Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. This is truer than ever during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Governments around the world are stepping up their efforts like never before, but they cannot do it alone. The COVID-19 responses to address the health, social and economic crises as well as the massive vaccination campaigns underway are placing large demands on government delivery capacity and accountability systems to ensure integrity in such responses. Governments and donors should consider strategically augmenting their capacities and efforts by expanding this collaboration with civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly at the local government levels.
In this context, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) contracted the Partnership for Transparency to write a governance brief titled “Engaging Civil Society Organizations to Enhance the Effectiveness of COVID-19 Response Programs in Asia and the Pacific.” The brief, authored by Vinay Bhargava, PTF’s chief technical adviser, was published by the ADB in March 2021.
Throughout the brief, Bhargava explains how civil society organizations (CSOs) can take on a more active role to complement government efforts to respond to COVID-19, particularly addressing not only the health crisis, but the social, and economic ramifications as well. The brief suggests a framework across six programmatic areas for formulating country-specific programs to facilitate the expansion of CSO engagement in pandemic response at the local government level. The six areas are:
- Raise community awareness, participation and trust in government COVID-19 response
- Assist with distribution of materials and supplies related to health, vaccination and food
- Enhance inclusion, accountability, and control of corruption in public services delivery in COVID-19 related health, education, social protection, and income transfer programs
- Enhance integrity of public procurement and distribution of COVID-19 related materials
- Collaborate with budget, audit, and anti-corruption institutions at local/national levels
- Perform monitoring and advocacy activities in one or more of the six areas above
Evaluation and case studies cited in this brief provide evidence on the positive outcomes of CSO engagement and success factors. In fact, CSOs have begun complementing COVID-19 responses of governments. The Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI) and COVAX, the global initiative for procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, also recognize the expertise of CSOs in public health and vaccination and have included them in their governing boards and operations.
Governments can create a positive environment for collaboration with CSOs by inviting them to be involved in efforts within designated areas, sharing information with them, and organizing two-way communications between local authorities and CSOs.
While the general message of the brief emphasizes the need for government collaboration with CSOs to respond to the pandemic, it also recognizes that one approach may not fit all situations. A context-specific, differentiated approach and fully resourced CSO engagement plan for each country and/or COVID-19 response program must be defined based on an assessment of the local situation and specific objectives linked to results and accountability.
Download the full governance brief, originally published by the ADB.
PTF also facilitated an event to discuss key themes outlined in the brief. The webinar, hosted by ADB, features presentations by Bhargava and Giada Tu Thanh, an independent health expert.
Download the full presentations on:
Click here to watch the full event.