Race to the top

Transparency International’s Annual Report highlights work from more than 100 countries around the world. The following extract looks at how TI Development Pacts can facilitate common goals and improve governance and transparency of communities and their representatives.


photo: Alfred Bridi

No one from Kyebe in Uganda would have dreamed it. The community has become a model example of improved governance, after a spectacular turnaround in failing local health services.

There’s no secret to Kyebe’s success. Residents and local officials speak openly about the Development Pact they signed as a commitment to improving a local health centre. Faced with absent staff and erratic drug supplies, people felt frustrated and powerless.

Situations like Kyebe’s can be prevented if people are mobilised against corruption. That’s why we created Development Pacts. Public agreements between communities and their representatives, the pacts commit both to meeting specific development priorities. Their goals range widely, from building schools or roads, to improving services such as water and health. Crucially, communities decide their own needs, rather than just hearing them from others.

Working with local NGOs, we help people realise how to make their voices heard and hold officials to account. Communities then set out their priorities and we arrange meetings with relevant local officials, where they can agree on and sign the pacts. A committee of volunteers then monitor progress to ensure promises are kept.

In Kyebe, Transparency Uganda brought together community members with the health centre management. On hearing people’s complaints, the official in charge agreed to tackle absenteeism and invited local volunteers to oversee drugs deliveries and the centre’s budget. A phone number would be advertised so that people could report irregularities. Community members agreed to attend health meetings and training, to help channel complaints. Each side signed on to the pact, committing them to fulfilling their promises.

The results are startling. Within six months, the pact had fulfilled three quarters of the people’s requests. The health centre is proud of its service. Community groups attend sub-county meetings and have unlimited access to health-related information, including on budgets. At regular public meetings, people can raise complaints and officials can explain challenges. Together, they find solutions. We’re addressing the remaining issues at a county and national level.

“Pacts are powerful because they’re based on people’s aspirations and daily struggle with corruption,” says Robert Lugolobi, Transparency Uganda’s Executive Director. “They let communities shape their own futures, as well as helping protect officials from the pressures of corrupt environments, creating a ‘race to the top’, so officials compete openly on credibility and performance.”

It’s a win-win situation – which explains why the pacts are spreading rapidly. In just two years, 65 have been signed or piloted on three continents, each creating what we call an ‘island of integrity’. No one size fits all: with our support, each pact is tailored by local communities to meet their specific needs. This means the pacts can leap borders and cultures. In Bolivia, they ensure transparency and public participation in local governance, while in Bangladesh they are also used to improve education and health.

Uganda now has five pacts. Kyebe’s was followed with another on agricultural supplies. Neighbouring sub-counties have followed suit. Momentum looks set to continue. Soon, their residents hope, these islands of integrity will merge.

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