From 27 March to 7 April, The Hague Academy organised a two-week training course on ‘Citizen Participation and Inclusive Governance’. The training aimed to strengthen practitioner knowledge about participation, accountability, communication and policy processes at the local level. Attendees of the course also included four participants selected through the Talent for Governance programme of The Hague Academy.

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The Talent for Governance programme provides young, ambitious civil servants working for local governments in developing and transitional countries the opportunity to follow a training course with The Hague Academy and intern with a municipality in The Netherlands. Through this unique Hague Academy experience, young leaders develop the knowledge and skills towards implementing a ‘Back Home Action Plan’ which will address the concerns and challenges of a problem in their respective community.

Different backgrounds, community challenges and new ideas

sandraSandra works as a public relations officer in the municipality of Ga West in Ghana. Motivated to inspire more participation in her community, she set up a programme called ‘Your Voice, Our Action’ to involve the citizens in the municipal policy process. While visiting the Netherlands, Sandra was especially impressed by the study visit to the Client Contact Center in Delft.  “This is where citizen participation starts! Unfortunately, in my municipality, we do not have a central location where people can discuss civil affairs. But in Rotterdam and in Delft, I realised that reaching citizens is more than just a good communication campaign. It’s also about providing citizens with a space for sharing ideas about their municipality. Now I want to make it easier for them to participate in the first place’’.

ninoNino from Georgia works as an organisational senior specialist for the city hall in Tblisi. Her Back Home Action Plan will aim to include people with disabilities in daily politics. During her internship with the municipality of Meppel and Steenwijkerland, Nino learned about the municipal Advisory Council. This group responds to citizen concerns and considers laws and regulations to improve the quality of life for disabled people. “Tblisi does not have any structure of this kind, however, such a structure, aimed at people with disabilities, would better help address the daily challenges they face”. The experience Nino acquired during the two-week training course and her internship are of great value to her: “citizen participation should not be viewed as a one-way process. The relationship between citizens and politicians needs be mutual; they both have their responsibilities.”

nkanyisoNkanyiso is dealing with a more practical problem. Bulawayo used to be the cleanest city in Zimbabwe. Nowadays, the city is full of (illegal) trash. As Senior Environmental Health Officer, Nkanyiso wants to motivate the community to keep the city clean and healthy. In Zwolle, Nkanyiso was quite impressed with some low-cost solutions. “The Dutch use sheep to graze overgrown areas instead of using mechanical tools. We do not have a lot of resources in Bulawayo but we do have a lot of sheep! If we maintain these overgrown areas, then we can reduce the urge to toss garbage in public areas.” Nkanyiso’s experience in the Netherlands showed him that educating people is especially important as well. “The municipality of Zwolle has a booklet in which they inform citizens about trash removal. They prioritise educating young children on how to deal with trash and encourage a culture of personal responsibility within the community.”

vanessaOn the other side of the ocean, Vanessa is a rural advisor eager to help farmers strengthen their role in the community in Mangaldan, Philippines. The farming in the Netherlands is very different from farming in the Philippines. “The Dutch way of farming is highly technical. Also, farmers here are mostly educated to do the job. In the Philippines, people become farmers because they do not have many other opportunities. As a result, farmers are less active in the political sphere”. For her internship, Vanessa visited the municipality of Oss. Here, she learned new ways to involve farmers and enhance their skills. “We have ‘Talent Centres’ for farmers in Mangaldan, but the experience in Oss illustrated better ways of keeping these centres more sustainable. We should invest more in continuous training programmes and involve more citizens so that the whole community can better understand the value of farming itself’”.

“Citizen participation should not be viewed as a one-way process. The relationship between citizens and politicians needs be mutual; they both have their responsibilities.”

Our first Talents of 2017 learned extensively during their time in the Netherlands. The Citizen Participation and Inclusive Governance training course provided knowledge and tools for implementing successful participation projects. The internship – and the interaction with colleagues from over the world –  expanded that foundation by introducing practical solutions for the issues that the Talents are working on back home. This exchange of ideas motivated the Talents to implement their back home action plans and further contribute to progress in their respective communities.

Initiated by The Hague Academy for Local Governance, the Talent for Governance programme is dependent on the generous donations from organisations and individuals. If you recognise the importance of good local governance to help boost global development, and if you’re inspired to support young leaders in local communities around the globe, then please consider a donation.

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