Civil society organizations (CSOs) often are interested in a particular sector that is affected by the governments budget, such as health or human rights. In these cases, CSOs can use a variety of budget analysis tools to assess the governments commitment to a particular sector and to generate evidence that will strengthen their advocacy efforts.
Similarly, many CSOs focus on the needs of and challenges facing particular groups of people, and this again is a case when budget analysis can further their work. Analyzing a budget for how it impacts directly or indirectly a vulnerable segment of the population can help to identify policies and programs that are working (or not), detect gaps in spending, and suggest alternative programs.
Although budget analysis can be an extremely important means of generating evidence that can be used to inform policy debates and strengthen oversight, ultimately improving governance and budget outcomes, achieving these results requires CSOs to use that evidence in effective advocacy. Without linking the results of budget analysis to such efforts as providing input into budget debates, proposing alternative policies, informing the public and building constituencies, and holding the government accountable, CSOs are unlikely to achieve their desired impact.
It is important to note that independent budget analysis requires access to comprehensive, timely, and useful budget information. In order to be able to use the methods presented here to engage in effective advocacy, CSOs may first need to campaign for public access to government information.
CSOs engaging in budget analysis and advocacy that seeks to strengthen the governments commitment to a particular sector or to a particular group of people must always be aware that public budgeting is about trade-offs. Government budgets allocate scarce resources among competing interests, so increases in spending on one program or service will almost always require a decision either to increase revenues (i.e., taxes, fees, etc.) or cut spending on other programs. CSOs can strengthen their chances of success if they integrate these potential trade-offs into their analyses and advocacy objectives.
In this section, you will find tips and resources on how to analyze governments actual budget commitments to particular sectors and demographic groups: