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Enhancing social accountability in the Republic of Moldova through policy dialogue

Within our new EU4Accountability project in the Republic of Moldova, EPD’s Simon Eslinger and Sergio Rodriguez-Prieto went to Chișinău to start working on policy dialogue with our new partner Centrul de Politici și Reforme (CPR Moldova). Over the next 18 months, EPD will support CPR Moldova in conducting a nation-wide and participatory policy dialogue on social accountability mechanisms to improve the current policy framework and to make it more conducive to citizens’ participation in public affairs.

Why does this matter?

One of the key features of a democracy is that citizens have the right to hold the public authorities to account. The term “social accountability” refers to the ability of citizens to exercise these rights and the capacity and willingness of public authorities to uphold them. Therefore, both civil society and public authorities’ responsiveness must be supported, so that they are capable of designing, implementing and monitoring effective public policies that take into account the communities’ needs.

A recent needs assessment carried out by the Moldovan CSO Contact-Center shows the lack of capacity of local public authorities to meaningfully engage citizens into their work, hence undermining trust in the institutions and the overall quality of public policies, which often fail to deliver results at the local level. This gap is exactly what we seek to overcome with the EU-funded project EU4Accountability – Empowered Civil Society for Increased Social Accountability in Moldova, which provides capacity development support to civil society and local authorities and enables both stakeholders to implement small scale projects.

Beyond the problem of capacity, the current policy framework prevents civil and state stakeholders from effectively collaborating together. By bringing together CSOs and public institutions from the whole country to agree on a shared assessment of the policy field, CPR Moldova will consolidate the policy evidence base on social accountability and subsequently enable stakeholders to codesign a Roadmap for Reform to improve the policy framework.

This is especially relevant since the Republic of Moldova has been officially granted candidate status to the European Union in June 2022, and one of the priorities identified by the EU Commission for Moldova’s accession is to “enhance the involvement of civil society in decision-making processes at all levels”. The Moldovan Government promptly reacted and issued an Action Plan  for the implementation of the steps proposed by the European Commission  in August 2022,  planning for, among others, the set up of permanent consultative platforms, a new Concept regarding civil society development, and a new law on access to information of public interest.

Currently, the Moldovan policy landscape for CSOs participation in social accountability includes two main laws, the Law on access to information (2000) and the Law on Transparency in Decision-making Process (2008). Outdated and ineffective, their implementation mechanisms do not allow civil society to meaningfully engage in public policy making. At the local level, even though the Law No. 436 of 28 December 2006 on local public administration stipulates that citizens should be consulted around issues of primary importance for the community, the implementation framework often fails to encourage local authorities from consulting civil society on a systematic basis.

Making use of EPD’s INSPIRED approach to policy dialogue, CPR will seek to build consensus around the key priorities to be addressed by the Moldovan government and policy makers. The dialogue will be based on the evidence provided by a joint assessment of the policy field to overcome these gaps and will explore different modalities for civil and state stakeholders to engage in social accountability. This is a very timely mission as it touches on most policy fields relevant for the democratic progress of the country, be it the integrity of the state institutions, the responsiveness to the needs of the citizens or the institutional set up to secure public participation in ensuring a local development that is responsive to citizens’ needs.