G-Watch Convenor-Director Discusses Strategic Citizen Action for Accountability with Bangsamoro Civil Society

“Accountability initiatives should be vertically integrated because the power that we are checking is also vertically integrated.”

G-Watch Convenor-Director Joy Aceron shared this insight in a gathering of Moro and lumad civil society leaders held on 26 June 2023 in Davao City. Organized by Coalition for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT) and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), the event brought together grassroots organizers, NGO workers and academe from the Bangsamoro region and Zamboanga Peninsula.

Aceron was one of two speakers in a panel that examined the kind of ‘CSO participation that resulted in better public delivery of services.’

In her talk, the G-Watch Convenor-Director Aceron highlighted the importance of social accountability in improving government performance. She gave Textbook Count as an example—a government-civil society partnership that monitored the delivery of textbooks to unsure that the right quantity and physical quality reached public school students at the right time.

However, Aceron also pointed out that not all social accountability initiatives lead to lasting governance gains. She explained the distinction between tactical and strategic social accountability based on the study of Accountability Research Center (ARC). Tactical social accountability refers to tool-based interventions that have weak impact because of its tendency to disregard power dynamics. Strategic social accountability, on the other hand, “shows more promise in achieving enduring changes,” because it takes scale into account to effect power shifts.

“Strategic approaches to social accountability work because accountability is a question of power, and power requires scale,” Aceron added.

Vertical integration is one such strategic approach, whereby citizens simultaneously engage different levels of decision-making to achieve effective oversight.

“Having initiatives that are vertically integrated means we are paralleling anti-accountability forces that all spread across the various levels of the state,” Aceron added.

She was joined in the panel by former Education Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz who championed Textbook Count while he was in the Department of Education.

G-Watch is a national citizens movement that aims to improve governance and deepen democracy in the Philippines. It works to promote constructive accountability wherein citizens are able to claims their rights and entitlements while also helping government comply with its own standards. G-Watch has more than two decades of experience in citizen monitoring and action research on the field of transparency, participation and accountability (TPA). It is present in 12 localities with partners from civil society, government and the international community.

CSAT is a coalition of 35 civil society organizations in BARMM and Zamboanga Peninsula, while IAG is a policy think-tank promoting peace in Mindanao based in Cotabato City.

CSAT and IAG invitation shows the growing attention and clout of the kind of citizen action for accountability that G-Watch is continuing to do and think about, which is spearheaded in BARMM by its most dynamic local site, the G-Watch-Lanao del Sur consisting mostly of Moro youth.