Civic Leaders Dialogue: key recommendations to bridge the gap between citizens and government during crises

The COVID-19 outbreak caught the world unprepared in response, as governments had to quickly make policies to protect their citizens from contracting the deadly virus. Citizens were not consulted when making these policies and had to follow government directives in this situation. Creating an equal ground for citizens to express their views on issues that affect their lives is crucial for the success of citizen engagement and policy change.

As we joined the rest of the world on 17th July to celebrate International Justice Day, SEMA brought together 22 civic leaders from the Ugandan government and civil society representatives to discuss how to bridge the gap between citizens and the government for better service delivery in times of crisis. The leaders were divided into four groups according to their expertise, focusing on: The power of data and data literacy, Building trust with security forces, Supportive public health responses and Inclusion of citizen voice in COVID-19 policies. 

What are some of the main actions civic leaders recommend?

  • Government should urgently undertake a national assessment to scientifically establish the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and based on the results review the response plan for quicker and better focused interventions.
  • Explain to citizens that their feedback is very important in decision making. To have meaningful feedback, feedback tools have to be implemented for the citizens to give their views.
  • The Government needs to develop and make available, appropriate guidance to CSOs involved in service delivery on standards and principles they should adhere to, including establishing systems of accountability and coordination mechanisms. 
  • The Government should consider that data precedes policy making. Understanding data sources even at the lowest ranks and civil society organization groups should therefore be a priority. Information sources should therefore be maximized in all the fields of COVID-19 (and future pandemic) responses. This should be followed by efficient dissemination of the results and actions taken to the public. 

With these recommendations put into consideration it can help the government provide quality services to its citizens even in times of crisis. To read all the other recommendations from our civic leaders, do read the full report here.

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