Countries in the Lower Mekong sub-region, composed of Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, are slowly but decisively making strides in social accountability. ANSA-EAP is happy to be part of this process.
Cambodia, for instance, has been a priority for ANSA-EAP since 2008. Despite the challenges in its socio-political setting, we saw great potential in pursuing the social accountability agenda for the country, at least as a learning exercise for both government and civil society. And indeed for the past seven years, ANSA-EAP’s presence in Cambodia has thrived; our social accountability initiatives have continued to gain ground.
Thailand and Myanmar have also been engaged in ANSA-EAP events around public procurement monitoring and researches on participatory practices.
In 2012, Vietnam and Cambodia became showcase countries for the USAID program, Building Bridges for Better Spending in Southeast Asia. Practical learning and peer sharing on the use of public expenditure tracking survey, citizen report card and social audit in the countries’ education and health sectors amplified their social accountability experience.
Today, there are more developments in Myanmar and Vietnam that signify their stronger interest in SAc. Through Oxfam GB Myanmar, ANSA-EAP has started stocktaking processes and start-up training for selected government and civil society stakeholders in these two countries.
Moreover, the Australian Foundation for Peoples of Asia and Pacific (AFAP) in Vietnam just initiated the Awakening the Silent Voice project for ethnic minorities at the commune level after launching the first national workshop on social accountability.
Are we going see to similar efforts in Laos and Thailand, despite the unique struggles they have in their respective democratic spaces?
In November 2014, more than 60 civil society groups from the Lower Mekong countries started conversations on strengthening their cooperation and networking during a conference. They released the Khon Kaen Declaration with a commitment to “establish a framework for collaboration”. Could social accountability be a prominent agenda in this collaboration?
These developments certainly signal the need to study the strategic value of the Lower Mekong region as a social accountability focus. Where is it headed and how is it evolving? What are the emerging lessons from each country experience and is there an emerging picture of a sub-region experience? Does such sub-grouping have positive implication in the context of the ASEAN integration?
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