Civil Society and Local Government in Twenty Districts in Ghana: Surprises, Problems, and Opportunities IFES Project ECSELL Baseline Assessment
Under its Cooperative Agreement number 641-0133-A-00-4028-00 with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Foundation for Elections Systems (IFES) is launching a project to support the consolidation of democratic governance in Ghana. The project will be active in twenty districts, two per region, in a first cycle from 1998 to 1999. In a second cycle from 2000 to 2001 the project will enter another set of districts to total nearly one-third of Ghana's 110 districts reached.
In support of the consolidation of democratic governance in Ghana, Project ECSELL (Enhancing Civil Society Effectiveness at the Local Level) is designed to increase the rate and quality of local civic participation in public policy making and to improve local government responsiveness to constituent needs. The overall aim of Project ECSELL is to support the consolidation of democracy in Ghana. The specific goal is threefold:
(1) To improve the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to meet their set objectives;
(2) to enhance the capacity of CSOs to advocate on behalf of their membership in the shaping of public policy; and
(3) to improve the responsiveness of local governments to the needs of their communities.
To achieve this goal the project will provide two related forms of assistance: (1) training in the context of issues and action to transfer management skills to District Assembly officials and local level civic leaders and to help them develop a collaborative problem-solving relationship; and (2) grants to civic groups to help them implement the new managerial techniques in pursuit of their institutional goals, and to enhance their ability and willingness to go to their District Assemblies and advocate the interests of their membership.
In preparing to launch Project ECSELL in pursuit of these objectives, IFES conducted field research in September, October and November 1997. This work provided the data for the following baseline assessment of civil society and the District Assemblies in 20 districts in Ghana.
IFES has found that (1) the identified civic groups seem more dynamic and engaged than expected; (2) the District Assemblies seem less unresponsive than feared; and (3) relations between the two sets of actors seem surprisingly good.
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