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January 2020

New Accountability Note: 'The Women of Caltongo Who Opened the Government’s Doors: Social Accountability at the Edge of Mexico City'

The government’s plans to repair a central avenue in the Mexico City neighborhood of Caltongo brought together a group of women of diverse ages and backgrounds who were concerned about the government’s corruption and its lack of public consultation and transparency. They began to organize themselves, forming the group Caltongo Organized, and with the help of the civil society organization ControlaTuGobierno, they accessed government budget and contract information and learned about laws and regulations. They educated their fellow community members, advocated for the community’s concerns to be taken into account, and monitored the execution of the road project, which allowed them to successfully engage with government authorities to carry out its responsibilities. In this struggle, they learned that the authorities exist to serve the community; they also learned that information is power. With their struggle, the women of Caltongo sowed the seed of a community organization that seeks to make decisions about their territory and their own lives.  This December 2019 Accountability Note by Daniela Rea (@DanielareaRea) with photos by Mónica González (@MonicaGIslas) was co-published with Periodistas de a Pie, Pie de Página, and ControlaTuGobierno. It is based on a three-part journalistic series published by Pie de Página on August 19 – 21, 2019. For all the original articles, photos and videos, see Mujeres de Caltongo.

Announcement: Independent Monitoring of World Bank Citizen Engagement Practices

ARC’s 18-month project (October 2019 – March 2021), funded by the Open Society Foundations (OSF), supports partnerships between ARC and Southern civil society organizations interested in independent, locally-based, in-depth monitoring of World Bank (WB) citizen engagement (CE) practices. ARC provides modest seed funding and tailored technical support for civil society to monitor CE implementation in WB projects in their home countries. Support available for these pilots starts at $5,000 per partner.  This initiative is informed by ARC-supported exploratory efforts in Colombia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Uganda. The goal of these pilot initiatives is to contribute to:
1. Strengthening the evidence base for CSO partners’ advocacy with government and the World Bank on whether and how they are carrying out their citizen engagement commitments,

2. Generating lessons learned from experience across partners about how to build civil society capacity to monitor World Bank CE practices, and
3. Identifying weaknesses in World Bank CE implementation that warrant policy dialogue and more intensive monitoring.

For background on ARC’s work assessing citizen engagement commitments, see How Does the World Bank Build Citizen Engagement Commitments into Project Design? Results from Pilot Assessments in Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Pakistan. For more information about this opportunity to collaborate, please see this announcement.
Partnerships: Colombian collaborators focus on peace-building, development and Afro-Colombian rights

Since June 2017, ARC has been supporting community-based initiatives and civil society organizations in Colombia interested in monitoring and following up on policies and actions of the State affecting the country’s most vulnerable communities. In Colombia we have two main working strategies to support partners and allies. The first is by providing technical assistance to our counterparts, which we do in two ways: (1) hiring consultants who they trust, and (2) direct advisory services by ARC for certain specific initiatives. We also conduct our own policy research, which combines our skills and the agendas of our partners and allies in the country. We contribute to strengthening spaces for participation and social oversight by co-designing project proposals to obtain resources and technical assistance geared to ethnic spaces and organizations, local leaders, and grassroots and national organizations. As an example of our work in Colombia, we support the Ethnic Commission for Peace and Territorial Rights, the Special High-level Forum with Ethnic Peoples (IEANPE: Instancia Especial de Alto Nivel de Pueblos Étnicos), the National Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA: Consejo Nacional de Paz Afrocolombiano), and grassroots organizations and local leaders in Tumaco (department of Nariño) represented by the Palenque Afro Urbano and the Colectivo Justicia Racial to design project proposals to obtain resources for work on strategic issues. This support seeks to bolster their capacities in their work of advocacy and monitoring public policies, going beyond implementation of the peace agreement reached between the Government and the former FARC guerrillas in 2016, such that democratic rights and the peace-building processes can become integrally consolidated in the communities they represent.

Taken in Tumaco during a 2019 Workshop in the framework of the pilot to monitor the implementation of the World Bank project: "Plan PAZcifico: Water Supply and Basic Sanitation Infrastructure and Service Delivery Project."
In case you missed our last update for 2019, here were the highlights for the year: we started with a renewal of support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; engaged in many rewarding collaborations with organizations, individuals and networks; hired a new researcher Naomi Hossain; had very in-depth visits to multiple partners in India; and co-produced 13 new publications bringing fresh insights to the transparency, participation and accountability field.

We are poised and ready for a productive and engaging year in 2020, with several new initiatives and publications forthcoming. Please share with colleagues who may be interested to sign up for future monthly updates on publications and highlights of our partner organizations’ work for social change and greater accountability. Those who prefer can also follow ARC on Twitter (@AcctResearchCtr) or Facebook

With Regards,
Jonathan Fox
Director, Accountability Research Center
Professor, American University School of International Service
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