Using the budgetary process to work for equity and social justice

The Centre for Budget Advocacy (CBA) is a program operated by the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) in Ghana. ISODEC works in a variety of advocacy areas to improve the lives and livelihoods of Ghanaians.  As part of ISODEC’s Social Justice and Rights Programme, the Centre for Budget Advocacy examines how national and local budgets impact the human rights of Ghanaians, particularly the poor and vulnerable, and seeks to influence these budgets and the general allocation of public resources for the benefit of disadvantaged groups in the country. The CBA views access to necessities such as food, shelter, and potable water, and to basic social services such as education and health, as rights to which every citizen should be assured.  After examining budgets within a framework of human rights, the CBA uses workshops, public forums, and the media to disseminate its proposals and to engage others in discussions of budgetary policy.

To evaluate current budgets and developing budget proposals within this human rights framework, the CBA works first to define those rights that the state has agreed to protect. It then thoroughly examines national and local budgets within the context of these human rights, and drafts recommendations on how best to allocate resources and to influence budgets and other economic policies.

Next, the CBA works to gather support for these proposals within two different audiences: the poor and vulnerable themselves, who are represented by civil society organizations and NGOs, and policymakers, such as public officials, elected representatives, and members of both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Staff members conduct workshops and training programs, which can involve seminars on budget analysis and discussions on how to integrate budget activism into advocacy work. They use the media as a tool, joining debates, participating in radio call-in programs, publishing comments in newspapers, and conducting public forums in which people can discuss policies and submit comments. They also network with members of other NGOs, hosting workshops on economic policy and forming coalitions.

In reaching out to citizens of Ghana, the CBA works to inform them of their rights to participate in decision-making and to demand that resources are fairly distributed. In reaching out to policymakers, both national and global, it works to convince them that the allocation of public resources must benefit deprived and marginalized citizens, and that the agencies which provide basic services—such as education, health, and potable water—to these citizens should receive increased resources.

Responses to the CBA’s efforts have generally been positive. Members of Parliament as well as other government representatives have shown interests in the CBA’s budgetary analyses, and staff have frequently been invited to participate in public forums and workshops. A strong relationship has also developed between the CBA and the World Bank.

These positive responses from policymakers, however, do not always translate into policy changes. In addition, it has often been difficult to reach and involve the citizens of Ghana. Illiteracy rates in the country are extremely high, and there is a general lack of involvement in government issues even among literate and highly educated citizens. Together with the technical nature of budgets and other economic issues, these problems have made it difficult for citizens to understand and contribute to the debates led by the CBA, and to actively contribute their support. However, the CBA has laid the groundwork for future impacts on human rights in Ghana.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.