MAHMOOD RAQI– The Parwan provincial government together with civil society and the private sector have launched a social media campaign to enhance open government and citizens access to information.
The month long social media and radio campaign, led by the Governor’s Office, and supported by the Kabul field office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), seeks to make information readily available to the public on the work and programs of the provincial government.
Parwan provincial governor, Mohammad Asem Asem says “Access to information is a constitutional right, and Afghans have the right to know what government departments are doing.” He stressed that making information available is in the interest of government departments, because it enables citizens to understand their work, appreciate their achievements and the many challenges they face.
During the campaign, which includes radio programs and community awareness events, officials will answer questions on Facebook on the activities of the provincial authorities. Beyond that, the provincial government seeks to promote a long-lasting two-way communication and encourage other institutions to be more open.
In July this year, UNAMA supported the Kapisa provincial government and stakeholders to run a similar campaign.
For Sara Sirat, a women’s rights activist, the campaign helped women have their voices heard in matters of public life. “After the social media campaign in Kapisa province, women are now more likely to share their suggestions and problems with government departments and officials through Facebook”, she said.
At the Kapisa Public Health Department, the campaign had instant results says head, Dr. Mohammad Shoaib Danish. “During the campaign, we created a Facebook page and received lots of feedback and comments on how we can improve” explained Danish, including finding a suitable bidder for a project. “For example, the bidding process is always a big headache for the department, especially in terms of identifying a good bidder, so following the campaign, we posted the call for bidding on our page – we had lots of responses and were able to easily select a good bidder, easier and at no cost” he said.
Although radio remains the most popular and accessible medium of communication in Afghanistan, the use of social media, particularly Facebook, is gaining rapid popularity. Through the campaign, the Parwan provincial Government, hopes to leverage social media to engage and make citizens aware of their rights and responsibilities, in particular, in making the work of elected and appointed officials transparent and accountable.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides ‘good offices’ among other key services. ‘Good offices’ are diplomatic steps UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.