Citizen Participation and Accountability are key elements for every country striving for decentralisation. That’s why The Hague Academy for Local Governance annually organises a course on these important issues, and the edition that was held from 17 to 28 June 2013 in The Hague, again, was a great success. The diverse group of eight enthusiastic participants consisted of people from all over the world, coming from, among others, Vietnam, Pakistan and Uganda. This cultural diversity led to a great mix of different experiences and perspectives, which greatly contributed to the dynamic and interactive discussions and sessions.
The course discussed several aspects of citizen participation, including social accountability and integrity. Besides that, there was a specific focus on gender and the role of the media. Especially the session on accountability by Paul Munters was wildly lauded and the participants greatly appreciated the engaging and participatory nature of the session, with each participant able to apply the so called accountability tools on their own situation back home.
Besides these sessions, there also were several study visits. For the session on community engagement, we visited a local community centre which aims at empowering fathers in a neighborhood of The Hague. One participant described the centre as “a great inspiration” and greatly “valued the community spirit of voluntarism,” with another participants calling it a phenomenal experience. On one of the last days, we visited the Radio Netherlands Training Centre (RNTC) in Hilversum. Here, the participants discussed the role of the media in citizen participation and accountability, and experienced, in an interactive workshop, the use of radio shows and presentation skills.
Due to the mix of theoretical sessions and the more practical study visits, the entire course proved to be exactly what the participants were after. The combination of the capable experts, diverse study visits and enthusiastic participants resulted in two interesting and rewarding weeks and the participants returned home with new skills and knowledge to help tackle the problems they face back there. Hopefully the next course on Citizen Participation and Accountability in the spring of 2014 will prove be a great success like this one was!