Promoting Citizen’s Participation in the Constitutional Reform Process in Ghana
The project facilitated the participation of marginalized and vulnerable groups of citizens in the constitutional reform process in Ghana. This process was initiated by the Ghanaian government when it established a Constitution Review Commission (CRC). The project aimed to consult the country’s marginalized populations on key constitutional issues and considered their recommendations in conjunction with the results of field surveys and thematic research papers.
The project organized workshops with participants. On average 21 new relevant recommendations were made by each participant. This improved the quality of submissions – compared to the officially conducted CRC consultations – and prompted various Members of Parliament (MPs) to declare their support. Over 80% of the Constitution Review Commissions’ recommendations were informed by the project’s input, which demonstrates the impact the project had.
Lessons from Project
Serious challenges were encountered in providing training to working class women – the ultimate beneficiaries – whose circumstances were very different from those of the middle-class, educated trainees. The Training of Trainers course did not endow its graduates with the skills necessary to deal with a wide range of subjects, with beneficiaries requiring practical information regarding their rights and on how to act to address problems of day-to-day injustice – in inheritance, property ownership and divorce-related disputes.
Most of those who were interviewed, both trainers and trainees, recognized the limitations of the trainer designation, and many indicated to the trainers that, while inspired by the course, they lacked both the confidence and the opportunity to deliver major training exercises, based on the manual, to groups of women.
Eighty per cent of the trainees completed the Training of Trainers course and were certified as trainers, but it must be noted that the only requirement for certification was the completion of the course. In other words, there was little quality control either at entry, or on completion of the course.
The work to prepare the 350 women trainees to be trainers themselves was less successful. This is, in part, the result of a design flaw in the project, whereby the Training of Trainers course was expected to both build awareness and train trainers. More fundamental was the limitation of what can be accomplished in an intensive five -day course, no matter how well taught and facilitated.
The project was extremely effective in building and enhancing the awareness and understanding of the concepts of gender equality and women’s rights in the case of the 350 women activists who completed the Training of Trainers course. In this respect, it built a strong sense of collective and individual empowerment which, in turn, strengthened both their resolve and their capacity to support the empowerment of other women.
The grantee had the capacity and expertise required to manage a sensitive sub-grant project such as this nationwide, but it needed an institutional partner to provide the programmatic vision and links for the more effective use of the information about local government and decision making that the project collected.
Project implementation followed the outputs listed in the project document but the aspects related to citizen participation and the lobbying of parties were missing. These activities had not been included in the request for proposals (RFPs) issued by the grantee. Conceptually, the project seemed to think these elements would emanate from website use but without a critical mass of users, this did not occur.
The activities for outreach to the citizens and their use of the websites were under-developed in the design and during implementation. The assumption that these websites alone could result in more responsive party lists or more accountable deputies was unrealistic given the number of other factors that go into these elements.
The project’s technique of putting in place governance transparency activities at local level in different regions could be replicated in future as the focus on local issues and representatives, should be leveraged to achieve a national impact. Outcome indicators should also be adopted in projects such as these so the information can be used to better target project activities and improve project performance.
The grantee made some efforts to build sustainability into the project by expecting sub grantees to place advertising on the sites to generate income, and by developing a formal, as well as informal network between the nine NGOs. While advertising on the sites was not put in place the formal and informal networks were established.
The project was relevant in terms of its identification of the democratic problem. All people interviewed as part of the evaluation viewed the consolidation of power by one individual or party as the main issue facing the communities. Projects of this nature shine a light on governance and the need to pay attention to what elected officials are doing. The project provided a public space that highlighted the work of deputies. This was effective for journalists and some of the minority party deputies. For the journalists, the websites developed by the project provided a one-stop shop for information about local representatives’ work, while the minority deputies found the websites could be used as a channel to make their work public.
Only 10 of those MPs who followed the advocacy seminars and expressed their support were recently re-elected into parliament, which gives additional reason for concern.
The grantee failed to anticipate that, once the grassroots-level had submitted its recommendations, the consulted representatives from women, youth and disability groups, would expect get feedback on how their inputs were being used in the constitutional reform process in Ghana.
The grantee failed to communicate sufficiently about the need to slow down implementation and to extend the project’s duration, in order to await the publication of the Constitutional Review Commission’s recommendations and the response from the Government in its White Paper.
Constitutional review processes are frequently subject to unexpected changes in the government’s schedule of priorities or politically motivated delays. These are recurring challenges that many UNDEF-funded projects have faced. This project in Ghana took a very cautious approach and identified external risks and therefore formulated more modest expected outputs and results.