Youth4Policy fellows headed for Kabarole

von Verena Kasirye

First Policy Learning Mission

The first Policy Learning Mission offered the 2019 Youth4Policy fellow class a chance to actively engage in insightful discussions with different political stakeholders and the local community in Kabarole District. Throughout the weekend, the fellows gained a deeper understanding of the complexities of public policy design and implementation, which will help them to sharpen their research focus.

From Thursday, May 23rdto Sunday, May 26th, the second cohort of Youth4Policy fellows came together for their first policy learning mission in Kabarole District. The programme was designed to provide practical first-hand experience of policy processes and to enable the fellows to interact with policy decision-makers and implementers. Moreover, the mission offered the fellows a chance to develop their preliminary policy research ideas further by incorporating these newly acquired insights.

The weekend circled around an excursion to the Kabarole District Local Government, where the fellows were able to interact with representatives in parallel group sessions. While Michael Kisembo, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, thematised the extent of fiscal delegation and devolution in local governments, District Speaker Stella Kyorampe shared valuable insights on the current capacities of local governments. The visits drew focus on the urgent need to review and study systems and structures regularly to check their functionality and revise them when necessary. This issue became particularly relevant in the context of decentralisation. Through numerous practical examples, the speakers illustrated that their hands are often tied when it comes to addressing critical issues, as approval is needed at every stage of decision-making. Ms. Kyorampe noted: "We are being advised on almost everything, and sometimes it feels like we are just here to fulfil procedures – what kind of decentralisation is that?" Sharing these experiences with the group helped fellows to appreciate how national level decisions affect service delivery at subnational levels and generated convergence between the theoretical framework and situated practice of decision-making processes at the district local government.

The policy learning mission moreover exposed fellows to the work of Kabarole Resource Centre (KRC) and Rwenzori Anti-Corruption Coalition. The interactions helped the fellows to get a firmer grasp on the topics of citizen involvement in local government processes and on the linkage between tax collection and service provision. Fellows noticed that the lowest governmental structure in Uganda had been ignored for too long and that combined efforts in awareness-raising and capacity-building are needed for successful engagement of citizens.

Through their engagement with a variety of different stakeholders, including representatives of the local government, civil society actors and citizens involved in local government processes, the participants were provided with valuable insights into the public policy sphere, “all contributing to a greater knowledge-building of policy development and implementation” as Sandra, Youth4Policy 2019 fellow, concluded.