The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) is an indigenous non-governmental organization that works in solidarity with those striving for social justice. Our mission is to work towards a life of dignity by committing to the promotion of human rights (especially social and economic rights) and social justice for all. The vision is to have a “world where every life matters”.
ISODEC was founded with the goal of tackling development inequalities and their impact on marginalized communities in Ghana. Over the years, ISODEC has developed a track record as a champion for transformative and inclusive development which addresses the needs of the poor and excluded in society. Whether it is its pioneering work advocating to uphold community rights to safe water and sanitation (at the peak of the neoliberal push for the privatization of water) or in championing pro-poor budgeting, ISODEC has carved a niche as a people and rights-oriented policy influencer. The target population for its work is the majority poor and excluded in Ghana (women, men, children, and rural and peri-urban populations) with whom it works in solidarity to further social justice and equity. ISODEC’s previous work on inequalities has primarily targeted inequitable access to essential services. In this area, it has undertaken (with partners) policy advocacy for universal health care, access to water and education.
ISODEC was founded in 1987 at a time when access to essential services was at its lowest ebb with very high levels of inequality and minimal inclusive/equitable development. ISODEC essentially was focused on delivering programmes to improve access to essential services and reduce poverty and inequality through direct service provision and policy advocacy. By this approach, we sought to amplify the voices of the excluded, vulnerable and marginalized by identifying our collective efforts at contributing to giving them a life of dignity guided by principles rooted in equity, equality and inclusivity.
Over the years, our work through and in partnership with citizens, community-based groups and structures/organizations to facilitate development, led ISODEC to facilitate and nurture affiliates, national networks and coalitions across the length and breadth of the country to advocate and assert the citizens/community rights across essential services such as water and sanitation, education, health, natural resources, fiscal policies, etc.
ISODEC works in an integrated and multidisciplinary manner by linking the grassroots to the national and global.. This in essence is to bridge a widening inequality gap observed over the years. The organization contributed in diverse ways to reducing the phenomenon in Ghana. Nevertheless, the issues of inequality still linger on mostly in relative terms but also in terms of its nature and architecture. Since the early 1990s, ISODEC participated and led in many instances the delivery of rural water and sanitation services in the country. Our partnership with Water Aid led to the creation of the Mole Series in the 1990s; an annual national forum for the discussion of Water and Sanitation issues. Principally, the Mole Series paved the way for the Community Water and Sanitation Agency and the subsequent Community Water and Sanitation Policy in Ghana. ISODEC’s involvement and research on the Savelugu water system along with the creation of the National Campaign against Water Privatization (NCAP) resulted in the change of government’s initial policy of lease arrangement to a management contract. The campaign also compelled the World Bank to convert a $106,000,000 loan facility meant for the promotion of lease management to a grant aimed at supporting management contract. E.g. our involvement in the sector ensured continuous delivery of urban water in an equitable and just manner. In 2011 our advocacy for a strengthened public utility coupled with a failure of an attempt at privatization led to the discontinuation of a management contract with Aqua Vitens Rand Limited (AVRL). Our alertness in the monitoring of the water sector and continuous pursuit of equity in access also led to the discontinuation of plans to introduce prepaid water meters in Ghana. Our current focus targets improvement in capacities of public water utilities to improve services and allow for people’s participation in decision making.
Our pioneering work on the national annual budget analysis and advocacy over the years has contributed to creating the space for public input into the national budgeting process; compelled the government to take to organising regional platforms to discuss the national budget with the citizenry; provided the platform for tracking public expenditure from the national, through the district to community levels. Today, our flagship national budget analysis and advocacy have become one of the most vociferous citizens’ participatory avenues in the national development process in Ghana.
On the health front, our programming on Family and Sexual Reproductive Health and the creation of the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR) has contributed to the reviewing of the National Health Insurance Scheme to offer an exemption to children less than 18 years; our fieldwork has contributed immensely to the huge community response to register with the NHIS; ARHR leading the campaign and advocacy to improve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Also, our involvement with the Coalition for Universal Access to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (UCARRT) led to the campaign for free universal access to ART contributing to the expansion of treatment and testing centres from Accra to all the regions.
ISODEC’s work on education dates back to the late 1990s and continues to date. Following a comprehensive study of the state of education in Ghana as well as a response to the education sector restructuring process, ISODEC launched a right to education programme which combined policy education targeting government and a girl-child education programmes. Our work with Northern Network for Education Development (NNED) and Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) led to the expansion of the Education Sector Annual Review to the district and regional levels; our Girl Child Education Programme contributed to influencing separate district budget allocation for Girl Child Education activities: contributed immensely to the implementation of government policy on girl’s education. The programme on girl child education in 8 districts across the country was repackaged under the name ‘The Ambassador Girls Scholarship Programme’ (AGSP) and implemented in the Upper East and the Northern regions. The Tackling Education Needs Project amplified the voices of girls and Children with Disabilities (CWDs) to improve educational outcomes.
