How effective is verbal commitment from government officials?

In October during the Legal Identity workshop in New York, we managed to get a verbal commitment from the director of national registration bureau to eliminate the Nubian vetting once and for all. The requirement was to bring the Nubian elders to agree to eliminate the vetting.

This sounded as a good deal and a big gain for the citizenship project. This was so good to be true but at project level it was a risk worth taking. We convened a meeting to call all the stakeholders including the elders. During the planning meeting, the director withdrew his commitment claiming it is impossible to do as promised earlier.

This has led me to start asking myself, how effective are verbal commitments from governments? How do you make officials accountable when they make verbal commitments? Have you ever achieved success from verbal commitments? @danielsesay @kanchikohli @lauragoodwin @kanchikohli @michaelotto @krithikadinesh

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Well, in several occasions I have told you that eliminating vetting for some communities (leave alone the Nubians) is a vision, no wonder there was that verbal commitment. Verbal commitment is binding as long as the source can identify with it, if you want to witness the worth of a verbal communication? Take it to a banks as a security for a loan and see how much loan you can get.
Back to the topic, just like all other forms of communication and law, one need to know which form of communication is applicable where. Verbal communication is effective for “roadside” duties not defined in law. As stated, don’t insist on written communication at all times but you need to be cautious.

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@mustafa_mahmoud thanks for raising this important question. As all of us are trying and get policy and legal reforms based on our work, situations like the ones you describe above are real time challenges. However, I feel this is not just problem of commitments from government officials but also politicians or investors. In the present case the official atleast openly acknowledged that it is not possible to move forward with the commitment which otherwise rarely happens. A commitment can be made in a public forum, even recorded in newspapers or TV and yet not followed through.

But I do feel that a verbal commitment is a significant achievement and recognition of our efforts allowing for and outreach with government. As one of our goals is to ensure responsiveness from government agencies, this can allow for an important entry point to take specific suggestions to various institutions for affecting large scale change. Ofcourse, knowing very well that there are many roadblocks, slips and negotiations before desired outcomes can be achieved. :slightly_smiling:

Look forward to hearing from others on this list too. @manjumenon @meenakshikapoor @bharatpatel @mrhegde do you have anything to add?

best wishes Kanchi