Budget Trailblazers: Ubagu Amuche

Budget Trailblazers: Ubagu Amuche

In this section, we shine a spotlight on partners who are spearheading budget advocacy on the ground to affect transformational change in their communities. 

This month we talked with Ubagu Martha Amuche, a member of COMEN (the Community Empowerment Network) in the Ojoto community in Anambra state. 

Q: What inspired you to start working with COMEN?    

A: To start working with COMEN was challenging, however, it is also the most satisfying volunteering community development work. I wanted to make a positive contribution to the growth and development of my community, build a network of people with shared goals, and gain professional skills and experience to meet the demands of society.

Q: What skills or tools did IBP bring that helped COMEN achieve their successes? 

A: IBP supported us in gaining budget advocacy and process skills and shared reflections and lessons learned to help us achieve our successes. COMEN has been able to generate useful evidence by monitoring what the government is currently doing with the funds that have been budgeted in health sectors and other areas.

Q: What achievement with COMEN are you most proud of and why? 

A: I am proud of leading members to advocate for Primary Health Care Centers, championing and defending civil society space and the formation of a partner network. Our partnership with the Justice Development and Peace Caritas helped us to influence and improve Primary Health Care Centers’ service delivery and provide the evidence needed for the #FixmyPHC campaign, which directly led to governments increasing money spent on Primary Health Care Centers.

 Q: How has engaging in budget advocacy affected your life? 

A: Engaging in budget advocacy has helped to understand the implications of budget choices and take action to help shape community budget choices.

Q: Why should the average citizen care about budgets? 

A: Citizen involvement in budgeting makes local service delivery more efficient and effective. Therefore, citizen participation in the budget is very important for the individual, government and society at large.

Budget Trailblazers: Vara Prasad

Budget Trailblazers: Vara Prasad

In this section, we talk with the individuals and partners who are doing budget advocacy on the ground to affect transformational change in their community.

This month we talk with Vara Prasad, a Dalit student activist who lives in the Vizianagaram district in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. He has completed his Masters in Social Work from Andhra University and his Bachelors in Education. He is currently preparing for his Masters of Philosophy. During the pandemic, he works as a daily wage laborer in the fields to support his family in these challenging times.

Q: What inspired you to get involved with advocating for the rights of students?

A: As a Dalit, or Scheduled Caste student, I face a lot of issues in continuing my studies. My parents are old, and my family is financially unstable. I solely depend on government schemes that are meant to provide financial assistance to students such as the Post Matric Scholarship and Reimbursement of Tuition Fee to complete my studies. However, the Andhra Pradesh Government does not release these scholarships in a timely manner, causing a lot of financial stress and burden on students like myself. Like me, there are many students from my community facing similar financial burdens. No government body or unions, including the student’s union like SFI (Student’s Federation of India) and AISF (All India Student’s Federation), work on these issues faced by Dalit and Adivasis students. Therefore, I felt the need to be involved in advocating for my rights and the rights of other students like me.

Q: What accomplishment or achievement in this movement are you most proud of and why?

A: As a student volunteer with the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), I have organized several meetings with students in several colleges and engaged with government officials at different levels of governance. As part of this work, I have advocated for students who didn’t receive their scholarship funds and submitted 320 students’ data from seven colleges to the Collector, Deputy Director Social Welfare Department along with other networks and organizations. After two years of continuous struggle and advocacy all 320 students got their Post Matric Scholarship and Reimbursement of Tuition Fee scholarships. This for me is one of my biggest achievements in this movement which I am really proud of.

Q: How does the government’s budget directly affect your life and livelihood?

A: As a student, I have been completely dependent on government scholarships for my education. I have been availing the Post Matric Scholarship and it has helped me and my family financially. Apart from the Post Matric Scholarship, I am also a beneficiary of other schemes like MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) under which I earn Rs. 8000/per month (approximately $109 USD) which helps towards my livelihood and have also availed a housing scheme of Rs. 130,000 (approximately $1,780 USD) for the construction of my house. These government schemes have directly and positively impacted my life and livelihood.

Q: Why should the average citizen care about budgets?

A: Government budgets are a very important component of our lives and impacts us hugely, every single day. Every citizen should know about their government’s budget allocations, expenses and implementation of the schemes at the state and central level since it is our economic right, and we as taxpayers should be completely aware of how the government is putting it to use.

Q: What improvement in your government’s budget process would you most like to see happen this year?

A: The recent release of Rs.400 Crore (approximately $54,852 USD) for the Post Matric Scholarship and Reimbursement of Tuition Fee programs by the Andhra Pradesh government has given us lot of hope, as students. This year and for the years to come, I would like to see timely release of Post Matric Scholarship and Reimbursement of Tuition Fee money for all the Dalit and Adivasi students. I would also like to see more allocation toward some important schemes like YSR Vidyaunnati scheme which provides coaching for students from marginalized communities for competitive exams.

IBP Welcomes Experienced Leaders in Global Development to its Board of Trustees 

IBP Welcomes Experienced Leaders in Global Development to its Board of Trustees 

We are excited to welcome new members Faith Mwangi-Powell and David Nussbaum and announce that Rakesh Rajani will take over as chair of IBP’s board of trustees.

