Impact Assessment in Peacebuilding (II): Democratic reform in Kenya
Impulse 05/2012 by Cyprian Nyamwamu, NCEC
For organizations working on constitutional change and multi party democracy the lack of learning platforms in the democracy and peacebuilding community in Kenya is a main challenge for result orientation. This has denied the efforts to build scenarios that offer clearer perspective of what the real problem is and what ought to be done.
For a long time in the quest for reforms in Kenya, the ruling class used to frame the questions. Due to this reality, the reform movement was unable to position itself as a force of good until the mid 1990s when the emergence of assertive civil society organizations gave the pro-democracy actors space to explain the need for reforms through the media and other civic education outreach activities. At the moment, the ruling elite have again stolen the agenda of reform. At the same time, pro-democracy forces fail to articulate a clear message as to how further reforms will benefit the majority of the citizens. If the message in the airwaves is that “these are stooges of the west” aimed at undermining the sovereignty of our country, there is a real problem.
Due to dependence on resources from the North for democracy and development work in the developing world, most actors do not undertake clear planning that will ensure that their work is results oriented. Most of the time, the activities being carried out are not connected to clear outputs (such as collective charters, resolutions, tools, guidelines) that will lead to clear outcomes (policy, legal reform) that then will lead to clear impact in terms of change of culture and governance processes.
I would like to point out a few challenges when it comes to performance: Unfortunately there is a lack of data to show what change has happened in the society over what period. Many actors are busy trying to implement activities but there are few if any initiatives aimed at collecting, collating and analyzing the data available to show what changes have occurred attributable to the work being undertaken in the area of focus. There is also a duplication of work and attribution of credit is always a challenge. At the level of implementation, there is a massive resource challenge because some governments still believe that reform and peacebuilding programmes are essentially not part of the mandate of the government but that of foreign donors and civil society actors.
Challenges that arise more particularly from donor requirements
The demand for tangible results in a political process that takes time to change has always been very frustrating. One funding agency one time asserted that constitutional reforms were taking too long to come and hence the need to engage in other development programmes that would bear results. Donor agencies are mostly not in a partnership relations with agencies involved in peacebuilding work but in fact treat recipients as clients who they use to implement pre-conceived programmes and projects. It is almost on a take it or leave it basis. Although this has improved over the years some of the recipients becoming more assertive and becoming better negotiators, this challenge remains.
The 4 A’s Approach:
The 4 A’s approach has always been instrumental in navigating the spaces of reform and peacebuilding. It entails:
- Analysis based on research to promoting evidence based engagement and action.
- Access: promoting a framework where citizens access information and rights for them to act for themselves and make informed choices.
- Advocacy: promoting advocacy that is informed by analysis and research and also supported by the majority of the people in whose name change is being advocated for ( to reduce the legitimacy deficit).
- Accountability: where accountability is enforced on duty bearers as much as on citizens themselves including the change champions.
The spaces Approach
Over the past ten to eleven years, the democracy and human rights movement has come to assess impact in terms of how much we open up the closed spaces in the state system, expand the invited spaces such as various dialogue and reform commissions and forums with the government.
There is also one unique thing we have nurtured in Kenya which has always held the country together: the building of a resource of weavers – men and women who have sufficient clout to knock at the doors that matter in order to deliver messages and make a conversation possible. This approach has helped the Kenyan reform movements to deliver results that led to the promulgation of a new constitution on August 27, 2010.
The Civic Action/ Movement Approach
This approach encourages a situation where every actor’s work contributes to the better performance of the other actors in four vital fields of intervention: “service”, “advocacy”, “education and dialogue” and “institution/ platform and assets building”. Although undeveloped, when it has been applied, mostly at crisis points in the life of the nation, it has worked to ensure that bad situations are turned into opportunities for leveraging reforms under what sometimes is called “the constitutional moments” or the “constitutive moments” of the nation.
Recommendations: Support from donor organizations that would be helpful
- Scenario building spaces will be very useful to enhance result orientation in programming;
- Joint strategic planning with donors that takes the realities on the ground into account;
- There is need for capacity building for actors on how to undertake persuasion, negotiation, dialogue and consensus building for change;
- There is need to invest in broad and sustainable platforms for engagement of various actors where several donor agencies have a role. The lack of a national platform for reforms in Kenya in a big way explains why there are no strong alternative voices to those of politicians.
Cyprian Nyamwamu is a Panafrican Democracy, Governance and Gender researcher, leader and activist based in Kenya. As Director of the National Convention Executive Council (NCEC), he is currently working with the Kenya Transitional Justice Network and the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy.