NGOs in Turkey working in the fields of women, children, youth, disabled- and social-rights are increasing in number and becoming more and more effective by the day. We all witness how, in recent years, it is becoming a significant advocacy issue for rights-based NGOs to monitor the resources that the public authorities allocate to various social areas, to influence the public policy towards an increase of the amount of spending and to enable all dimensions of social expenditures to be discussed publicly.
NGOs are voicing several propositions in the area of social expenditures and opening up to discussion social expenditure’s scope, quality and effectiveness. Yet this discussion remains lacking unless this effort is evaluated along with the resources allocated by public expenditures. The demands about the scope, quality and effectiveness of service as voiced by the NGOs are often met with the response that limited resources comprises the biggest hurdle. Moreover, how much and for what public expenditures is being made remains information practically impossible to access for non-economists and non-finance people, causing rights-based NGOs who do not represent the business world to fall out of the loop and miss out on the discussions.
We face what we might call the rule of “technical” knowledge. We believe, however, that we can weaken this rule by rendering it widespread, transparent and accessible by all. For this reason we see it as an important objective for our organizations to build capacity and to increase knowledge towards monitoring public expenditures.
This objective has challenged us for many years but several preliminary efforts were necessary for us to grasp that this objective was attainable after all. The first steps of these efforts was to prepare guides and booklets for non-economists to be able to monitor public expenditures in our core areas, namely in social service and support, social security, health, children, youth and the disabled.
These guides were prepared as an effort of the Istanbul Bilgi University NGO Training and Research Center (NGO Center) with the help of scholars and bureaucrats working in this area. The information and methods in these guides were based mainly on “macro” documents such as budget documents, plans, annual programs, strategic plans of administrations and academic research. It must be emphasized, however, that the guides truly came to fruition only after the first training program with NGOs. The contribution of “micro” level information and experience of rights-based NGOs, who participate in and follow the social services provided by the public, was the milestone our story of establishing a platform for monitoring public expenditures in various areas.
Now, we are confident that even if we are not economists or finance officers, we can still monitor various public expenditures items. Following the first training program which took place in December 2009, as soon as the budget law was published in January 2010, we sat in front of our computers and started monitoring the budget. In fact, between January 29-31, 2010, we implemented the first Public Expenditures Monitoring Camp with 45 representatives of 32 NGOs.
In our first camp we set up working groups for the fields of social protection, children, youth, disabled and military and environmental expenditures. While the whole group monitored and wrote up views on social protection, other areas were handled by each working group. We put together the text and all we were missing was a final editing and layout. We raised some money among us but professionals and volunteers stood by us all along.
We decided to send this collectively-penned letter to members of the parliament and to share it with the general public. The thirty NGOs took the issue to their administrative boards, received approval and we decided to send the collectively-signed letter to the the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi, TBMM). In the meantime, empowered by the strength of our output, we opened our letter to petition and swiftly got support from 45 other NGOs. As soon as the first letter was sent to the members of parliament, this participatory process and the knowledge and experience we attained in this process strengthened our intention to organize as a platform.
In the coming years, as the public decides on how to spend the taxes collected from citizens, as the parliament carries out this most critical duty and in every step of the way, we, the Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, shall continue our work in order to increase social expenditures and to monitor its effective use.
We look forwards to your participation.
Our Principles and Terms of Participation
Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform aims to monitor the process through which the Parliament decides on the distribution of the public expenditures, to ensure transparency during this process, and to advocate increasing the share and attaining efficiency of social protection expenditures.
Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform is a joint organization that;
- is on the side of a transparent and accountable pluralistic democracy;
- is independent of political parties, governments and/or the state;
- embraces universal values such as the rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, respect to differences, freedom of expression;
- is committed to the culture of participation, dialogue and consensus;
- respects the environment;
- is against all types of discrimination;
- abstains involving in the propaganda of any religious, political, ethnic view.
As for its projects on monitoring public expenditures, the Platform follows the principle of self financing through the contributions made by member organizations.
Terms of Operation
The members of the Platform gathers at least once in every year during the Public Expenditures Monitoring Camp. The results of the studies conducted during this camp, the data and information produced by the Platform, and the related suggestions are shared with the public, NGOs, parliamentarians, and the bureaucrats. Dissemination of information is realized via the media and other means of communication and/or by publishing electronic or printed material. Istanbul Bilgi University NGO Center coordinates the organization of the camp and the editing of the results obtained.
Morover, the Platform also regularly and continuously shares all the information, data and suggestions it gathers from its members during similar joint studies and activities. It can also organize activities in line with that purpose or take part in similar activities via its members.
The method of sharing the information gathered during these studies or the representation of the Platform in such activities is determined according to the procedures decided by the members in accordance with the principle of voluntarism.
The Platform essentially adopts a decentralized structure. It can organize sub-working groups within itself on subjects suitable for member NGOs, such as children, youth, disabled people, social protection, military, and the environment. In addition to the monitoring activities like Public Expenditures Monitoring Camp, these sub-working groups can also organize meetings and conduct research for monitoring public expenditures in a particular area and share their results with the public via their elected representatives.
Terms of Participation:
There are two requirements for the Platform’s membership:
- To be an NGO/organization/initiative that conducts advocacy activities in at least one of the subjects that the Platform aims monitoring public expenditures.
- To have knowledge and experience about the monitoring of public spending.
For those that fulfill only the first requirement, it is obligatory to attend one of the trainings organized by Istanbul Bilgi University NGO Center twice a year –one in Istanbul and one in another city- and actively participate to the Public Expenditures Monitoring Camp that is held in every January.
Istanbul Bilgi University NGO Center provides these trainings and organizes the Public Expenditures Monitoring Camp once in every year free of charge. In case there is excess demand for these trainings, the evaluation of the applicants is made by the members of the Platform.