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Governance Clinic to Boost Citizen Engagement

Aimeliik State, Palau (18 September 2019) – A governance clinic planned for Aimeliik State, the administrative division of the island country of Palau, aims to increase the understanding of local residents on the roles and responsibilities of central and local governments.

This exercise is important as it empowers citizens to assess their own needs and through the promotion of knowledge sharing, open debates and feedback on good governance and accountability and ensure their strong participation in local governance.

This is the third series of local governance clinics made possible through the Palau Local Governance Strengthening Project (PLGSP) which is jointly funded by the Government of Palau and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Previously, two similar clinics were held in Melekeok and Hatohobei State, on the east coast of the country’s largest island, Babeldaob Island.

The Director for Bureau of Domestic Affairs, Eunice Akiwo, highlighted that local governance strengthening is a two-way street.

“Citizens need to feel confident on where, when and how they can participate on various government processes as well as services provided by local governments and in the same breath, it is also important for local government institutions to be prepared to facilitate citizen engagement,” said Akiwo.

“Prior to these clinics, consultations were held with Governors, State Legislatures, various community facilitators, key informants, state government staff and technical advisors to gather relevant information about the current levels of awareness of citizens with respect to governance and related aspects to validate the objectives of the clinics.”

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She added, “As part of the lessons learnt from the previous two clinics, we have integrated separate sessions for women, men and the youth which then builds up to the whole-community session. This is to ensure higher participation rates which then improves overall engagement at these sessions.”

The main objectives of these governance clinics for communities are to:
1. Increase citizens’ understanding of their civic education, rights and duties
2. Highlight existing government processes for community to engage in policy development
3. Encourage more citizen participation and determine culturally appropriate ways to do this
4. Explore barriers to civic engagement and work to develop solutions
5. Work towards improved understanding of citizens’ priorities to allow well informed decision making
Improving the local governance and service delivery at the local State level is crucial for the Government of Palau, as it implements the 2030 Agenda as well as the localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Effective Governance Team Leader a.i. for the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Nanise Saune, stressed the important role of local governments.

“Local government is the channel closest to the citizens for accessing basic services, for participating in the public decisions that affect their lives, and for exercising their rights and obligations.”

She added, “Effective local governance is essential for improving quality of life, reducing inequality in all its forms, and enhancing relations between people and public institutions.”

The Aimeliik State governance clinic for all citizens was held on Tuesday 17 September while the session for youths will be held on Thursday 19 September.

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