Public Budget Meeting
More than 300 Afghan citizens, including municipal and provincial officials, attended Mazar's second annual public budget meeting organized by the Regional Afghan Municipalities Program for Urban Populations (RAMP UP) North in March 2012. The RAMP UP program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by ICMA and DAI, is designed to create a more responsive and reliable government in 27 provinces throughout Afghanistan. One of the main objectives of the program is to generate positive and productive interactions between local governments and their citizens, and the budget meeting made this possible by allowing Afghans to provide feedback.
RAMP UP staff members began preparing for the submission of the annual budget by providing technical assistance to municipal officials. As a result, the draft annual budget was completed in advance of its deadline, allowing sufficient time to incorporate suggestions from citizens into the final version.
At the budget meeting, managers responsible for Cleaning and Greening, Revenue, Construction, and Accounting presented the draft budget, named the municipal projects accomplished in the past year, and announced the projects anticipated for the upcoming year. Citizens were able to voice their concerns and suggestions during a question-and-answer session and group discussions, which were facilitated by RAMP UP-North advisors.
One recurring concern was the poor condition of roads, and some citizens suggested holding one district head responsible for paving. This official would also serve as the point of contact for citizens to report high-priority areas and any issues or concerns with road maintenance. The mayor agreed to implement this recommendation and added an optimistic note, “We are hoping to pave all the side roads in Mazar within the next three years.”
The mayor pledged to consider all comments and incorporate the citizens’ requests either this year or at the latest, the following year. Both citizens and government officials were pleased with the results of the meeting.
Public Consultation Meetings
In recent years, government officials have been revising the Afghanistan Municipal Law, originally developed during Taliban rule. The new draft Municipal Law was completed near the end of 2011, and Afghan citizens had the opportunity to review and evaluate it. RAMP UP-North advisors facilitated two-day public workshops in Faizabad, Pul-e-Khumri, Sar-e-Pul, and Taloqan, and more than 550 citizens, representing municipal districts, civil societies, nongovernmental organizations, and private businesses, attended.
Acknowledging that citizens would be directly affected by the new law, government officials emphasized the importance of citizen involvement in the revision process. Over a period of several hours, citizens conveyed their opinions in a series of productive discussions. Participants raised questions revolving around land distribution issues and criteria for mayor candidates.
The public budget meeting and the public consultations alike reinforced the government’s willingness to promote better governance by engaging its citizens and thoughtfully listening to and considering their opinions.
For more information about ICMA's programs in Afghanistan, visit the Afghanistan section of the ICMA website and the International Development topic area in the Knowledge Network, or contact email@example.com.