Governance and participation

People attending a local governance meeting in Bangladesh

Give a monthly gift

Poor governance is a key cause of poverty

Poverty is caused and maintained by unequal power relations that result in the unfair distribution of resources and opportunities.

We believe this situation will not change until poor people are empowered to hold public authorities to account for how they take decisions and allocate public funds.

That’s why CARE supports local communities to mobilise and voice their demands for improvements to services, and encourages people, particularly women, to participate in local institutions such as health councils and planning committees.

CARE also works with local and national authorities to encourage them to more consistently consult with poor and marginalised citizens.

Infographic on women's voice

The right to have your voice heard

We believe that inclusive governance – ensuring that governments and public bodies listen to, and respond to, the concerns of the poor – is a crucial first step out of poverty.

All people have a right to participate in and influence the decisions that affect their lives.

Many poor people, however, are unaware of their rights and of what they are entitled to. And they have no way of engaging with those who have the power to make a difference to their lives.

Empowering poor people to stand up for their rights

Alone, individual people’s voices are often not heard. This is where community organisations and NGOs like CARE come in. CARE and our partners help people build a shared voice so that they can influence the decisions that affect their lives.

For example, the villagers in Botlagari Union in Bangladesh used to receive very low wages. CARE helped them to come together to negotiate fairer wages from landowners and employers. These communities were also able to lobby their local government to lease them land to grow crops on.

When they had approached the government as individuals they were easily turned away but as a group they have been able to secure resources. They are now respected members of their communities able to speak in public and negotiate successfully with much more powerful people.

Strong community organisations, like the community council in Botlagari, also help to make governments and public bodies more accountable by ensuring they deliver the vital services they are responsible for, like water, health and education.

The head of the local government now consults us on development in our villages.
– Sri Valo Bala Rishi

CARE innovations

CARE has extensive experience working at the local level to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalised people are able to hold public authorities and private corporations to account for how they make decisions, and how they allocate and manage public or private funds.

We have developed a variety of tools and approaches – including budget monitoring, public hearings, social audits, and Community Score Cards – to enable people to have a say in policy decisions and to drive the improvements they want to see in service delivery in areas like health care and education.

Last year, CARE supported more than 2.4 million people to become more aware of their rights, voice their demands, advocate for improved policies, and hold policy-makers to account.

We aim to embed inclusive governance approaches in all our projects. Last year, 32% of all our projects included specific strategies and actions to empower people living in poverty to know and act on their rights; and a further 41% of all our projects incorporated strategies to promote inclusive governance.