Governance assessments give citizens a voice in Egypt

Om Said removes canal water from her house

Despite relatively limited resources, authorities in Egypt have recurrently allocated significant portions of state budget to local service delivery projects. This spending however did not always correspond to priority community needs or equitable service coverage.


When citizens do not have opportunities to participate in expressing needs and formulating projects they tend to perceive government efforts as ineffective, irresponsiveness, and oftentimes corrupt.


Om Said wakes up early every morning to perform the most important task of her day: removing canal water that overflows into her house. On some days she has to perform this arduous task every couple of hours.


The poor woman lives in a modest dwelling in front of a canal in a small village in the governorate of Fayoum. Garbage accumulating in the canal results in the water level rising and surrounding her home.


Om Said and her neighbours have visited the Local Administration Unit numerous times in search for a solution, to no avail.


 “We asked them to cover the canal or to at least remove the garbage from it,” says Om Said. “But nobody listened.”


Om Said and her neighbours finally decided to scrape together the money needed to rent a loader and pay the Local Administration Unit to remove the garbage. But they fear that it is only a matter of time until the canal refills with garbage.


Om Said’s story is but one example of how many Egyptian citizens suffer from deficiencies in local services, especially in poor, rural areas.


UNDP currently partners with the Local Development Observatory and the Social Contract Centre to assess local governance in the governorate of Fayoum. The aim of this pilot effort is to develop and test a new approach to collecting data on governance challenges and potential responses, at the local level, with a view to roll out local governance assessments nationwide.


The local governance assessment hinges on balancing the view of citizens as local services users, on one hand, with the views of the local administration (local popular councils, local executive councils, local employees) as service providers on the other.


By conducting governance assessments based on the reality on the ground, the Local Development Observatory is becoming the eyes and ears of policy makers allowing them to respond more efficiently to the real needs of local communities.


Local governance assessments involve capturing gaps and constraints in policy implementation; identifying specific capacity gaps and needs; formulating change plans for improving specific aspects of local governance; creating a platform to involve civil society and the private sector in local governance; and providing local elected leaders with evidence on governance performance to enhance their practice of local democracy.


In the governance assessment conducted in Fayoum, citizens’ assessment of the efficiency of the solid waste management service was as low as 15.83%, reflecting the reality of Om Said and many others living in the villages of Fayoum.


The presentation of these results to policy makers, together with specific policy and institutional reforms, suggested by the citizens themselves represent an important entry point for improving the performance of local government as local service providers.


The canal remains uncovered and garbage has started to pile up in it again. Yet, Om Said and her community remain hopeful because though the assessment, they have finally gotten local authorities to listen. They are determined to monitor responsiveness of the local authorities and eventually to a get a better solid waste management service.