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Demand accountability, its your right!

ights based approach

to social accountability
is founded on the basic
premise that all human beings
have equal dignity and equal
claim on the measures required
to meet their basic needs and to
exercise their fundamental rights
as capabilities. It is because every
human being has needs such as
water, housing, health care. The
law says that these needs must
be met as a matter of right and
that the state bears primary duty
for its realisation. Basic needs
are therefore a foundation from
which human rights emerge.
A basic understanding of what
human rights are is therefore
relevant to understand this
discourse. The United Nations
(UN) defines a human right as
a universal guarantee protecting
individuals and groups against
actions and omissions that
interfere with fundamental
freedoms, entitlements and
human dignity. In Malawi, the
Constitution is supreme law
and therefore provides for the
protection of rights. Examples of
human rights are right to health,


right to education, right to health
among others.
According to the constitution,
the Government of Malawi
(GoM) has committed to the
progressive realisation of rights
within available resources and
equitable access of the rights.
It is based on this commitment
that the GoM should go
beyond acknowledging citizens
rights but should centrally be
responsible for the realisation
of human rights as entitlements
to capabilities. This is because
government is given authority
and mandate by citizens for the
sole purpose of ensuring that
citizens rights are realised. The
mandate is also enforced by the
fact that resources utilised by

government is generated from

the people (through tax and
other sources) for the people
and therefore public officers,
are obliged to give account to
citizens for all decisions and
actions taken in delivering
their mandate. For instance, if
government decides to build
1000 teachers houses across
the country, they must be able
to explain and justify why that
decision has been made and how
it will help citizens realise their
right to education.
Social accountability as a right
means that citizens have a right
to social accountability. This
means that all citizens have a
right to demand explanations and
justifications from government

when it fails to provide them

adequately and also take
corrective actions where required.
It further ensures that citizens
should take a leading role in
interaction between stakeholders
in determining priorities.
Citizens therefore have the right
and should take advantage and
participate in the various stages of
the budget process. For instance
when Rumphi District Council is
developing priorities and budgets,
the citizens in Rumphi should
be consulted in the process to
ensure that budgets reflect the
needs and interests of the people.
In addition, citizens must be
bold enough to demand officials,
ministries to account for how
they managed resources. This
means we need to demand for
answers where resources have not
been used as planned.
Every right has a corresponding
obligation. The government of
Malawi, through Ministries,
Departments, Agencies, Local
Government Authorities and
public officers therefore have
the following obligations; firstly

Feedback: / tiwonge.kumwenda@actionaid .org /

GoM has an obligation to respect

the citizens by ensuring that it
should not take any meausures to
prevent citizens from accessing
their rights. Secondly, the state
has the responsibility to protect
which means that government
requires taking measures to
ensure that enterprises or
individuals do not deprive others
of their access to their rights.
Lastly, the GoM has an obligation
to fulfil the realisation of human
rights. Therefore, there must
be proactive engagement in
activities intended to strengthen
peoples access to and utilisation
of resources and enjoyment of
If the government is able to
manage resources optimally by
operating as a system designed
to ensure that the rights are
experienced as capabilities
progressively by its citizens, then
accountability is achieved. Failure
to achieve accountability has
catastrophic effects on service
delivery and hence failure to meet
the needs and to realise rights of
its citizens. n