Governance Issues Forum (GIF)
The GIF is an integrative participatory mechanism designed and introduced by IDEG in 2004 to promote citizens participation in decision making and development planning at the local and national level. As an integrative concept, the GIF combines skills upgrading and public policy knowledge building with institutional platforms for effective civic engagement. This is to promote rights-based and inclusive policy dialogue and mutual accountability between state and non-state actors towards poverty reduction, development and improvement of democratic governance.
Since it was introduced, about one thousand (1,000) citizens have been trained in public deliberation methodologies, lobbying and advocacy, dialogue and policy engagement. Citizens trained have over the years applied their deliberative and lobbying techniques to dialogue with policy makers at the local and national level on the following themes: “Tackling Youth Unemployment” in 2005’; “Effective Basic Social Service Delivery at the Local Level: which way forward?” in 2006; and “Promoting Quality Education for National Development” in 2010.
Fundamentally, the GIF translates people’s voices, choices and collective decisions into action for development planning and implementation. The GIFs are convened mainly at the district level with a focus on ensuring the participation of women and other excluded groups such as People with Disabilities (PWDs). Currently the GIF is convened directly in 15 districts across 8 regions of the country. The Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo regions are the only regions not covered by the GIF programme.
To enhance the capacity of citizens and local communities to participate effectively in public decision making through purposeful collaboration with duty bearers in order to ensure equitable and accountable development.
The implementation of the GIF is in line with efforts at promoting participatory governance as enshrined in Article 35 (6d) of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. The constitutional provision enjoins duty bearers to afford citizens all possible opportunities to participate in decision making at every level of national life and governance. It is also in line with efforts to strengthen the country’s decentralization and local governance. The GIF uses a methodology that involves a set of seven (7) actions commonly referred to as the GIF integrated actions. These are:
Outreach Actions: These are activities aimed at sensitizing and raising awareness about civic participation and downward accountability issues and challenges in the governance process and the prospect of addressing them effectively through the GIF.
Resource Mobilization Actions: This includes initiatives and activities undertaken by members of the GIF to mobilize financial, human and technical resources locally i.e. within their district or region of operations.
Organizational Actions: Individuals and organizations that participate in activities and have undergone training in GIF methodology form a GIF Network that assume responsibility for convening the GIF in their district through a focal community based organization.
Research and Analysis (Technical Actions): This consists of a set of process-driven and scientific activities undertaken in order to clarify the issues of governance and development effectiveness and the strategies required to tackle them collectively. The activities are usually participatory and range from focused group discussions and identification of salient governance and development issues; to policy research and analysis of the issues identified by experienced researchers or subject-area specialists.
Civic Empowerment Actions consists of capacity development activities aimed at strengthening civic participation and accountability in local and national governance. The thrust of the civic empowerment actions is usually on the impartation of skills in ‘public deliberation’, ‘lobbying, advocacy and dialogue’, ‘leadership, coordination, and team-building’, ‘gender mainstreaming and equality’, and ‘participatory monitoring and evaluation’ for effective participation in governance processes at the local and national level. As and when needed, the training is also opened for the participation of interested local government officials who seek to upgrade their skills and competencies for effective engagement with civil society actors
Civic Participation Actions are undertaken to provide opportunities for citizens and non-state actors in general to interface formally and directly with local government officials and other state officials and, thereby, participate in the making of economic and social policy choices. Engagement in development planning and budget preparation processes, monitoring the implementation of policy decisions and development programmes as well as policy dialogue with local government officials, Sector Ministries, Parliament and other State agencies, as well as Development Partners (Donors) form the are core activities.
Accountability Actions are watchdog activities involving independent research and the publication and dissemination of findings on issues pertaining to the implementation of programmes aimed at strengthening civic participation, and delivering effective governance and development at the district level. It also includes platforms for citizens to engage officials on governance and development issues in their district.
Since it was introduced activities of the GIFNets have attracted considerable attention and interest beyond the districts and regions in which they operate. Members of Parliament, Ministers of State, CSO leaders, Private Sector Actors, Traditional Rulers, and ordinary citizens - both men and women- have participated in GIF activities and continue to do so. In 2005, Ghana’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning participated in the GIFNet platform to promote dialogue on youth unemployment issues. This contributed to the allocation of funds in the 2007 national budget in support of youth employment programmes throughout the country.
The GIF platform has become a major interface mechanism for policy deliberations, dialogue and advocacy at both national and local government levels. During the 2008 national elections, through the GIF, platforms were mounted for citizens to engage aspiring Parliamentary candidates and political parties in 26 constituencies across seven regions on various themes. The platforms afforded citizens and the aspiring candidates the opportunity to deliberate on ways of addressing various governance issues in their constituencies.
Operational Structure of the GIF
The forum operates through a network called the Governance Issues Forum Network (GIFNet). This includes individuals and organizations that participate in activities and have undergone training in the GIF methodology. Membership of the GIFNet is open to ordinary citizens working as civil society, private sector actors, traditional and faith based leaders. People working in the Public sector can also join the GIFNets in their capacity as citizens.
The GIF programme since its introduction in 2004 has been funded by various donors. These funders have included The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Ghana Research and Advocacy Programme (G-RAP), IBIS, United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and the Kingdom of The Netherlands.
In recent times the GIF activities have been funded by Ibis Ghana, Trust Africa and DFID’s Governance Transparency Fund (GTF) through the support of Christian Aid.