About Mwananchi in Malawi
The local name for the Mwananchi programme in Malawi is Liu Lathu, which means ‘the voice’ in Chichewa, and its vision is of a country whose citizens have the capacity and means to engage the state on issues of accountability, transparency and responsiveness. To be implemented over a period of three-and-a-half years, the focus is on:
- strengthening capacity of citizens to engage the state on performance, accountability and transparency of elected leaders
- strengthening platforms and capacity for citizen participation in decision-making, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation
- strengthening citizen capacity to access justice
- promoting dialogue and interaction between civil society, media, and elected representatives
The national coordinating organisation is the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) – a Lilongwe-based non-governmental organisation with expertise on trade justice.
The design and content of the programme is informed by the country’s governance context, as determined through a baseline survey of existing governance interventions identified through a systematic stock-taking of reported activities by various stakeholders in the sector.
Liu Lathu will deliver capacity development for CSOs and the media on issue-based programming to enable them to effectively implement their activities. Attention will be paid to disadvantaged and under-represented sections of society to ensure their involvement in governance processes. Local partners in the programme will consist of various state and non-state actors who have experience in implementing activities aimed at enhancing the ability of citizens to engage the state.
Malawi’s constitution prescribes tenets of good governance and human rights, which entitle citizens to expect effective and efficient service delivery, accountability and transparency from government. In practice, the ability of citizens to engage government in dialogue remains constrained by a variety of factors including:
- structural barriers to citizen participation in, and input into, policy-making processes
- impediments in the channels for dialogue and interaction among key governance actors – particularly , the media, civil society and Parliament
- inadequate access to mechanisms for compelling state and other public institutions to be receptive and responsive to legitimate citizens’ requests
The success of interventions to improve governance in Malawi depends on evidence-based identification of specific opportunities and limitations in governance institutions and processes, and informed appreciation of existing and past interventions in the area.
The Liu Lathu programme is based on an extensive process of stakeholder consultations backed by research and evidence to identify the current orientation of governance interventions and weaknesses in governance structures. It also builds on relations that adversely affect the prospects of strengthening the demand for accountability by the government and other public agencies.
The consultations conducted in preparation for the programme revealed that current governance interventions in Malawi tend to focus on government institutions rather than their interactions with non-state actors, and that there is limited collaboration among the various governance actors, undermining their effectiveness. Liu Lathu, therefore, seeks to foster better relationships among the actors. This integrated approach makes Liu Lathu better positioned to bring about improvement in the country’s governance system.
Although the programme is expected to have a national impact, implementation will be in six districts:
- Rumphi in the Northern region
- Salima and Mchinji in the Central region
- Mwanza, Zomba and Phalombe in the Southern region
The districts were selected because they have not been targeted by many other governance programmes and because local partners expressed particular interest in these districts. Where governance programmes exist, however, Liu Lathu will work in close collaboration. This approach will not only avoid duplication of activities but also ensure the realisation of programme objectives and provide opportunities for cross learning.
Liu Lathu will be implemented through partnerships with key stakeholders. Specific partner organisations will be identified on the basis of their interest, capacity, relevance of their activities to the Liu Lathu programme, and based on transparent criteria and procedures.