Increasing Access to Justice for Pretrial Detainees in Nigeria

by Maliza Bonane of PartnersGlobal and Hadiza Usman of Partners West Africa Nigeria (aka Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative)

In Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), more than 80% of the prison population is currently awaiting trial. Many detainees are held in overcrowded pre-trial custodial facilities for extended periods of time, with little to no provisions or access to legal counsel. This issue is not unique to the FCT. Custodial center overcrowding is an issue throughout the country. In 2004, a Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) was developed by the Open Society Justice Initiative in collaboration with the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) and the National Police Force (NPF) and piloted in several states across the country. This program placed young lawyers in police stations as part of their compulsory national service and tasked them with providing legal services to pretrial detainees in order to reduce detention rates. However, the FCT was not part of this program and those stuck in pre-trial detention found themselves in a situation with seemingly no solution.   

Partnership and Persistence

Things changed in 2021, when the Reforming Pre-Trial Detention in Nigeria (RPDN) project began implementing the PDSS for the first time in the FCT. The RPDN is a project of PartnersGlobal and is carried out in partnership with Partners West Africa – Nigeria (PWAN), Network of University Legal Aid Institutions Nigeria (NULAI), and New-Rule LLC. The goal of the program is to uphold the principles of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) – a law that guarantees detainees speedy trials, humane treatment, and other human rights. As such, partners work to institutionalize a system of detainee registration, representation, and processing that demonstrates rule of law, respect for human rights, and duty of care for victims, the accused, and their families in the Federal Capital Territory.  

RPDN project partner PWAN worked in collaboration with LACON, NPF and the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCoS) to integrate resident pro bono lawyers in 10 different police stations in the FTC – Nyanya, Karmo, Gwagwalada, Garki, Utako, Wuse, Gwarimpa, Jikwoyi, Mabuchi, and Kubwa. The lawyers are responsible for verifying and reinforcing the ACJA detention time limits and conditions. They also assist the first interview of the detainee with the police officer or file bail applications on behalf of detainees. 

Impact of PDSS in the FTC 

The free legal services provided as part of the PDSS are making a significant difference in preventing unlawful detentions and enacting releases before detainees are transferred to the custodial centers. Since the project started in April 2021, a total of 488 detainees had their first interview with PDSS lawyers, 339 were released on bail, and 75 were released outside of the bail process. In the latter case, the lawyers used conflict resolution skills to engage in dialogue with the police and explain the principles of ACJA, which lead to the releases before suspects formally enter the system. The availability of free legal services at the primary stage allowed the service to be at the disposable of any detainee who wishes to use it.  

Furthermore, police officers increasingly refer cases to the lawyers and grant them access to initial interviews with detainees.  According to, a Divisional Police Officer currently based in Garki Police station, the presence of the lawyer has reduced the number of detainees that stay above 48 hours in the police station.  

“The scheme has positively aided me in my duties of checking the cell daily since I receive feedback as to the condition of the cell from the duty solicitor [lawyer] and my presence has boosted the public confidence in the police station and has reduced litigation against the police from the general public.” 

The Seeds of Change

Justice actors in the FCT have taken notice of the impacts of the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme under the RPDN project and are eager to sustain them. Going forward, the Administrative Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), an interagency government body that oversees the implementation of the ACJA in the FCT, recently made a commitment to deploy lawyers at ten additional police stations under the direction of RPDN project partner PWAN. The ACJMC is also considering setting up telephone call centers of pro bono lawyers that respond to requests for detainees outside of the PDSS stations. Additionally, the police made a commitment to continue its collaboration with the National Youth Service Corp to receive lawyers beyond the RPDN program to ensure lawyers are assigned to police stations for continuous legal services. 

Beyond reducing the number of detainees in custodial centers, RPDN’s PDSS activity fortifies the sustainability of our pre-trial services goal. Building on this past experience, PartnersGlobal is looking forward to implementing the activity for another year to ensure rule of law and respect for human rights to more victims, accused, and their families in the FCT.  

March 22, 2022 – PartnersGlobal is pleased to join the Coalition for Racial & Ethnic Equity in Development (CREED) and sign the Pledge for Racial & Ethnic Equity (REE). PartnersGlobal joins more than 30 not-for-profit and for-profit development organizations committed to building racial and ethnic equity within international development. 

By signing the REE pledge, PartnersGloblal commits to: 

  • strengthening its commitments and accountability for racial & ethnic equity within its policies, systems, and culture; 
  • creating practical and quantifiable standards for advancing racial & ethnic equity; and 
  • working to instill racial and ethnic equity as a core principle in the development sector. 

