The Constitution of Lesotho entrenches the right of citizens to participate in public affairs. However, at present, there is limited awareness and capacity on the part of citizens, especially in rural areas, with regard to their participation in democratic structures and processes, as well as an emerging cynicism, especially amongst young people, about the failure of democracy. Moreover, there are limited platforms for citizens to participate in the implementation of national policies and development initiatives.
To alleviate his situation, the African Peer Review Mechanism report of 2011 suggested public awareness campaigns and civic education programmes for Lesotho. The National Decentralisation Policy mentions "Civic Education Programmes to enhance Citizen’s Empowerment and Accountability", and the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) clearly plans to "develop and implement a robust civic education programme”.
Approach & Activities
PISA aims to contribute to a vibrant and open democracy in Lesotho, where citizens know, demand and exercise their rights and responsibilities, and in which government representatives supply accountability and transparency. Matching the two sides through constructive dialogue will ultimately lead to a higher responsiveness of government to the needs of citizens and improved service delivery, which will then foster the citizens’ trust in Lesotho’s democracy.
PISA chooses various entry points across the social accountability-framework so as to stimulate positive change towards this aim: On the one hand, PISA strengthens the knowledge, awareness, skills and motivation of citizens (rights-holders) to participate in democratic processes and development initiatives affecting their lives (Result 1). To this end, PISA provides civic education and promotes public participation. PISA provides Information, Education and Communication in the form of trainings, workshops, public gatherings and information dissemination through various mass media. The activities take place in the communities, but PISA also has a network of centres located in all districts of Lesotho. The centres contain a library and free internet, as well as a space for civic education activities. PISA works on a broad number of issues, ranging from the electoral process and the roles and government bodies to national policies to be rolled out and district-specific development challenges. Importantly, the activities of PISA in the various districts differ depending on the concrete situations on the ground.
On the other hand, PISA strengthens the capacities of local government structures (duty-bearers) to engage with the citizens and provide opportunities for participating in local-level planning, budgeting and monitoring (Result 3). Community counsellors are trained on methods and tools for providing greater accountability and transparency towards the public and respective communication and grievance mechanisms will be installed in partnership with local councils.
PISA’s slogan is “Boikarabello ke ba Bohle” (Sesotho for “Responsibility is for all of us”). In this spirit, PISA brings citizens and government representatives together in fruitful and constructive discussions about solutions to development challenges, facilitating dialogue mechanisms (Result 2). These forums are demand-driven, and they deal with pertinent issues that citizens and/or government feel require attention. The dialogues may take place as part of a large-scale pitso in villages or could be as a small meeting, the PISA centres serving as neutral ground. By means of these dialogue mechanisms, PISA employs a broad definition of civic education - the passing of information and knowledge is not sufficient, but rather democratic values and skills also need to be obtained by citizens and duty-bearers alike through experiencing participation in public life.
Importantly, PISA is not an advocacy programme. Its role is to inform citizens, promote their public participation and organize fair and constructive dialogue between citizens and government representatives. Therefore, PISA works with both civil society and government institutions with a role as a credible and neutral facilitator.
In order to make the efforts of PISA sustainable in the long-run and to anchor civic education and public participation firmly in the institutional landscape of Lesotho, the perspective is for PISA to be transformed from a programme into a self-sustaining national organisation according to Lesotho law. Programme implementation is geared towards this aim from the onset, with special attention devoted to aspects of organisational development, including: promoting broad support by all stakeholders through ongoing dialogue; investing in capacity building of an excellent team; and continuously documenting lessons learnt and rigorously monitoring progress.
Management & Steering
PISA is implemented by a team of 28 GIZ staff members. A Project Management Unit (PMU) located in Maseru provides strategic and technical guidance, results-based monitoring, communications and public relations, as well as financial management, administration and logistics. The majority of team members are based in project offices located in the ten districts of Lesotho, with each district team comprising of one District Facilitator leading community-based activities and one Centre Coordinator responsible for coordinating the PISA district centres. PISA works with all stakeholders from government and civil society relevant to its objectives. The civic education and public mobilization work already being done in the country by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) shall be complemented and supported through working in coordination and partnership.
To this end, a National Steering Committee (NSC) and ten District Steering Committees (DSC) meet regularly to provide oversight and coordination. Every committee is composed of government representatives and civil society representatives with rotating chairs. This underlines PISA’s all-inclusive approach, enabling dialogue on issues around civic education and public participation at national and district level, and, in line with its sustainability strategy, strengthening ownership and broad-based support for PISA.