Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month we’re spotlighting Magatte Diouf Cisse, program coordinator at Urbasen, a Senegalese organization bringing together professionals working in urban management in informal settlements. Urbasen works in close collaboration with the Federation of Senegalese Inhabitants, an umbrella organization of women’s associations and community leaders in informal settlements.
Fighting for safe water and sanitation in Senegal
Magatte walks the busy, unpaved streets of an informal settlement in Pikine, Senegal with one thing on her mind: water. This urban planner-geographer knows well that people living in Senegalese informal settlements have little access to basic sanitation services such as toilets and clean water. Without a way to evacuate rainwater, flooding is a constant problem and makes living conditions unsafe. “The homes of informal settlement residents have been built in a way that puts them at constant risk of flooding,” Magatte said. “Moreover, there are no individual toilets or communal toilet blocks, not to mention running water. These basic sanitation services are missing entirely, resulting in public health problems and a lack of dignity.”
The government launched the Ten Cities Program to connect these households to the sewage system at a subsidized rate and build toilets in public areas. However, at the beginning of 2021, hundreds of thousands of residents had not benefitted from the program because only those households that pay a subscription to the water provision and management company were included and most informal settlement residents cannot afford the subscription fee even when it is subsidized.
We partnered with Urbasen and FSH to conduct a social audit of sanitation services in informal settlements. The aim was to collect data that would shine a light on how many residents were not benefiting from the Ten Cities Program and to advocate for increased budget allocations for these essential services. IBP assisted Urbasen in strategizing how to collect and utilize the data in their advocacy campaigns. “IBP has helped us build the capacity of grassroots movements to better understand the budget process [and advocate for] municipalities to provide services to informal settlements,” Magatte said.
As a result of the social audit and engagements with public sanitation officials, 880,000 informal settlement inhabitants are now benefiting from improved flood management and public sanitation infrastructure installed in May and June 2021. Also, 20 km of the 28-km public sanitation network was rehabilitated, cleaned and prepared to evacuate rainwater, making the informal settlements safer and more flood-resistant “Urbasen’s participatory and inclusive approach in informal settlements, which are often overlooked by public policies, was a big reason for my decision to join this organization,” Magatte said. “Seeing people access essential services such as sanitation, supporting them in the management of their neighborhoods, and knowing that they are now capable of influencing government decisions gives me the strength to get up every day and fight to claim their right to the city,” she said.
Urbasen is continuing to use social audits – community mapping and field visits to collect qualitative and quantitative data – to ensure it has robust information to present to government when it makes demands for the provision of sanitation services. Through data it is now able to “make visible” communities that have long been ignored and denied due access to services municipal officials are meant to deliver, such as clean water and sanitation.
This post was written by Muhammad Zahoor, Executive Director of the Centre for Governance and Public Accountability.
In July 2013 the Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) and Integrated Regional Support Program (IRSP), two civil society organizations based in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan, analyzed the water and sanitation budgets for the area to better understand allocations and spending on these services. The two groups were concerned that water and sanitation service delivery was inadequate and that the public did not have enough opportunities to participate in the budget-making process. The study involved a research team from CGPA, the Water and Sanitation Program Team at IRSP, other civil society organizations, a government official from the Tehsil and District Municipalities, and provincial Finance Department officials.
In conducting the analysis, the groups hoped to promote budget transparency, participation, and accountability, as well as to ensure better water and sanitation service delivery in the KP. The findings of the study will also be useful for other civil society groups looking to carry out research-based advocacy to determine the best use of public money.
The analysis revealed, among other things, extremely limited opportunities for community or civil society participation in the budget process. except for pre- and post-budget conferences, which were held at the national and provincial levels. The budget-making process at both levels is based on an “incremental increase” and is highly dependent on “availability of external funds.” In other words, the budget for the coming year is essentially based on the current allocations plus (or sometimes minus) an amount based on an incremental increase and the amount of funds available. Budgeting in this way limits the influence of citizens and civil society to what the increment will be and, in some cases, what it will be used for. The story of limited public participation is much the same at the district level. Provincial assembly members propose development schemes in the Annual Development Program and the Finance and Planning Department prepares the budget proposal using estimates received from the district departments. There is no budget committee in the district department that proposes and prioritizes schemes (and, potentially, gathers public input into these decisions). Instead the head of the department in question has full discretion to assign someone in the department to prioritize which schemes will get estimates for inclusion in the budget proposal.
In 2012 the provincial Ministry of Finance did try to include a consultative element in the budget process by organizing a pre-budget seminar, which was followed by Budget ”Jirgas” (consultative meetings with members of the provincial assembly). However, this seminar did not have any significant impact on the budget proposal as the process had already been completed, leaving no time for changes to the estimates.
Moving forward, CGPA and IRSP plan to use the analysis and results of the study in a number of ways, including for:
- engaging citizens in the process of prioritizing budget allocations for water and sanitation;
- convening public planning sessions and seminars with key civil society leaders and organizations, trade unions, and elected representatives before the budget-making process starts to ensure citizen participation and feedback;
- launching campaigns to advocate gender-based budgeting for water and sanitation;
- helping introduce ground water usage policy and regulation to control the improper exploitation of ground water sources; and
- launching an advocacy campaign to include allocations in the budget for improving awareness of proper hygiene so as to prevent waterborne illness and other diseases.
Armed with the knowledge gained from the results of the study, as well as the methodology for conducting it, Pakistani civil society and others around the world will be able to hold their government accountable for how it spends public resources and help guide them toward improving the lives of its citizens.