“To be effective and create meaningful shifts, CREED’s Racial & Ethnic Equity pledge is taking a focused view to build equity by concentrating on strengthening racial and ethnic equity within United States-based organizations,” said Indira Kaur Ahluwalia, Founder/Chair of CREED and CEO of KAUR Strategies. “CREED welcomes PartnersGlobal to a learning community of like-minded organizations committed to integrating racial and ethnic equity into how we work.” 

“We encourage our global development sector colleagues to be partners in addressing racial and ethnic equity to improve and deepen the impact of our collective work. Strong democracies cannot be achieved without racial and ethnic equity. We all have a responsibility to push for meaningful change.”   – Roselie Vasquez Yetter

About CREED 

The Coalition for Racial & Ethnic Equity in Development (CREED) is a collective of international development and humanitarian assistance organizations based in the United States committed to building REE. We pledge to advance racial and ethnic diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging within our own organizations’ policies, systems, and culture in keeping with attainable and measurable goals; and work to instill REE in international development. 


For questions about the pledge or how to sign, visit  

A small island situated in the middle of the Persian Gulf, the Kingdom of Bahrain is touted as one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East for women’s equality and advancement. It is a diverse and more religiously liberal country in comparison with some of her neighbors. Legally, Bahraini women are recognized in the Bahraini Constitution as equal to Bahraini men in “political, social, cultural and economic spheres of life, without prejudice to the provisions of the Islamic Shariah.” Bahrain is also a member of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and in 2017, adopted the unified Personal Status Law (PSL – known also as the Bahrain Family Law) – an important step in the protection of both Sunni and Shi’ite women under an inclusive legal framework, following trends in the region. Throughout 2020, the Supreme Council for Women took measures to protect these advancements and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Persistent Challenges for Bahraini Women

Despite the gains made in the past 20 years, systemic barriers to women’s legal equality and empowerment continue to exist. For example, Bahraini citizenship for children is determined by the citizenship of the father. Bahraini women who are married to non-Bahraini men cannot pass their citizenship onto their children, leaving their children effectively stateless and without legal protection.

Some barriers were exacerbated by the restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. For instance, due to mandatory lockdowns and curfews in Bahrain, victims of domestic abuse were forced to reside with their abusers for long stretches of time. One such woman—who for security reasons will remain nameless—wished to obtain a divorce due to domestic abuse she was suffering during the pandemic. However, in Bahrain it is difficult both legally and culturally for a woman to divorce a man, including due to domestic violence. Legally, when a woman files for a divorce due to abuse, the process requires this same woman to first provide proof of the abuse or harm; her word alone is not sufficient. Therefore, women who are subjected to violence—including the woman mentioned here—are forced to first file a police report and a obtain a medical report, following a medical examination, to prove the harm in court. Additionally, the pandemic has delayed court hearing processes and prevented lawyers from meeting with clients.

Culturally, domestic violence is seen as a household issue. There is no official database with domestic violence statistics in Bahrain.  The stigma around reporting domestic violence exists, dissuading anyone from formally moving forward with the process. A man, on the other hand, can submit a request for divorce without even informing his wife and without any cause. 

An Opportunity to Advance Further Legal Reforms

Adopting the unified Personal Status Law in 2017 was a positive step towards women’s equality in Bahrain. Yet there are still improvements to be made, as was revealed by the impacts of the pandemic. Women-led local civil society organizations (LCSOs) are in the driver’s seat and are demanding further reforms. Since 2019, Bahrain’s women-led local civil society organizations have taken the lead on drafting amendments to the unified Personal Status Law and, in December 2020 they finalized a list of amendments to ultimately be presented to the Bahraini parliament for adoption in the future.

In the coming months, these LCSOs will launch a series of advocacy efforts aimed at the amendments’ adoption. This will begin by publishing the proposed amendments and meeting with relevant Bahraini authorities. The work of Bahraini women civil society leaders in the context of shrinking civic space demonstrates the power of long-term, collective efforts. The persistence, resiliency, and determination of this group drive the transformative change for a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society.

  April 23, 2021

George Floyd’s life mattered.

After less than a day of jury deliberations, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last May. For Floyd’s family, their surprise and relief at the verdict was expressed poignantly in his brother Philonise’s words, “Today we are able to breathe again.”  Many across the nation glued to televisions and Twitter feeds took a collective breath as we realized that our justice system had finally validated that this Black man’s life mattered — and that a system that allowed a White police officer to kill a Black man by kneeling casually on his neck for 9:29 minutes was indefensible and criminal.  Yet however uplifting and validating the verdict, it is worth remembering that many other victims have not yet and may not see justice served. 

