taken place in meetings or forums, which have provided spaces for engagement and dialogue. In this way, some of the priority needs of communities in Luanda have been addressed such as access to water, electricity, the construction of schools, security has been improved, community relationships with the police have improved, to give a few examples.
LUPP´s work to promote participatory democracy is based on the recognition that local development in Angola requires everyone to work together for the common goal of reducing poverty, social and economic development and improving people’s lives as part of the post-conflict reconstruction. There are clear roles and responsibilities for all players at all levels, including local administration, the private sector, service providers, civil society, communities and individuals.
LUPP has been promoting democratic governance in order to develop mechanisms and processes that are more responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens, in particular the poor. LUPP has been testing and demonstrating effective ways to promote participation, accountability and effectiveness in local governance and to develop a greater capacity to deliver basic social services to those most in need
Work with local administrations - Consultative Boards
A representative Consultative Board has been reactivated in the comuna of Hoji Ya Henda in Cazenga Municipality, with the support of LUPP, that meets every quarter to review reports from the local Administrator, service providers, the policy and civil society organisations and plan for the next quarter. The Consultative Board has also met at municipal level in Cazenga as well as in Sambizanga.
Case Study: Holding service providers to Account in Hojy-Ya-Henda
The Hojy-Ya-Henda comuna lies at the outskirts of Luanda, where service provision is often not reliable. Most residents obtain their water from water tanks or stand posts provided through LUPP, which serve over 30,000 people in this comuna. On average, local residents get water 15 to 20 days in a month which is supplied by the water company, EPAL, through their stand posts. Last March no water came through the stand posts and EPAL provided no explanation to their clients directly or through the water committees associations, which manage the stand posts on behalf of the communities.
During the quarterly local consultative council in Hojy-ya-Henda in April 2005, representatives from the Association of Water Committees were able to raise this issue in the discussions with the water company. EPAL agreed to respond to the water supply problem. Three days after the meeting, water supply was restored in a record time and 30,000 people, the majority of whom are women and children, had access to water again. This shows how local associations can use the emerging spaces for dialogue to improve accountability of service providers and authorities to citizens at local level.
Municipal Development Forum
Significant advances have been made in developing approaches and methodologies for citizen/Municipal engagement and dialogue. These are demonstrating that it is possible to develop greater accountability to citizens in local governance while also enhancing the effectiveness of local governance. Municipal Administrations are beginning to recognise the importance of dialogue.
A Municipal Development Forum was created in Kilamba Kiaxi to bring together Municipal residents with local administration, service providers and the private sector to plan jointly for municipal development, assess progress and access funding for new projects. The Forum has met twenty eight times since LUPP began and has a membership of some 500 representatives of all sections of the local community. The Kilamba Kiaxi Development Forum (KKDF) has established a secretariat and created a Municipal Development Fund that is conceptualised as a tool for participatory planning, transparency and accountability. Approaches have been made for support to replicate the models from Municipal Administrations in 17 of the 18 Provinces of the country.