The Centre for Public Participation (CPP) Programme Overview - 2006
1. Context for CPP interventions
It is critical at this juncture of South Africa's new democracy that civil society be empowered to engage with governance, and prevent its role from being undermined. Government remains reassuringly committed to promoting public participation in governance, which creates a platform for groups such as the CPP to engage with provincial government structures.
Yet government's approach to public participation is very much in line with its notion of how this should be done, and not what is more accessible to or empowering of communities, nor is it in the least transformatory in effect, with community input having very little impact on pre-determined policies and programmes. This form of participation presents itself merely as co-optation, or an information-dissemination service at best.
The kind of community opposition to government we are witnessing through service delivery protests and social movement resistance enforces our perception that communities do not feel they have a meaningful voice in government decision-making, or that their concerns are being heard, heeded and taken seriously. We feel that effective public participation mechanisms can address this by enabling communities to express their concerns and needs in forums where they are listened to, and that make a difference.
Municipality stakeholders too have expressed interest in and recognition of the importance of public participation, but lack the know-how, mechanisms, capacity and resources to implement meaningful initiatives. District municipalities' weakness in the policy planning arena, and their dependence on consultancy support as opposed to building internal capacity, is widely acknowledged.
The resulting distance between the drafters and implementers of key municipality documents, such as integrated development plans (IDPs), and the outsourcing of consulting civil society further increases the divide between communities and that sphere of government designed to be 'closest to the people'.
Public participation and accountability are at risk, with symbolic gestures of government 'going to the people' taken as participation. Government initiatives and institutions require transformation to ensure that meaningful, accessible, empowering and transformatory public participation interventions are put in place.
On the part of civil society, the CPP has observed that there remains a high demand for governance and advocacy training among non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) in KZN, and that the CPP has the expertise and experience to assist in meeting this need. There are few other organisations that can provide the depth of information and quality of training that the CPP has developed in this sector.
2. CPP vision and objectives
Against this backdrop, the CPP has formulated the following vision:
An informed and empowered civil society engaging actively with accessible and accountable structures and processes of government, to develop responsive policies that improve people's quality of life.
The objectives informing the development of our programmes are as follows:
- Increase civil society participation in governance, from local to regional spheres
- Advocate for and assist government to institutionalise effective and transformatory public participation mechanisms and programmes
- Advocate for accountable, responsive and transparent management of public funds
- Advocate for the delivery of effective services to positively impact on the quality of people's lives
3. CPP roles
In pursuit of this vision and these objectives, the CPP has identified the following roles to assume with clearly targeted constituencies:
- Advocate for the adoption of public participation mechanisms and processes by government institutions, from local to regional spheres, through developing strategies, models, guidelines and capacity where needed, and implementing the CPP's own advocacy interventions.
- Monitor and disseminate information on policy developments, public participation opportunities, and provincial budget allocation and expenditure to civil society stakeholders, to strengthen their advocacy interventions.
- Provide capacity-building training on governance, public participation and advocacy to civil society and government stakeholders, to strengthen civil society engagement with government, and enhance government's facilitation of and responsiveness to public participation.
- Be a catalyst for advocacy interventions by civil society sectoral stakeholders through information sharing and capacity building interventions, and explore district civil society organisation strengthening and advocacy support through partnerships.
- Undertake research on public participation to bolster knowledge construction in relation to public participation, through deepening and sharing best practice models and mechanisms, assessing existing government mechanisms and programmes, informing public participation advocacy initiatives, and surfacing issues for debate
4. Programme interventions
The CPP has three core activity areas:
- Parliamentary monitoring
- Public participation research and advocacy
- Governance and advocacy capacity-building
Programme area 1: Parliamentary Monitoring
Programme activities for this programme include:
- List serve updates on provincial policy and legislative developments
- Analysis, media articles and commentary on these developments and public participation implications
- Design and facilitation of public participation processes to generate public input on policy and legislation, either independently of government, or as joint civil society-state intervention, or as contracted by government
- Convening of two policy briefing and advocacy planning sessions for civil society sectoral stakeholders
- Analysis of and commentary on provincial budgets, MTEF, implementation of the PFMA, stated departmental priority areas, departmental expenditure reporting and audit reports, disseminated through list-serve and media articles
- Convening of advocacy forums with appropriate civil society stakeholders to plan responses to emerging budget issues
- Facilitation of provincial women's budget initiative in collaboration with project partners within government, civil society and Chapter Nine institutions
- Facilitation of provincial children's budget initiative with appropriate stakeholders
- Compilation of bi-monthly briefs/status reports on regional governance developments and public participation opportunities, in an e-version format
- Production of four policy briefs on regional policy developments, focusing on civil society participation in decision-making processes.
Programme area 2: Public participation research and advocacy
Programme activities for this programme include:
- Compilation of data and dissemination of research reports on public participation opportunities and mechanisms that exist within provincial policy-making and at district council level, and recommendations on models and systems
- Advocacy interventions with provincial departments and the legislature to implement appropriate public participation mechanisms to facilitate public input into emerging policy and legislation, including training of government officials in this regard
- Joint initiatives undertaken with provincial and local government institutions to strengthen public participation in their processes
- Convening of an annual dialogue on public participation issues, and publication of papers and dialogue recommendations in occasional publication Critical Dialogue
- Compilation of research reports on public participation opportunities that exist within AU and NEPAD, with specific reference to the role of civil society in the African Peer Review Mechanism.
- Undertaking joint advocacy interventions with colleagues directed at strengthening public participation in regional governance structures and processes
- Convening of two seminars and two roundtable discussions to promote debate on issues of governance and public participation in AU and NEPAD processes, and to address issues emerging from South Africa's peer review process, public participation in this process and shadow reporting by civil society.
Programme area 3: Governance and advocacy capacity-building
Programme activities for this programme include:
- Organising and facilitation of two five-day residential training programmes annually, SETA-registered, on governance, public participation and advocacy, at community and practitioner levels
- Organising and facilitation of two three-day specialist workshops on budget processes, research for advocacy and public participation
- Training on request for civil society partners on budget formulation processes and opportunities for advocacy
- Design and facilitation of governance and advocacy training programmes, on request
- Design and production of appropriate training materials
- Creation of partnerships with relevant tertiary institutions for accreditation of CPP training programmes
- Building networks to strengthen and support district advocacy interventions driven by local civil society organisations
5. Legal status and structure
The CPP is registered as a s21 not-for-profit company, and is also registered with the NPO Directorate. In addition, the CPP has secured tax-exempt, public benefit organisation status with SARS.
The CPP and its board of Directors are convinced that its programme interventions are required now, more than ever, to strengthen participatory and accountable governance in KZN, and bolster civil society engagement in governance through advocacy.
The CPP has worked hard to build a solid reputation and relationships with appropriate stakeholders within government and civil society, which form the basis for partnerships and joint interventions required to deepen organisational impact. The CPP's experience in the field, targeted programmes of intervention and networks have positioned it to play a significant role in advocating for public participation in governance.