Project update: Constituency Development Funds
SUNY/CID’s work on Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) has begun to deliver concrete pay-offs in reshaping the normative environment in which these funds operate.
As background, well more than 20 emerging democratic governments in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Oceana have launched CDFs since 1990. CDFs dedicate public money to benefit parliamentary constituencies through allocations and/or spending decisions influenced by Members of Parliament. These funds become institutionalized in a government’s annual budget and are distributed according to specified criteria that differ in each country. Supporters argue that they represent a policy tool that strengthens relationships among constituents, representatives, and decentralized administrators thereby reducing the domination of centralized technocrats and enabling citizens to gain control of local policy initiatives. Critics reply that CDFs: strengthen traditional inegalitarian social hierarchies, enable MPs to reward supporters, open up opportunities for corruption and stalled development. In fact, there is great cross-national variation in how the funds are constituted and operate, and we do well to be cautious with any blanket evaluation of CDFs.
Some notable developments:
- On Feb. 22, 2013, SUNY/CID Senior Associate Mark Baskin and Associate Paul Gumpper participated in a video conference organized by the World Bank on “Knowledge Sharing on Constituency Development Funds” with Government Officials from Solomon Islands. SUNY/CID helped to organize the video conference with government officials, civil society activists, and members and staff of parliament from Kenya and Jamaica. It was part of the World Bank Study,”‘Rural Community Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Solomon Islands” that examines different modalities of financing and implementing subnational service delivery.
- This cooperation emerged from SUNY/CID’s continuing work with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in developing a tool box for good governance of CDFs that builds on the “Principles and Guidelines for Constituency Development Funds.”
- SUNY/CID helped organize a CPA workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in October 2012 with 10 Members of Parliament and 7 staffers from Kenya, Tanzania, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana and Nigeria (Workshop Report Available Here). The workshop succeeded in developing an overall design for a toolbox for Constituency Development Funds CDFs, the tool for public participation in CDFs, and a set of templates for participation.
- The MPs offered strong support for CDFs. They do not view it as a one-stop solution for development, but as a necessary program and stop-gap in an imperfect administrative world. The MPs saw political benefits of associating themselves with constituency-level development projects, and appreciated the efforts of SUNY and CPA to place CDFs into a good governance framework. One MP concluded that, “this was exactly the way to go with this process” and understood the broader political logic of putting together a tool box that invites in critical civil society and that builds in coordination with other parts of governments.
- CPA’s CDF tool box will have six tools: sourcing and financing, rules and procedures, public participation; procurement, tendering and contracting; implementation and operations; and Impact Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluating CDFs. The Public Participation Tool contains elements of participatory budgeting that has been pioneered in Porto Allegre, Brazil and that gives to citizens and communities a good deal of ownership in determining budget priorities, formulating alternative proposals for projects, and selecting which projects will get funded at ''community assemblies'' or "citizen assemblies". MPs at the workshop sought to associate with such participatory and ‘direct democracy’ mechanisms in project selection.
SUNY/CID is continuing its cooperation with CPA, the World Bank and others in developing a good governance framework that will enable CDFs to be a constructive element in national development agendas that are effective and democratic.
Updated June 6, 2013