Just moments before the verdict was announced, police in Columbus, Ohio fatally shot a 16-year-old Black girl, Ma’Khiah Bryant. It is also not lost on us that just last week, less than 10 miles from where Chauvin stood trial,  Daunte Wright was shot and killed by police during a routine traffic stop. These lost lives are more tragic reminders of the power disequilibrium that systemic racism produces across our nation. Indeed, many police practices reinforce the narrative that Black and Brown lives are threats to society that must be remanded, contained, or even brutalized. This dehumanization wrought by white supremacy in the US places BIPOC at the bottom of a racial hierarchy, where systemic violence perpetuates human rights violations upon communities of color. From mass incarceration to the militarization of police forces that disproportionately target Black and Brown people, these communities have been left at the mercy of the state, and their fury becomes their voice.

The civil resistance in America today is the result of hundreds of years of pain, anger, and fear – and it is our duty to ensure that the Chauvin verdict is a step toward healing the communal trauma of centuries of institutional oppression. The powerful, Black-led movement that organized the largest and most persistent demonstrations in US history is a reminder of how positive social change in this country happens.  We must push our lawmakers to uphold this outcome through a wholesale redesign of our criminal justice system and accountability mechanisms.

Much work and healing remain as we continue to organize and advocate for equitable justice and accountability. We can already see the ramping up of a dangerous counter-narrative from those who portray the verdict as “mob justice” – suggesting that jurors were persuaded not by testimony and evidence but by fear of the potential consequences of a not–guilty verdict – and discussion of passing laws that could target protestors. This is where organizations focused on peacebuilding and democratic reform must demonstrate resolve, vigilance, and leadership. We must amplify messages of social transformation, accountable justice, and healing through a collaborative approach that unifies our voices and networks to truly effect changes in the system that center human life and dignity.

It can seem overwhelming to know where to begin to constructively change an oppressive, abusive system. As peacebuilders, we at PartnersGlobal know that rebuilding trust is one of the cornerstones to any long-term criminal justice reform. Our organization is committed to advocating for change by first acknowledging the collective and personal trauma that our staff is experiencing and allowing ourselves as a team the time to grieve. We also acknowledge that this trauma is felt differently by our Black and Brown colleagues who experience levels of violence and historical marginalization very differently than those with lighter skin. While we know our individual experiences with injustice vary, we believe strongly that we each have a role to play in ensuring that reforms and social transformation will be legitimate, inclusive, and lasting. The Chauvin trial resulted in a guilty verdict because average citizens of all ages, colors, and races took risks to film, speak, organize, and shout about a repugnant murder by law enforcement of a citizen on a calm street in Minneapolis on a typical summer afternoon – and because a jury of peers did its civic duty to hear evidence from all sides and render a just decision that upheld the laws of the state and the principles of our country.

PartnersGlobal will make every effort to uplift and assist our peer organizations working on the front lines of racial injustice and social reform in the United States, offering support to these groups to stay resilient in this long struggle. We recognize that expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and others working to end the dehumanization of people of color is not enough. Yet it represents a critical start for collaborative advocacy and restorative justice. As we call for police to end the use of illegal force and brutality—beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot control agents —we know that the verdict doesn’t equate to the greater justice we need without systemic change. And we recognize that it will take many different groups and constituencies – activists, community leaders, policymakers, and police themselves – to achieve these kinds of structural reforms.  

We encourage our extended Partners family to join us in supporting the struggle for Black lives whether by donating money, attending protests, amplifying Black voices online, or being willing to have difficult conversations about race and racism in the US.

We honor the memories and legacies of those killed by police. To read their stories, visit:

by Fatema Al Majed   January 24, 2021

Female citizens of Bahrain married to foreigners demand citizenship for their children

Through its Strengthening Implementation of the Personal Status Law in Bahrain program, PartnersGlobal focuses on the citizenship topic as one of several areas for improvement in the implementation of the personal status law

This article was originally published in Arabic by Raseef22. The English version below has been edited for clarity.

There are many questions that Bahraini women who are married to foreigners carry as a weight on their shoulders, which raise certain fears for their future.

This anxiety overtakes their hopes, and their lives begin to seem like open-ended stories. These women are in constant search for answers to their endless questions and their children are in constant search for identity. It is an identity that they know very well but that does not officially belong to them or appear in their documents, even though they feel it in their sense of belonging, dialect, and customs!

