Empowering Citizens to Deepen Democracy

Overview

Despite being Asia's oldest democracy, the Philippines has for years been classified by the Democracy Index as a "flawed democracy," one in which free elections are held and basic civil liberties honored but governance issues exist. Ranked 50 out of 167 countries on the 2016 Index, the country scored low in functioning of government and political culture.

The Philippines did score respectably in political participation, which could be partly credited to the country's long tradition of diverse and dynamic civil society engagement. The 2011 Civil Society Index reports that almost 50 percent of Filipinos actively participate in civil society organizations (CSOs), although only 25 percent are active in organizations with political or advocacy concerns.

In January 2012, UNDP launched Empowering Citizens to Deepen Democracy, a project with the overarching goal of fostering democratic governance at the grassroots level through a more meaningful and sustained civil society participation in democratic processes. UNDP believes that greater people participation in governance would result in better quality of public services for all Filipinos.

Implemented by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the project aims to:

  • Support relevant research initiatives of CSOs and non-government organizations (NGOs)

  • Advocate policies to better assert and access human rights

  • Develop tools and mechanisms to organize various forums on democratic governance

  • Build civil society's capacity for democratic governance

  • Empower civil society to address various governance issues

Since the early 2000s, three initiatives supported by UNDP have helped enhance transparency and accountability in the Philippine government, as well as encourage greater citizen participation: the Civil Society Index, Citizen Participatory Audit, and People's Public Finance.

Accomplishments

  • First published in 2011, the Civil Society Index (CSI) provides an assessment of the state of civil society in the Philippines and the crucial role it plays in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. An initiative of the UNDP-supported Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), CSI is now part of the Office of the Ombudsman's collection of knowledge products on democratic governance and is an integral resource for public policy and lawmakers and human rights advocates.

  • The Commission on Audit (COA) now conducts regular Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA), an audit technique that gathers CSOs, citizens and COA auditors into one audit team. Guided by the COA-UNDP Participatory Audit Manual, CPAs have promoted prudence in the use of public funds as well as increased accountability and transparency in government agencies. Recent COA CPA Auditory Reports include:

  • Implementation of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) in Public Schools

  • Utilization of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund of Tuguegarao City (CYs 2013-2015)

  • Value for Money Audit of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund of the Province of Albay (CYs 2012-2015)

  • Marikina City Barangay Health Centers (2015)

  • In November 2013, two universities inaugurated the country's first two People's Public Finance Institute (PPFI). Hosted by Siliman University in Negros Oriental and Mindanao State University in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, PPFI-SU and PPFI-MSU are now the country's centers for citizens' education on public finance use, audit and monitoring. People's Public Finance was an initiative of the UNDP-supported Social Watch Philippines, an international network of over 100 civil society organizations. Another PPFI is set be launched at the University of the Philippines-Cebu by 2017.

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