Monitoring government follow-through involves tracking the extent to which policies, programs, laws or specific commitments are implemented. The focus is typically on executive branch institutions and actors responsible for providing public goods and services that satisfy citizen needs and interests.
This type of monitoring is a method for civil society to draw attention to the government’s responsibilities and provide information about whether progress is being made toward reaching the government’s stated objectives. It can also focus on the extent that “open government” practices are being followed or public-sector reforms are being instituted.
Examples of common monitoring government follow-through objectives include:
- Increase public awareness of the extent to which governments implement and enforce laws, policies and programs;
- Pressure governments to comply with and enforce decisions and policies;
- Increase inclusion and participation of marginalized groups in policies and programs;
- Increase implementation effectiveness and responsiveness;
- Increase transparency of government decision-making;
- Increase government accountability to legislators and citizens; and
- Strengthen good governance.
Some groups may only monitor government follow-through, while others may combine this type of monitoring with advocacy or awareness-raising campaigns focused on a sector (e.g., health or education) or an issue area (e.g., climate change).
Watchdog organizations may choose to monitor specific democratic governance dimensions, such as the level of transparency in decision-making at the national level, or the political space for civil society voices to participate at the local level. These initiatives can be an effective oversight method for civil society to prompt more responsive and accountable governance by determining if official decisions and actions have resulted in the promised changes. Issue-based organizations may choose to monitor government follow-through to track an implementation process and be prepared to advocate, if a desired change is stalled.
Monitoring government follow-through can work in tandem with other forms of monitoring, such as budget monitoring, expenditure tracking or shadow reporting. All of these efforts can also help build better working relationships with public officials and can foster more collaborative forms of governance.
Government follow-through initiatives can target a wide range of local or national-level government actions, such as the execution of power-sharing agreements, post-disaster reconstruction programs, job-creation policies, environmental protection programs, local development plans, or constitutional reforms, among others.
One dimension these types of initiatives may monitor is compliance. Specifically, groups can monitor how well government agencies comply with the legislation and policies that regulate a process. A good example is an initiative that aims to monitor how well and how quickly the government is abiding by or upholding a right-to-information act, also known as “freedom of information” legislation.
Monitoring Priorities and Responsiveness
Monitoring the priorities of the local government, a government agency or the national government is another dimension of this type of monitoring. In these kinds of initiatives, civic groups gather the citizen or community priority issues and present them to the relevant government institutions. The civic groups then monitor the level of responsiveness of the target institution to the priorities and whether and how the priorities are addressed, e.g., priority issues are included in budget plans, target issues are made into public policies, and government actors provide explanations for why a specific issue has not been addressed yet.
Monitoring Effectiveness and Efficiency
Issue-based advocacy groups, in particular, are inclined to monitor the government’s performance as it relates to their priority issue or cause. These types of groups tend to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of government follow-through. Initiatives that monitor these dimensions are also common after a national disaster or economic recession, where a large-scale government program is planned that involves significant public funds and diverse beneficiaries.
Because there are so many different government policies, programs and decisions at different levels of government, this type of monitoring is also the most diverse of all other types of political process monitoring.
Civic groups in Nepal, some supported by NDI, monitored government follow-through on the earthquake reconstruction program after the 2015 earthquakes that devastated the country. They focused on the effectiveness and efficiency of the national program based on performance indicators. Similarly, the country’s COVID-19 economic recovery programs drove many civic groups to initiate monitoring government follow-through of those programs.
In 2020, Chapter One Foundation (COF) launched an initiative to monitor how the Zambian government’s COVID-19 response impacted human rights. COF recognized the need to apply a “human rights lens” to the pandemic response to ensure that critical human rights were being preserved and no one was excluded from the response, and to mitigate the long-term effects of the pandemic. COF developed a monitoring framework for a specific set of human rights to track their status or violations and the degree to which the Zambian government was complying with obligations. Due to social distancing regulations, most of the data was gathered using secondary sources. After analyzing the data, COF developed a monitoring report, sharing it with government officials and citizens. To raise awareness, COF also held a series of webinars on human rights and COVID-19 topics that were broadcast nationally on television and livestreamed on Facebook.