Apprehensions around residence permits of a foreign husband and children

Shaikha, one such woman in this position, tells Raseef 22:

“The future worries me, for a person could die any time, and I can’t help thinking: ‘What will my children do after my death? How will they remain in Bahrain?’

I currently do not face any financial difficulties due to my good financial situation and my position at work, but I cannot help thinking about my children’s residency in Bahrain after they exceed the legal age as I will not be able to sponsor their stay after they exceed the legal age. So, what will happen if my son does not find a job after completing education? Will he be deported? Should they find a job, will they be treated as foreigners in the only country they have known?”

Shaika’s suffering started 13 years ago when she married a Moroccan man. Although Bahraini law allows Bahraini men to sponsor (citizenship for) their foreign wives, this does not apply to Bahraini women married to foreigners.

“My fears started to grow after I had my kids,” Shaikha says. “Will my kids be able to inherit my house if I died? Today foreigners are allowed to own property only in investment areas and my house is situated in a residential area. Will my children’s rights to the house be acknowledged?”

She continues: “I have been able to overcome many situations but there are many more to come.  For instance, at the beginning of my marriage I received the electricity bill, which had not been paid by the government as it should be for Bahraini citizens. I went to the authorities with complete certainty that it must be some sort of mistake, for I am a Bahraini citizen, and the lease agreement is under my name, and it is my right that the electricity should be supported by the government! The employee working there told me, “The word ‘citizens’  refers to male citizens!”

No right to housing, no accommodations

“I feel helpless, and my children’s basic rights have turned into unattainable dreams for me.”

This is how 27-year-old M.A.H (who chose to be referred to by her initials for this story) describes her situation. She dreams of enrolling her 5-year-old daughter in nursery school. However, financial difficulties stand in her way.

In a voice filled with pain she says, “The suffering I am going through is bigger than me finding words to describe it. I am a mother of two girls, the eldest is five and the youngest is one and a half. I am married to a Pakistani man. He had applied for citizenship in 2006 and is still waiting. I am worried that my children’s future will be like their father’s, especially since the law today prioritizes Bahrainis. We do not receive help from the government in terms of financial support, employment, or unemployment.”

She adds: “I am facing family issues with my husband’s family, and we do not have a place to live. So, my family and I keep moving from one place to another without any source of income, for my husband is currently unemployed and is ineligible to receive unemployment from the Ministry of Labor and Economic Development because it is only given to Bahraini citizens, even though his mother is Bahraini! I borrow money every time his residence permit is due for renewal and I live on the charity of others that may or may not come! So, I wait and worry!”

Citizenship application requests stopped for an unknown period!

M. points out that she submitted an official application request for her 5-year-old daughter with the Nationality, Passports and Residency Affairs by filling out the application forms, attaching the birth certificate, the Bahraini mother’s passport, a letter from the mother, as well as an official paper showing that the children are in the custody and sponsorship of their Bahraini mother. Yet there is no specified timeframe for her to get an answer to this request.

As for her second daughter, the mother learned that the window for submitting citizenship applications is currently closed for an unknown period due to the coronavirus.

She explains: “Following up on the matter has become difficult, and the wait has become terrifying because it means that my daughter will wait longer until she is granted citizenship. These requests take a very long time, and I am afraid that she will reach the legal age without a citizenship and then be trapped in this dilemma of solving her residency.”

M. continues: “I feel that everything in life is against me. I even requested financial aid from the authorities that provide financial support to low-income citizens, and my request was rejected because I am married to a non-Bahraini.”

She concludes by saying that she still tries communicating with the relevant authorities from the Royal Court to the Supreme Council for Women as well as all the civil women associations with no solution whatsoever!

Amending the law to be in line with the Bahraini Constitution

Article 4 of the Bahraini Nationality Law of 1963 states that a person is considered a Bahraini if he was born in Bahrain or outside Bahrain and his father was a Bahraini at the time of his birth. It is also possible to apply for citizenship upon fulfilling a set of conditions set forth in the law itself.

In 2017, The Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Security in parliament rejected two proposals for a law aimed at granting nationality to the children of a Bahraini mother married to a foreigner, explaining that “the issue of granting Bahraini nationality is related to the state’s sovereignty, which does not require expanding the grant of the citizenship without restrictions.”

In this context, Mariam Al Rowaie, an activist in the field of women’s rights and empowerment, says: “The fundamental solution to this issue is to amend Article (4) of the Bahraini Nationality Law to be in line with the spirit of the Bahraini constitution, which stipulates and affirms equality between women and men.”