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell MSc, PhD currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer for Girls not Brides the global partnership to end child marriage – where she is responsible for catalyzing its partnership strategy and ensuring that the Secretariat is responsive to the broader movement for change. She formerly served as Global Director for The Girl Generation, an initiative working to galvanize the Africa-led movement to end Female Genital Mutilation. Faith is a public health expert and senior manager of complex public health programs in Africa with more than 20 years of experience in leading, managing and implementing health programs. She was the founding Executive Director of the African Palliative Care Association and supported palliative care global advocacy and services development in over 20 African countries.

Dr. Mwangi-Powell stated, “I am excited to be joining the board because of the organization’s incredible leadership in budget advocacy and literacy. Budget inclusion transforms lives and I want to be part of an organization at the forefront of this transformation.”  She will bring deep insights into our efforts to advance budget justice and equity as part of the larger movement to shift power dynamics in global development.  Watch Mwangi-Powell in action talking about the power of women.

David Nussbaum has led several high-profile international organizations, including The EldersWWF-UK and Transparency International. He brings wide expertise in the accountability field, as well as strategic visioning and planning that will help us evolve organizationally and connect the relevance of open budget work to other global development actors, including the environmental, anticorruption and humanitarian communities. Watch David in action talking about one of his passions: climate change.

“As the world grapples with containing and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, governments will be deploying huge sums of money to address the economic impact as well as the health consequences,” said David Nussbaum upon joining the board. “This will make the work of IBP more relevant than ever, as government budgeting and financial management play an ever more important role in our lives, and the Board will play a significant role in helping the organization navigate these challenging times.”

Speaking on the importance of the open budget agenda, David said, “The 2030 vision of the Sustainable Development Goals can only be realised if citizens around the world are empowered to engage with their governments – and to do so effectively in the budgeting arena, where government policies become financial and practical realities.  This requires open budgets and budgeting processes, so that development is participatory and responsive, to which IBP brings years of expertise.”

Our new chair Rakesh Rajani is a longtime partner and board member and a leading voice for open government and passionate advocate for gender equality. He brings three decades of experience in human rights, governance, and philanthropy, and will provide valuable strategic insights to our efforts to advance the open budget agenda in the greater global development community. He is currently Vice President of Programs at Co-Impact, served as Director of Civic Engagement and Government at the Ford Foundation, was a founding member and past co-chair of the Open Government Partnership and led several civil society organizations in his native Tanzania.

IBP is grateful to Michael Lipsky who served two terms as the organization’s founding board chair and will stay on as an emeritus member of the board. Michael’s association with IBP goes back to its founding in 1997; while at the Ford Foundation Michael was responsible for the grant that established IBP. We thank him for his unwavering dedication, guidance, inspiration, and leadership over the past 20 years, especially for helping to steer the organization through its spin-off from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and recent period of rapid growth and evolution.

Learn more about the board here.

A statement on the US Capitol attack

A statement on the US Capitol attack

Ira Bostic / Shutterstock.com

As advocates for open societies globally, the International Budget Partnership condemns the acts of terror and desecration of democratic institutions that took place in the US Capitol this week. The violence and blatant symbols of hate on display shook a nation but should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the decline of civil discourse and rise of extremist ideology across the United States and globally.

At the International Budget Partnership, our work is fueled by a deep commitment to equity and justice and a rejection of the politics of exclusion. We believe in transparency, truthful information, freedom of expression, public participation, and peaceful assembly. This week’s racism-fueled and conspiracy-driven attack goes against every democratic principle we stand for.

Throughout the world, we partner with historically marginalized movements so that they can take part in decisions around resources, because we know the social contract only works when everyone has a voice and when we contest gender, racial, and other injustice everywhere. Now more than ever, we must double down on efforts to counter extremism by strengthening democratic institutions and promoting inclusive and peaceful participation.

It is not lost on us the stark contrast between the peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators who were suppressed with brute force by the National Guard last year and the scene of white supremacists overtaking the US capitol this week with little security presence. We stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities and their struggles with racism and double standards.

This moment should embolden us to reflect on the racism that is deeply rooted in the history of the United States and many countries. We urge for healing and a reckoning with the white supremacist ideology driving these threats to democracy.

In case you missed it: high-level panel on promoting equity and accountability in the COVID-19 response

In case you missed it: high-level panel on promoting equity and accountability in the COVID-19 response

On Dec. 16, 2020, the Finance Ministry of the Republic of Indonesia and IBP held a high-level, virtual panel, “Getting it Right: Promoting Equity and Accountability in the COVID-19 Response,” which focused on equity and accountability in emergency public spending and how we can strengthen the role of civil society in monitoring these expenditures. The event garnered international media coverage from major outlets in Indonesia and Kenya and more than 3,300 viewers from across Canada, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Senegal, South Africa, Tajikistan, United Kingdom and the United States​.

Moderator Beena Pallical, General Secretary, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights was joined by Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General, United States of America, Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance, Republic of Indonesia and Warren Krafchik, Executive Director, International Budget Partnership for a conversation on the choices governments make while channeling public resources to combat COVID-19 – choices that will determine how many lives are saved and how many people fall into poverty.