19.01.2022 | EADI Virtual Dialogue: Citizens Committees and Local Elites in Burundi
Mainstream development policies often promote citizens committees to oversee basic social services. Such committees require influence over, and legitimacy among, service providers and citizens to perform their roles, which local elites can help or hinder. Using a mixed-methods approach, this talk analyses the situation in 251 health facility committees in Burundi, part of which benefited from interventions designed to bolster their relationship with local leaders.
Interviews and focus groups reveal that leaders’ support is essential for committees to access citizens and work with nurses, but the failure of the interventions show it is hard to nurture. The local socio-political elites (politicians, faith leaders) bypass and ignore the committees. In a ‘fragile’ context such as Burundi’s, the lack of political elite capture attempt suggests a largely vacuous committee system. The committees remain a façade participatory institution. Understanding and engaging with local everyday local politics is crucial for committee-based development approaches. The presentation is based on an open access article in the European Journal of Development Research (EJDR)
Jean-Benoît Falisse is a lecturer at the Centre of African Studies and a fellow at the Edinburgh Futures Institute, both at the University of Edinburgh. His research looks at the provision of and access to social services―health-care, education, and justice―in so-called ‘fragile’ contexts. In the last ten years, he has focussed on the African Great Lakes region with research projects on refugee and returnee livelihoods in Burundi and Tanzania, social accountability in primary education and primary health-care in Sud Kivu, and the political economy of sleeping sickness in DR Congo. Jean-Benoit has substantial experience working with and for international and national development organisations.