Regarding temporary solutions for this matter, Al-Rowaie – who is a member of the Nationality Committee of the Bahrain Women’s Union and the head of the Tafawuq Consulting Center for Development – stated that it is possible to take measures to treat the children of Bahraini women equally when it comes to Bahraini citizenship. She pointed to the issuance of Law 35 in 2009 requiring that non-Bahraini wives married to Bahraini citizens and children of Bahraini women be treated the same as citizens in the fields of education and health. However, there are some loopholes and is not effectively implemented.

Al-Rowaie continues in her interview with Raseef22: “The children of Bahraini women are still deprived of scholarships. There is a woman whose son’s average exceeded 98 percent, and he did not obtain a scholarship. These children do not fully benefit from health services like the rest of the citizens, and their residency in the Kingdom is temporary and not permanent.”

Until the law is amended, Al-Rowaie demanded real solutions that end or alleviate their suffering, such as issuing a card that qualifies children of Bahraini women to benefit from privileges in employment, housing, social insurance, and residency.

Efforts of governmental and civil institutions

More than ten years ago, the Supreme Council for Women in the Kingdom of Bahrain launched a service to follow up on citizenship requests for the children of Bahraini mothers married to foreigners after these requests are submitted to the Nationality, Passports and Residency Affairs at the Ministry of Interior. The service seeks close out the requests with relevant authorities and expedite the acquisition of citizenship for these children.

In 2005, the Bahrain Women’s Union launched a campaign called, “Nationality is a right for me and my children.” The ongoing campaign activities include holding educational and awareness events, sharing information through media and social media, and meeting with members of parliament and with the Supreme Council for Women.

Children without citizenship and rejected requests

In one of the seminars organized by the Bahrain Women’s Union, Muhammad Ghulam, the son of a Bahraini woman who married an Iranian and separated from him a year after she gave birth, said, “I lived all my life with my mother in my grandfather’s house, and I do not have any nationality. I married a Bahraini woman, and we had our first child, and now my child is suffering from what I suffered because she is like me. She also is without a nationality!”

Nedaa Ali recounted her story in the same seminar. Some parts of the story were shared with Raseef 22.

She says, “I am a Bahraini citizen who married a Pakistani man and gave birth to three children born in Bahrain. Then my husband died. I have knocked on the doors of the Ministry of Housing more than once for being a widowed citizen, unemployed, and the sole breadwinner of my family, but my application was rejected because the children are non-Bahrainis.”

Zahra Salman narrates her story at the same seminar, stating, “I married an Iraqi man 37 years ago, and when we wanted to settle in Bahrain, I was unable to sponsor him back then and today he must be registered as an employee. Now that he has reached the age of sixty, we are facing difficulties in renewing his residency because of a law that stipulates that expatriates over the age of sixty can only renew their residency if they are in specialized occupations.”

She adds, “As for my children, I cannot sponsor them because they are over the age of eighteen and face difficulties in acquiring residency. I also have a daughter who is married to an Iraqi citizen, and I suffer greatly whenever we try to issue a visit visa for her.”

These are the voices that we were able to hear, but there are many others that we could not reach. Whenever we hear a story, we say that it’s terrible, and then we hear of greater suffering. The suffering grows and multiplies, and only the questions and confusion remain.

We wonder and search for solutions. We want to know how granting citizenship to the children of Bahraini women will affect the state’s sovereignty. What are the obstacles coming between granting the children of Bahraini women permanent residency? How long will these voices continue calling and remain unanswered?

by Jillian Slutzker Rocker   March 19, 2021

Tashkent and Los Angeles are some 7,204 miles apart, but if you ask a local leader from either city what their most pressing issue is, you will likely get a similar answer: being responsive to constituent needs amid competing demands.  

“The most important thing in local governance is communication and transparency,” said Anthony-Paul Diaz,  Executive Officer for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. “I have 4 million bosses, and it’s my job to make them happy. We need to focus on the communities, listen to them, and deliver what they need.” 

Diaz shared his insight and experience in local government with more than two dozen new public councilors from cities across Uzbekistan, as well as state officials and civil society representatives, in a first-ever virtual exchange on good governance and civic engagement between the countries. The week-long exchange, coordinated by PartnersGlobal, was part of the USAID-funded Partnership for Innovation program, implemented by the Civil Society Development Association – ARGO and the national movement Yuksalish.  

