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Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

USAID has helped Malawi’s young Democracy free and fair elections by encouraging women and the youth to participate in elections.
USAID has helped Malawi’s young Democracy free and fair elections by encouraging women and the youth to participate in elections.
Photo Credit/USAID

CITIZEN’S RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES EXERCISED

It has been more than twenty years since Malawi first held multiparty elections. While democracy has expanded freedom and justice, Malawi’s political transition after thirty years of one party rule under President Hastings Kamuzu Banda has not been without its hurdles. Still reeling from the 2013 “Cashgate” financial scandal and contending with more recent additional public corruption issues, the Government of Malawi (GoM) must fulfill its mandate to provide its citizens with fair and competent governance with limited resources. Malawi faces daunting challenges in implementing its Public Sector Reforms agenda, but must succeed to fully engage a citizenry that grows weary with poor services, lack of a clear voice, and unaccountable local government systems.

USAID supports the Government of Malawi (GoM) and civil society to address the governance issues that affect sustainable development, including strengthening accountability, service delivery, and public sector performance at both the national and local government levels. USAID’s work with Malawian civil society includes efforts to increase citizen engagement in decision making and oversight, as well as building capacity to advocate for responsive, effective, and fair government policies and practice. To ensure political economy issues are thoughtfully incorporated throughout our sectoral goals, USAID programming integrates democratic principles, including accountable and responsive governance, in health, education, environment, and economic development activities.

STRENGTHENING GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS

In support of the GoM Public Service Reform initiative, USAID supports the Office of the President and Cabinet, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, and 28 district councils to reform the civil service, restructure government, and bring decision making and services closer to the people.

CIVIL SERVICE REFORM: Recognizing that civil servants are the lifeblood of government performance, USAID supports GoM efforts to reform its performance management laws, policies and systems, and to create incentives for excellence and consequences for poor performance. USAID also supports human resources managers operating throughout government to ensure transparent and merit-based hiring, improved labor productivity, and appropriate staffing levels.

DECENTRALIZATION: USAID’s Local Government Accountability and Performance (LGAP) activity supports the Government as it devolves personnel, finances, and service delivery responsibilities to increasingly autonomous local government councils. In the first year of implementing LGAP (August 2016-September 2017), the GoM officially devolved management of local level civil servants from the central government to the country’s 28 local government councils. Through support from LGAP, GoM transferred the payroll management of 113,000 government personnel from central government to local governments - including health workers, teachers, and other front line civil servants - with minimal disruptions. As a result, payroll and personnel records are now reconciled monthly, minimizing financial mismanagement and “ghost workers.” Districts now create development plans in line with citizen priorities, newly created revenue management units enhance public financial management, and district offices are restructuring to improve efficiency and service delivery.

STRENGTHENING EVIDENCE-BASED POLICY REFORM

PARLIAMENT: USAID, through its Supporting the Efforts of Partners (STEPS) program, supports the National Assembly’s effort to advance evidence-based policy making by building its capacity to conduct policy research and budgetary oversight. The research will bring new rigor to policy debates and development among government committees. It will also support Parliament’s review of the proposed National Budget, development of amendments (based on citizen priorities), and increased accountability of public funding.

POLITICAL PARTIES: USAID, through the Regional Political Party Strengthening Program, works to strengthen the electoral process and Parliament through long-term capacity building for political parties, with a particular focus on institutional strengthening and platform development.

SUPPORTING FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS

USAID is assisting the Malawi Electoral Commission and civil society to prepare for, conduct, and oversee the 2019 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections. Assistance includes support for voter registration through deployment of a biometric National ID, pre-election systems reforms, long and short-term observation, media assistance, political party training, and electoral security support.

BUILDING CIVIL SOCIETY VOICE AND AGENCY FOR CHANGE

Strong democracies require an active and engaged citizenry. USAID supports communities, religious leaders, traditional authorities, and activists to advance locally owned and led initiatives, building self-reliance and greater agency for reform. Through the Supporting the Efforts of Partners (STEPS) and Localworks direct grants, USAID supports over 30 Malawian organizations to become more sustainable and well managed by improving their internal governance, financial, human resources, strategic management, and advocacy capabilities. In doing so, partners are more powerful advocates in Parliament, more effective elections observers, and stronger voices for accountability.

Last updated: September 21, 2018

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