Political Process Monitoring Defined

Political process monitoring involves a methodical effort to track the actions of government actors or institutions and objectively assess alignment with established democratic principles, obligations, commitments or standards. Typically, political process monitoring initiatives gather and track information over an extended period of time to draw trends, gauge progress, and elucidate findings and recommendations.

The Purpose of Political Process Monitoring

Political process monitoring can be used to promote more open and accountable government, improve government performance and increase citizen engagement. By systematically gathering information on political processes, such as campaigning for elected office, public budgeting and procurement, lawmaking, or follow-through on policy implementation, civil society organizations and activists can offer assessments, provide data-driven recommendations, and lay the foundation for greater citizen influence over political processes and outcomes. Political process monitoring can raise public awareness of governance issues and fuel broader organizing efforts to influence government behavior. For example, political process monitoring can serve as an integral tactic used by those advocating for public-sector reforms or improved service delivery. Although some CSOs might concentrate only on conducting monitoring activities, many organizations and activists treat monitoring as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Typically, monitoring initiatives open up other opportunities and entry points to create change through further, sustained action. In this respect, it is important to determine how different forms of political process monitoring fit within the broader civic organizing and activism ecosystem, and how monitoring may complement other efforts.

Political Process Monitoring Model

There is no “one size fits all” model for political process monitoring initiatives. Countries have different systems, structures, legal frameworks and political norms, as well as different democratic histories. Therefore, monitoring strategies, techniques and timelines need to be tailored to local contexts and the identified governance gaps, with a realistic sense of the political circumstances. There are a number of key considerations and steps that surround each type of political process monitoring listed below. For instance, there will always be a need to determine if monitors have access to the respective political process or to requisite information that would allow for a fair assessment of the process. Likewise, all forms of monitoring require the development of objective metrics that can be used in the assessment. These could include anything from whether a parliamentarian regularly attends plenary sessions to whether a public procurement process resulted in multiple competitive bids. Monitoring groups also need to share the metrics and present the purpose of their monitoring, as a means to build credibility and create appropriate public expectations. In this regard, monitoring groups should strive to build working relationships with politicians and government officials, so that monitoring is viewed as a constructive contribution to democratic functioning and a legitimate activity for civil society.

Theory of Change

Political process monitoring involves methodical efforts to track the actions of government actors or institutions and objectively assess alignment with established democratic principles, obligations, commitments or standards. When civil society actors undertake such monitoring, they open the processes to public scrutiny and input. In new and emerging democracies, the monitoring can help establish the imperative for citizens to have an active voice in shaping political processes, enlarge and maintain the space for political engagement, and foster stronger accountability relationships with public officials and political leaders.

NDI’s political process monitoring theory of change is illustrated in the diagram below, which depicts a dynamic relationship between monitoring and developing democratic governance processes that work in the public interest.

Theory of Change

Preconditions for Political Process Monitoring

What are the preconditions for political process monitoring? In many countries, government and public institutions are closed to the public, organizations and anyone outside of government officials.

There may be various reasons for this. It may be because there is no tradition, or at least no recent tradition, of an open society. Government or institutions may have concerns about opening up to citizens, such as how officials would appear if they were more open to their citizens, how this will affect their work, how they will be judged, and whether this will make the work of monitoring quite difficult.

At a minimum, there should be some public information to work with, some citizen interest in the political process, and some level of government response to CSOs’ work, at least to respond positively to a request for a meeting to tell them about the anticipated work. Ideally, there should be full transparent access to public documents and responses to CSOs’ issues and requests.

Illustrative Outcomes

The following chart of development outcomes represents what can be achieved through different types of political process monitoring initiatives. The chart organizes the illustrative outcomes along three dimensions: voice, space and accountability.

Campaign- Related Monitoring
  • An electorate more informed of candidates’ backgrounds, campaign platforms and voting records
  • A public record of campaign promises
  • Constructive relationships between citizens and elected officials
  • Citizen priorities taken into account throughout the campaign season
  • Elected officials held accountable for their campaign promises post-election
  • Policy priorities of both candidates and elected officials more accurately represent citizen interests
Parliamentary Monitoring
  • Citizen access to reliable information on the functioning of legislative processes at the national and local government levels
  • Citizen access to reliable information on legislators at the national and local government levels
  • Direct, constructive interaction between citizens and legislators at the local or national levels
  • Direct, constructive interaction between citizens and political parties at the national or local levels
  • Increased government and political party accountability to citizens
  • Improvement in legislative capacity and individual legislators’ performance at the national or local levels
Government Follow-Through
  • Increased public awareness of the extent to which policies or laws are implemented and enforced
  • Increased public awareness of the extent to which public officials are in compliance with a government agreement
  • Improved ability to influence government based on monitoring findings
  • Enhanced understanding of how government follow-through on decisions can affect democratic governance
  • Increased constructive cooperation between governments and CSOs concerning the implementation of government decisions
  • Increased compliance with government agreements
  • Increased implementation and enforcement of public policies and laws
Budget Monitoring / Budget Advocacy / Expenditure Tracking
  • Increased citizen capacity to hold governments accountable
  • A citizenry more engaged in political processes, especially at the local level
  • More transparent local budget processes and expenditure management
  • Improved communication between civil society, government and citizens
  • Improved service delivery and public infrastructure projects
  • Decreased levels of corruption
  • Improved service delivery and public infrastructure projects
Shadow Reporting
  • The United Nations (U.N.), national government and the partner have more accurate and in-depth information on government compliance with international treaties, conventions and accords
  • Increased collaboration between governments, CSOs and political parties on policy development and implementation
  • Increased political party and government accountability and responsiveness
  • Gaps in government policy development and implementation identified and addressed