“Everyone who is here is here not just because they want to share their knowledge but because they want to learn from each other,” said Roselie Vasquez-Yetter, Co-Executive Director of PartnersGlobal, welcoming the attendees to the event. 

She added that since the exchange was being held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more participants from across both countries were able to join, which would not have been possible with an in-person event. The virtual format also enabled Uzbek participants to journey across the United States from their own living rooms. 

Throughout the week, Uzbek and American participants from cities large, like Tashkent, and small, like Melrose, MA, shared experiences and best practices on topics such as engaging vulnerable populations, COVID-19 response, management of water and other natural resources, and overall constituent engagement. Uzbek public councilors explained to the American participants their role as volunteer organizations representing citizen and civil society perspectives to the government.  

Representatives of civil society organizations from both countries joined in to share practical examples of how partnerships between civil society and government can strengthen good governance, citizen engagement, and constituent services. 

Delivering to constituents 

Among both American and Uzbek participants, serving their communities in difficult times like the COVID-19 pandemic was a top priority. From offering psychosocial, medical, and material support to teaming up with local civil society organizations to reach vulnerable communities, participants discussed what approaches have worked best for them and what they have been able to accomplish.  

“We are very proud that our public council has undertaken the role of a coordinator of providing support during a pandemic,” said Marufjon Kokand, a member of the public council in the Namangan region of Uzbekistan.  

Zachia Nazarzai, Director of International Affairs, Policy, & Protocol in the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles, offered that this moment of local leadership stepping up could be an opportunity to reshape how government engages with citizens moving forward.  

“The changes we are making today are building the city for the next century,” she said. “We must embrace diverse ideas, experiences, and cultures in our community to transform how we operate to meet the needs of our residents, especially the most vulnerable, in this moment.” 

Local councilors in Uzbekistan, many of whom are new to their positions as public councils are a recent development in the country, asked their U.S. counterparts about the challenge of maintaining good relationships with citizens even when you can’t always deliver.  

City councilors from Melrose, MA in the U.S. suggested that being responsive, honest, and letting citizens know you have heard their concerns, even if there isn’t always an immediate solution, can go a long way.  

From the Uzbek side, Feruza Rashidova, Chairperson of the Commission on Social Development of the Tashkent Public Council, noted that the public councils could build trust with constituents over time. 

“The more challenges we overcome, the more trust we will build with the public, especially since the public councils are new here. We want to be constructive, and we need to be active,” she said.  

Participants also emphasized that local leaders must represent ALL constituents, not only those who are the loudest or most privileged, but also those whose voices aren’t always heard.  

“We can’t rely solely on community members coming to us, but we need to reach out to them and listen and learn from those who live in our city so we can really serve our community well,” said Dorie Withey, Secretary of the Melrose Human Rights Commission. 

Only the beginning for these new connections  

During the exchange, participants from both countries discovered many common challenges, such as responsive policy to climate change, and offered the tools and strategies they have used to overcome them.  And while the formal exchange is over, the informal dialogue between individuals and cities is ongoing.  

Uzbek participants, for example, offered to reach out the mayor of Tashkent to encourage the revitalization of its sister-city relationship with Seattle, after speaking with Fazliddin Shamsiev, the Vice President of the Seattle Tashkent Sister Cities Association. 

Jamila Asanova, Executive Director of Civil Society Development Association (ARGO), noted that while the virtual format meant more people could be included in this exchange it also means that connections can continue online long after the meetings have concluded. 

“It was my dream three years ago to do a virtual exchange,” she said. “My dream has become a reality.” 

  February 22, 2021

February 22, 2021, Tashkent, Uzbekistan–The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Partnership for Innovation Program teamed up with PartnersGlobal to facilitate a week-long virtual exchange on Good Governance and Civic Engagement that began today. Participants include members of Public Councils, State Administration, Parliament, and civil society organizations from Uzbekistan and the United States.

Through the virtual exchange, participants will learn about the work of City Councils, state authorities, and civil society organizations, including the methodological principles of public administration and professional skills of City Councils. The participants will become acquainted with good practices and lessons learned in developing, drafting, and implementing effective and inclusive public policies and comprehensive approaches and tools on public participation in policymaking and decision-making. Participants from Uzbekistan and across Central Asia can then apply the best practices learned in their work to advance civic engagement within their communities.

“We are excited to learn from the experiences of our peers in the United States and share their insights with colleagues across Central Asia. We are hopeful that this virtual exchange will strengthen the positive impact civil society can have on public participation in policymaking and decision-making,” said Partnership for Innovation Program, Chief of Party, Kaisha Atakhanova, about the event.


