What We Do
ESAP’s development objective is to support strengthening the SA system and mechanisms for enhanced service delivery in Ethiopia. To that end, ESAP’s focus is on the five pro-poor sectors. These include education, health, agriculture, WASH and rural roads. The project also works on linking its SA interventions with the productive safety net program (PSNP) to facilitate the effective implementation of this program. Recognizing that citizens may have higher priorities related to other sectors, the ESAP3 SA approach does facilitate the identification of such priorities and their processing through the SA cycle so that (local) governments are aware and can take action in response.
SA does not mean the same to all people and may be ‘practiced’ differently over time and depending on local conditions and progress. Most correctly assume that the concept helps to create a space for citizens to express their concerns and define their priorities for the delivery of services (demand side). These priorities should then be included in joint action plans. But that’s not where it ends.
Action plans are, as their name implies, to be acted upon. It ultimately is (local) government that is responsible for the delivery of services (supply side). But too often have we seen citizen concerns and priorities listed in the joint action plans without action by government in response. Sometimes this is because citizen expectations are not realistic, but often because no clear mechanisms exist for government to respond, or responsibilities were not effectively assigned. At best, this may lead to communities or community-based groups acting on the identified problems themselves, often possible only due to communities contributing from their own resources. That could be a form of ‘double taxation’. Citizens may lose confidence in the SA process when their problems are not being addressed, and government may be frustrated when expectations from citizens cannot be met due to a lack of resources or uncertainty about whose responsibility it is to act.
ESAP3, now running until May 2023, focuses on creating the structures and mechanisms that allow citizens and government to engage in constructive dialogue about the priority sectors and sector-specific problems that citizens identified. The platform where such dialogue can be most productive and that allows government to tangibly respond, is at woreda level, as this is the lowest administrative level where planning and budgeting takes place. For government to respond to citizen priorities, it will need to plan and allocate budgets that allow it to adequately take action. Following is a summary of our current strategy; a complete version of the strategy can be found here.
Summary of ESAP3 Strategy
During the third phase of ESAP, the emphasis is on preparing woredas for a transition process that shifts the responsibility for maintaining the SA process in the 416 woredas from the project’s management agency (MA) to the government and Ethiopian CSOs. Although delays occurred in implementation due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and its impact is still felt as much by ESAP as everywhere else – a provisional timeline for this transition aims to have all 417 woredas transferred away from the MA by May 2023, the project’s end-date.
In previous phases, ESAP activities were mostly on the demand side, i.e. working with citizens and communities to establish the structures, systems, mechanisms and tools that allow them to voice their concerns. Much of this work was done at lower administrative levels, i.e. kebele and even facility levels. SA committees (SACs) were created by the project, demanding substantial resources to maintain them.
In addition to the significant resources that were required to keep this system of parallel structures operational – literally thousands of SACs were created, each demanding resources, there is no evidence that it resulted in government action other than on an occasional basis. It did, however, demonstrate that citizens could be mobilized, and are increasingly motivated to express their concerns about services that they are entitled to in the five pro-poor sectors of education, health, agriculture, WASH and rural roads.
Since the institutionalization and sustainability of SA is front and center as part of ESAP’s mandate during the third phase, the MA decided to revise its implementation strategy. COVID-19, the political transition in the country, and the need to make a more effective use of technology also were reasons for the MA to ‘update’ its strategy. Please see here (link) for the current ESAP strategy.
ESAP Core Expertise
What we do…
At ESAP, we are experts in establishing, improving and maintaining SA structures, systems, processes and tools. We develop the pathways and platforms for citizens and (local) governments to connect and get into dialogue on concerns, problems and priorities regarding service delivery that citizens identified, so that together they can discuss ways to resolve and address those. Not all problems will require government action, but many do. And often, this requires planning and budget reallocations that can be done only by government, at woreda level, but regularly only at regional level.
At ESAP, we make sure that the dialogue between citizens and government can take place and is constructive, leading to action by government. ESAP partners pay specific attention to vulnerable groups in the communities where we operate to ensure that also their voices are heard and acted upon. These groups include women and children, people living with disabilities, those affected by HIV/AIDS, and the poor. Gender is mainstreamed in all that we do, and we expect our partners to demonstrate gender-balanced approaches and hiring practices as much as we expect them to integrate gender in the implementation of their program activities.
And what we not do…
At ESAP, we are not experts in the service delivery sectors that citizens may have concerns about, although some of our implementing partners may have expertise in a particular area. Generally, we cannot solve the specific problems in health, or agriculture, education, or any other sector. We are also not experts in the implementation of the productive safety net program (PSNP).