What are – and why the need for Citizen Action Groups for Accountability?

 

People get the government they deserve - French philosopher & scholar Joseph de Maistre

FROM THE EDSA HIGHWAY TO Tahrir Square, so-called ‘people power revolutions’ have seen ordinary citizens come together to protest and bring down dictators.

But as recent history shows, it is far easier to pull things down than it is to build things up. Typically, ordinary people don’t know how or where to begin or feel able enough to organise and help build a better society. They may have ideas – but they don’t have a plan. The result is that despite people power revolutions, many countries’ attempt to build model democracies falters as vested interests take over and others take charge.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Citizen action and people power can end up being far more powerful and longer lasting than getting a million people out onto the street or changing one leader for another. As ordinary people, we can achieve much more in the long run if we look beyond protesting and build up our own collective power and authority.

Power and authority come from knowledge, confidence and ability – and when we as citizens begin claiming these skills as our own – so we will start to see a slow but inescapable change in government for the better.

When we start to know as much about how public officials operate and how they raise, spend and report on public money as they do, then they will begin to take much more care over what they do. It won’t be quick to change government behavior and it certainly won’t ever happen if each of us sees it as somebody else’s job.

As citizens, it is our job and our responsibility. We should all of us realise that neither politicians nor laws can ever truly build or protect democracy – only people can. Like other groups involved in local citizen participation, CANA is here to help and encourage as best we can.

As part of our attempts to improve public information, education and engagement, we are working to establish a series of 28 local citizen action and watchdog groups to help improve the level of public accountability and delivery of local services.

To find out the initial 28 areas on an interactive and crowd-sourcing map, click here. To find out more about the four citizen action groups that have already been launched and what they have done so far, click here. To read an insider’s guide to setting up a group, click here. To find out more about how to try and organize a group in your own province if it is not listed, click here.