The USAID-funded Partnership for Innovation Program strengthens Central Asian civil society organizations for better engagement with their local and national governments to promote positive policy changes and improve the lives of citizens across the region. The $4.9 million program is implemented by the Civil Society Development Association–ARGO in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.


  January 5, 2021

Government transparency and accountability is key to healthy democracy, but building the systems and culture to support this is a long and challenging task. In Nigeria, the Public Private Development Centre (PPDC) has successfully advanced government reforms to increase transparency and elevated the voices of civil society in demanding accountability from their officials.

Nkemdilim Ilo
Chief Executive Officer
Public Private Development Centre

PPDC was recently awarded the prestigious ONE Africa Award, which celebrates African efforts aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The award recognizes Africa-driven and Africa-led advocacy efforts that have demonstrated success at the community, national or regional level.

As partners on the Promoting Civil Society Participation in Anti-Corruption Efforts in Nigeria (Access Nigeria), PPDC and PartnersGlobal have educated citizens on the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and increased collaboration between citizens and government around open contracting and freedom of information.

The project consortium, which also includes BudgIT, the Cleen Foundation, Partners West Africa Nigeria and New-Rule, are visualizing data to help citizens better understand government budgets; building open budgeting portals; tracking budget expenditures through civic tech tools; advancing whistleblower legislation; partnering with local government to diagnose and address institutional vulnerabilities to corruption; and supporting state governments to implement legislation that addresses corruption in Nigeria’s justice system.  

PartnersGlobal’s Director for Africa and Accountable Governance Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo interviewed Nkem Ilo, CEO of PPDC, to hear her perspective on Nigeria’s gains in transparency and accountability and the challenges that remain.

How have tech tools improved government accountability and transparency in public procurements in Nigeria?

If we think of firewalls as cabinets or buildings, tech tools have removed these firewalls and created opportunities for citizens to access government-held information and data, provide inputs into planning, and advocate for reform.

Tech tools have improved governance and transparency in Nigeria in a number of ways. Firstly, prior to tech tools entering the space, citizens could not readily obtain publicly held data, let alone analyze such data. Nigeria has now signed the Open Government Partnership. The open government movement in Nigeria has motivated government to build its own tech tools A good example is the Open Treasury Portal and the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal. Another example is the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning and its presentation of the budget in a way that is understandable to different stakeholders.

On the supply side, civic tech tools used around open budgeting and open contracting have created a feedback loop so that citizens can share their views with government about the budget. This has improved the practice of governance.

Secondly, civic tech tools have enabled civil society to analyze large and complex data sets. Civil society is now able to identify trends in data and understand the “what and why” of the data.

In the present context, where COVID-19 has required government to respond with stimulus and procurement to address health needs, civil society is now able to use the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal to track and monitor the use of COVID-related government funds. This has generated much-needed conversation in the political sphere. People are beginning to raise questions about the past fiscal investments in the health care system. Why is Nigeria’s health system ill-equipped for a crisis like COVID?

“Because of our democracy, organized civil society groups are perceived as equal to government. The Open Government Partnership is a dividend of democracy.”

What are the “democracy dividends” for Nigeria?

Before democracy was ushered in, citizens were simply not able to question government. There was no onus on government to respond to citizens’ concerns or their requests for information. Participatory governance simply did not exist.

Because of our democracy, organized civil society groups are perceived as equal to government. The Open Government Partnership is a dividend of democracy. The process of becoming an OGP country requires co-creation, collaboration, and joint problem solving—very simply put, government is required to listen to a broad range of stakeholders to solve policy issues. That is the definition of democracy!

Because of democracy, the idea that citizens and civil society can request information is seen as a norm and these are enshrined in legal frameworks that exist to promote transparency and accountability, including the Public Procurement Act and various fiscal transparency laws. These developments have definitely generated democracy dividends because citizens have access to data, which they can use to push for reform on issues they care about.  

What are some of the challenges facing Nigeria’s democracy?

Nigeria’s democracy is fraught with challenges. On one hand, the country signed on to the OGP, a multi-stakeholder initiative, and on the hand, other parts of the government are clamping down on activists that led the #ENDSARS movement. There are various truths, untruths, and counter-truths that surround the government’s involvement in the Lekki Bridge massacre.

