Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month, we’re highlighting Cheikh Cisse, co-founder of ONG 3D in Senegal, an organization that partners with us on the Open Budget Survey and our in-country work.
What is your background and what led you to working with underserved communities?
Decentralization reform was my major in university, working in areas like health and nutrition. During a social work internship when I was 18 or 19, I spent a month in a remote village that had no access to water or electricity—the children had no schools to attend. Coming from the capital where we had easy access to all these services, I was very moved by the inequity—and angry that the government wasn’t doing anything about it. I did not know until then that the Senegal I had been living in had two faces.
The day we were leaving, the chief in that village said, “I hope you will remember this experience and I hope you will come back and do something to help us.”
How did you evolve from a social worker to budget advocate?
I started my career specializing in communities, and it led me to want to do more to transfer power to communities. Senegal created a decentralization process starting in 1996-2011, but I saw that the framework did not correspond to the communities’ needs.
The decentralization process was supposed to solve the big gap between government and local communities. But the central government didn’t even know what was needed in each community for basic services like sanitation. In trying to bridge that gap, I realized that local communities had to depend on the central government to spur development—they did not have their own resources. I wanted to have a clear idea of how to solve those problems and change that.
What gave birth to ONG3D in 2008 was that we wanted influence over the development process, and we knew that if we really wanted to influence development, we had to focus on budget issues. We worked on a big program on transparency and access to budget information and participation funded by the United States and started to interact with the government and the Ministry of Finance.
What are your hopes for budget advocacy work going forward?
First, we want to make citizens more aware of their right to demand information and accountability from the government and give them effective and accessible tools to do so. Secondly, we want to strongly advocate for the government to implement a national law giving people access to government budgets and other information that is not now publicly available.