Citizens’ engagement in parliaments

DESA collaborated in a research project on citizen engagement of the oversight work of parliaments of Ghana, India and South Africa.

The research aims to explore how committees of parliaments utilize formal mechanisms of civil engagement to monitor public service delivery and strengthen accountability on public spending. It is conducted by the New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service in collaboration with the Division of Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM). Three teams of graduate students made field research in these countries in January 2012, and they shared their findings with the Division.  

Research findings common to the three countries are:

  • Public engagement often occurs through informal or ad-hoc channels and
  • although principles of inclusion are enshrined in the countries’ constitutions and laws, citizen engagement is difficult to track in public service oversight mechanisms.

The research also highlighted the role of civil society organization in bridging the gap between citizens and government, and how the Public Account Committees of Parliaments have very little interaction with the citizens.  

The next steps in the DPADM /Wagner School collaboration will be the publication of a report of the findings and the launch of a new phase of research, an expanded research to include the countries with systems of government other than the Prim Minister-parliament, and an expanded research to include the representative function of parliaments, and focus on specific regions, including the Arab region.