Similarly, our democracy is significantly stifled by corruption. Government spending is not free from corruption. Very few corruption cases are prosecuted to the full extent of the law and in a way that disincentivizes corruption. At present, the Finance Bill is being discussed. The bill is designed to promote fiscal transparency, but provisions in the bill have raised concerns that it may also weaken the checks and balances that the Public Procurement Act put in place.

These types of developments leave citizens wondering about the extent to which democracy has generated dividends. It is clear the government has made notable investments in transparency and, as a result, a wide range of data is available to citizens and civil society. What is missing is accountability. There is a lack of systemic or institutional incentives to change the behavior of public officials so that they truly are accountable. This is where the focus needs to be, otherwise the benefits of democracy will continue to be uneven.

“Our strategy is to stimulate change in how government operates by recognizing positive things government is doing to open up its processes and information.”

What has made the Freedom of Information Index and Open Government Partnership Index successful in encouraging open government in Nigeria?

Nigeria as a country takes pride in its competitive spirit. We like to be seen as doing better than our counterparts. PPDC’s Open Government Partnership Index and the Freedom of Information Index (administered by a civil society collective) are a direct result of the investment made by the Access Nigeria project, which we implemented jointly with PartnersGlobal.

These indexes have contributed to changing the narrative around the issue of corruption and, in particular, open contracting. Our strategy is to stimulate change in how government operates by recognizing positive things government is doing to open up its processes and information.

Since the launch of the Freedom of Information Index in 2014, we have seen healthy competition emerge between government institutions who actively seek to improve their ranking yearly. For instance, after each year’s ranking, we regularly receive calls from public institutions seeking training and guidance on how to improve their compliance with mandatory disclosure provisions in Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Because of technology and the access that the Freedom of Information Act has provided, we are able to point to data to support public institutions to improve their rankings.  Similarly, the OGP Index has contributed to an increase in states signing the OGP and opening state governments.

“There is more will among civil society to push for government to be more responsive to FOIA requests than there is will within government to be accountable and respond to citizens’ and civil society’s requests for information.”

What are Nigeria’s top challenges regarding freedom of information? What does that mean for the country’s democratic development?

The top access to information challenge Nigeria faces is lagging government accountability. Even though the Freedom of Information Act has been passed and is being implemented, civil society is still facing challenges in obtaining information. Government is slow to respond to requests by citizens or civil society organizations. This is especially true of public institutions in the security sector.

It is possible to interpret the lack of full FOIA compliance by government as a strategy to close or restrict civic space. Government is closing civic space in other ways as well. An example of this is the controversy surrounding the recently passed Corporate Allied Matters Act and also the alleged withdrawal of a civil society organization’s registration for its participation in the #EndSARS campaign.  

At the state level, there still exists confusion as to whether state governments are required to comply with the Federal FOIA. Some states have passed their own FOIA, and in some instances, state public officials are aware these laws exist, while others are not. This presents a challenge for compliance and the implementation of OGP at the state level.

Under OGP, states should be required to comply with existing freedom of information laws (especially where such states are yet to pass their own laws) because access to information is central to opening up government. Total compliance with FOIA requires will on the part of government. There is more will among civil society to push for government to be more responsive to FOIA requests than there is will within government to be accountable and respond to citizens’ and civil society’s requests for information.

How has winning the ONE Award impacted PPDC?

The ONE Award has given us so much visibility and recognition.  This has been very welcomed because an opportunity exists for us to scale what we are doing and advance our central focus of increasing citizen participation around contracting and public procurement and, as an outcome, improve service delivery through citizens’ empowerment.

  November 10, 2020

We are pleased to share with you an opportunity for local civil society organizations interested in participating in a capacity building process to strengthen their resiliency in the face of potential impacts of growing restrictions on civic space. The Resiliency+ Process, developed out of the need for a new organizational model to combat the rise of changing civic spaces around the world, will take selected organizations through a structured process to increase their organizational resilience over a period of 12 months. This opportunity is part of a larger initiative under the USAID-funded Enabling and Protecting Civic Spaces (EPCS) – Illuminating New Solutions and Programmatic Innovations for Resilient Spaces or INSPIRES activity.

Organizations based in Ecuador, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Serbia will be eligible to apply. At a minimum, organizations must be a locally registered civil society organization, have at least four years of experience, and be committed to the 12-month process. Please see the attached documents for more details.

If you’re interested in participating in this opportunity, please fill out this Google Form Application by 11:59 pm EST on the following dates:

  • Kenya: November 6th
  • Nigeria, Serbia, and Senegal: November 16th
  • Ecuador: November 27th
  • Georgia: December 1st

Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

Check the documents below for more details: