Almost everywhere in the world, citizens have more rights on paper than in practice. In many countries, free elections and progressive laws exist alongside poverty and widespread corruption, and when the economy grows, poor people barely benefit. Governments do not provide sufficient accountability for their policies, are not transparent about their practices and often fall short in providing the most basic services. As a result, the relationship between citizens and rulers deteriorates, people stop trusting the government and officials do not tolerate criticism.
Change becomes possible when citizens can ask questions about how their government functions and how companies conduct business. Hivos believes that the free exchange of information, space for freedom of expression and the ability of citizens to influence decisions that affect them are essential in a democratic society.
Citizens are the drivers of change, the makers and shapers of society. This is why the road to democratic and accountable governance starts with their demands being heard and heeded.
This is why Hivos in partnership with local organisations pioneered the first projects that media and technology to give citizens a voice. We developed websites where citizens could report election fraud or violence, for example. These monitoring platforms have now become well-established in a number of East African countries.
But it is also necessary to exert pressure. That is why we support “infomediaries” – independent journalists, hacktivists, artists, academics and civic watchdogs – to use media in a smart way to denounce abuse of power, from television and radio to YouTube and Twitter, and to play a key role in helping citizens to use (open) data to hold governments and companies to account.