To promote public interest as a catalyst for various initiatives for social and economic justice in Ghana, ISODEC created and nurtured the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL). CEPIL’s objectives are to promote the public interest wherever these are violated by those with, or in, power (be they governmental or corporate), and to defend the interest of the poor. CEPIL pioneered public interest litigation on diverse matters including those related to the extractives sector. CEPIL’s work in this area has centered around supporting communities impacted by the extractive sector to defend their rights and seek justice through legal representation and policy advocacy. It has provided legal support services for instance to mining communities in the country, fighting unjust treatment by mining companies, etc. They are also active in defence of prisoners’ rights and the right of squatters to shelter. CEPIL provides general legal advice services and internships for law students.
Public Agenda is a newspaper, which currently publishes twice a week. Its objective is to promote democratic participation, articulate social justice principles and defend the poor. Its publications feed into the core rights-based advocacy values of ISODEC, targeting policymakers, duty bearers and marginalized groups
Other local affiliates, networks and coalitions include: Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC), Bawku East Small Scale Farmers Association (BESSFA), Coalition Against Water Privatization (NCAP), Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC), Coalition of NGOs in Health, Coalition on Tax Justice, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Oil and Gas, Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI); and the Open Governance Partnership Initiative (OGP).
Within the West Africa Region, ISODEC has entered into a network relationship with six other civil society organizations in the sub-region to create a regional forum called West Africa Right Based Advocacy Network (WARBAN). The organizations are: Alternatives – Niger, CAD – Mali, CPPC – Nigeria, ORCADE – Burkina Faso, NMJD – Sierra Leone and ASPE - in Senegal.
In the year 2000, after leading many successful outcomes in the delivery of basic social services, ISODEC took a strategic decision to combine service delivery with public policy and people-centred advocacy (ISODEC’s Rights-Based Advocacy-RBA I&II). Research and advocacy programmes were initiated to promote national development alternatives principally in Ghana and, to some extent, in the West Africa sub-region. This new strategy sought to promote accountability by the state to its citizens; instill civil activism through rights awareness creation, rights promotion and defense and economic literacy; and promote social equity through the responsible use of public resources.
ISODEC leveraged further its track record on policy influencing to improve access to basic rights (in education, health and water and sanitation) as well as on budget advocacy and interventions for fiscal equity.
A major theme under this strategy is to champion policy changes for equitable natural resources exploitation in Ghana through transparency, accountability and local capacity development especially in the mining and oil and gas sectors.
In February 2008 ISODEC facilitated the first oil and gas workshop that drew participation from civil society representatives from Africa and beyond to share experiences and consolidate Ghana’s civil society input into the national consultative forum on Oil and Development. This was towards the Government’s proposed development of a national oil policy and master plan. Through its leadership role in the nascent Oil and Gas sector, two ISODEC staff became the first beneficiaries of the Norwegian-PETRAD programme with capacity in petroleum Policy and natural resources management which anchored the organisation’s facilitating role in the sector. Through this capacity, ISODEC led CSOs front in the drafting of proposals and reviews of strategies for improved policy and fiscal regime in Ghana’s emerging oil industry.
In the mining sector, ISODEC was nominated to represent CSOs on the multi-stakeholder group of the EITI in Ghana. The organisation subsequently facilitated the drafting of a proposed EITI legislation for the consideration of Ghana’s Multi-stakeholder Committee on EITI. It also led the technical review of the existing mining sector fiscal regime in Ghana which fed into ongoing advocacy at the time for improved fiscal regime in Ghana’s extractive sector and supported discussions within ECOWAS on the design of a common mining policy for West Africa to halt the unhealthy competition among countries in the sub-region for investments.
ISODEC continue to be a leading voice in Ghana’s extractive sector and with funding support from the Ford Foundation in 2018, ISODEC conducted impact research on transfer pricing in Ghana’s oil and gas sectors, commodity exports and imports. The study interrogated the process leading to awards of contracts for the construction of Ghana’s Western Corridor Gas Infrastructure Project to Sinopec and related procurement issues. Thanks to the attendant advocacy, significant savings were realized demonstrating the potential for channeling the country’s natural resource revenues to benefit citizens especially the poor and the vulnerable. Being a predominantly advocacy and rights-oriented organization, the results of its work on policy and legislative influencing yield dividends for the country which, also has resonance for the wider West Africa region and beyond in terms of standards-setting and lessons.