In July 2019, FSVC launched a USAID-funded program focused on strengthening political accountability and policy-making, as well as fostering stronger civil society engagement. This program, titled “SHIGA”, will take place over the next three years, during which FSVC will work with government institutions and civil society organizations.
The aim of the project is for Niger’s civil society to engage the government more effectively, and for key government institutions to be more effective in their mandates and meet the needs of citizens. To do this, SHIGA will strive to achieve three main objectives:
- Objective 1: Civil society holds responsible government more actively and effectively, and creates demand for targeted reforms and better implementation by the government. FSVC will provide technical assistance to civil society organizations to build their capacity to advocate for reforms. The technical approach is modeled on the incubation paradigm widely used successfully in the private sector for start-ups.
- Objective 2: Targeted government institutions are more accountable to citizens, and more efficient and transparent in their operations. Capacity building will rely less on formal training and more on learning-by-doing, led by policy experts.
- Objective 3: Create and/or strengthen spaces for constructive engagement between citizens, civil society and the state to identify and implement targeted priority reforms.
Objective 1: Civil Society
· FSVC conducted a Civil Society Assessment in October 2019 to gain a better understanding of the specific political, legal and social context for civil society operations and civil engagement more broadly.
· FSVC launched a CSO incubator in Niamey. 12 civil society organizations (CSOs) were selected in January 2020 to be part of this first incubation cycle. FSVC then completed a capacity building needs assessment of each CSO member, and designed individualized curricula for each CSO. FSVC conducted a series of trainings, workshops, debates and roundtables for CSO members over the course of eight months. Topics covered included developing policies and procedures, fundraising, communication and community engagement, monitoring the national budget process, and constructively engaging with the government. CSO members have received small grants to implement projects based on lessons learned.
· FSVC launched a CSO incubator in Zinder, and selected 15 CSOs to be part of this second incubation cycle.
Objective 2: Government Institutions
· FSVC conducted a Political Economy Analysis in August 2019 to gain a better understanding of the country’s political dynamics and decision-making.
· FSVC conducted a Policy Reform Assessment in October 2019. The assessment analyzed the policy reform process and dynamics between the government, international partners, CSOs and traditional and religious leaders in Niger.
· FSVC supported the Office of the Ombudsman in the installation of his regional delegate in Zinder and the organization of the first-ever regional public hearing. The Ombudsman’s team received 13 submissions, representing a total of 965 citizens, and
citizens have continued to respond to the activity by submitting complaints to the regional delegate.
· FSVC trained the Supreme Audit Institution in auditing best practices.
· FSVC conducted an analysis of the current level of implementation of the Charter on Access to Information, and drafted a roadmap to guide different stakeholders in further implementing the Charter, which will help increase government transparency.
Objective 3: Engagement
· FSVC provided support to the Prime Minister’s Office for the organization of a forum with CSOs to discuss various types of interventions that could be most effective in supporting the mission of CSOs to aid Nigerien society. Participants discussed means of improving future collaboration and coordination between civil society, government institutions and development partners. The meeting was deemed successful and unanimously appreciated.
· FSVC organized a roundtable on accountability, focused on the role and importance of Nigerien institutions in accountability that was attended by 13 institutions and 17 members of civil society. Participants on both the government and civil society side reported that the event was necessary and highly successful.
· FSVC organized an Open Door on Access to Information with the Ombudsman, the Press House and CSOs to provide a space for citizens to engage with government institutions and civil society structures, and to highlight the importance of access to information. The event registered more than 500 citizen visitors, and received positive press coverage. This was the first time that the International Day for Universal Access to Information Day was celebrated in Niger.