Monthly Archives: June 2013

Reflections on Participate’s response to the HLP

On 30th May, 2013, the High Level Panel submitted its recommendations on the post-2015 development agenda to the UN Secretary General. The ‘Participate‘ initiative co-convened by the Institute of Development Studies and Beyond 2015, of which Praxis is a part, has responded to these recommendations with an in-depth participatory research report that brings together voices and experiences of the poor and the marginalised from over 30 countries 

The Participate response has been comprehensive in attributing praise where its due. It has further clarified the need to strengthen the focus on the ‘how’ of implementation, the need to recognise that growth is not a solution for poverty and the necessity to move beyond just the voice to the appropriation of real power and accountability through participation. 

It can include some of the following into its response:

1. “Development” often takes away development from marginalised. It is worse than the recognition that development is not reaching marginalised. Urban contexts of marginalisation can be a case in point.

2. Continued marginalisation of the discriminated is creating new stigmatised identities. Patriarchally predisposed values on sexual orientation, dignity and work participation makes the society critical of choices made by communities. This leads to the ‘othering’ of these people groups and results in further stigmatisation. This drives vulnerable communities to further risk while further taking away the agency from the marginalised.This is often seen in both Urban contexts of marginalisation where the structurally marginalise enter cities and become the urban poor and are unable to access rights, services and entitlements because of stigma associated totheir living habitation and social status. It can also be seen in people groups like the Sex workers and Trans Gender, whose choice of work or sexuality isviewed by the patriarchal society as being unacceptable. These results in exclusion and experiences of marginalisation and discrimination based on the stigma associated with their work participation or gender identity.

3. Governments are not addressing such mainstreamed socio-cultural norms that creates stereotypes which define stigma.

4. Governments are suspicious of collective action, which happen to be a significant space for such communities to understand and engage with their stigma and access their rights and entitlements.

5. Governments have adopted regressive policies that have taken democratic control away from people. This has created unaccountable partnerships, where development is led by vested interests such as corporates.

6. Sustainable development need not just be limited to one that looks at development from the climate change lens. It could also mean rights-based development that ensures quality participation and equitable governance rather than just the delivery of services.

In this context the
Goals could include –

1.     Pro poor Governance (rather than Good governance) for Inclusive and Equitable Development – Development is often the result of the contestation of interest groups. The research by Praxis and Participate show that there are groups that do not have power and get excluded in development processes. So recognising this, governments have to be proactive in including marginalised communities, stigmatised groups in every stage of the development. Governance and Development are not neutral processes. As practiced today, these favour the rich and powerful. The report recognise that 1.2 billion of the poorest consume just 1 per cent of the world resources while the richest 1 billion account for 72%. This has been a statistic that has only been regressing on the poor. This inequality in resource distribution necessitates action by the sate that acts on behalf of the poor to engender equity rather than just ensure good governance and effective institutions.

2.  Addressing socio-cultural norms, such as patriarchy, that drive stigma and discrimination resulting in the marginalisation of people and groups such as women and sexual minorities.

3.   Create spaces and resources for collective action by stigmatised and discriminated groups

4.   Restructure and institutionalise democratic infrastructure that enables the participation of the poor and marginalised across policy and implementation. Identify legal provisions that have regressively taken away democratic control from people and wrested it in the hands of corporates and the powerful.

5.   Create the needed infrastructure to equitably administer natural resources and distribute wealth and assets. 

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Praxis response to the High Level Panel report

One can only react to the HLP with unequal measures of pessimism and optimism – but irresolute as to what is strategically more meaningful. Optimism that it makes incremental progress on MDGs and that in real world this is what is achievable by a body such as UN.

Pessimism that it is yet another missed opportunity: to rip the goals off its neo-liberal foundation and make them address structural inequalities and read global development together with global trade and business and sustainability to recognize that structural inequalities can not be addressed without addressing power relations and power relations can’t be addressed without clipping/ taxing obscene exertion of power that is increasing across board as part of the Growth Story.

Development can not be compartmentalized and separated from trade and business. Economic democracy is as important for poverty eradication as political democracy, and political democracy was probably sufficient when politics was the supreme layer of social organization but the growth story has actively subordinated politics to economics and hence democratizing economics and reinstating politics to its due place is critical.

That said, here are some quick thoughts from our team based on various case stories:

1. “Projectised Development” often takes away real development from marginalised. It is worse than the recognition that development is not reaching marginalised. Urban contexts of marginalisation can be a case in point.

2. Continued marginalisation of the discriminated is creating new stigmatised identities. Patriarchally predisposed values on sexual orientation, dignity and work participation makes the society critical of choices made by communities leading to the ‘othering’ of these groups and results in further stigmatisation. This drives vulnerable communities to forced risk and takes away the agency from the marginalised. This is often seen in both urban contexts of marginalisation where the structurally marginalized enter cities and become the urban poor and are unable to access rights, services and entitlements because of stigma associated to their living habitation and social status. It can also be seen in people groups like the sex workers and Transgender, whose choice of work or sexuality is viewed by the patriarchal society as being unacceptable. These results in exclusion and experiences of marginalisation and discrimination based on the stigma associated with their work participation or gender identity.

3. Governments are not addressing such mainstreamed socio-cultural norms that creates stereotypes which define stigma.

4. Governments are suspicious of collective action and often suppress them – a significant space for communities to dialogue and engage in active democratization.

5. Governments have adopted regressive policies that have created unaccountable partnerships, where development norms are dictated by vested interests such as corporates.

6. Sustainable development need to look at development not just from the climate change lens, but also a rights–based lens that ensures quality participation and equitable governance rather than just the delivery of services.

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India, in the context of the post-MDG debates

As the race towards the final leg of the MDGs is on the way, debates from various quarters in the world have already started on what developing a post-MDG framework. With respect to the achievement of various goals, official statistics suggest a very dismal picture in India. According to various reports, India is far from achieving many of the crucial goals, particularly those on reducing child and maternal mortality. Despite a robust economy, administrative failures and ignorance of governance issues have largely accounted for this lag in the achievement of the goals. The MDGS being largely quantitative benchmarks have resulted in exposing loopholes in the India approach towards the MDGs. For example, Goal 2 looks at achieving universal primary education, and the enrollment rates in India have been very high. But this does not reflect on the quality of education, or explain the high dropout rates as well. In comparison, the progress of India’s smaller neighbours has been remarkable. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are said to be on track for many of the goals, such as reducing mortality, increasing women’s literacy and health coverage.

With this in mind, several international and local civil society organizations have launched various initiatives in order to push for a framework that looks at addressing the gaps of the MDGs goals, as well areas previously unaddressed by the original MDGs framework itself.

At Praxis, as part of Participate initiative, we have been involved in bringing perspectives of the most marginalised and the poorest into decision-making processes, ensuring that voices of the marginalised are heard in the right places, facilitating research and advocacy with communities to inform and enrich the post-2015 development framework. So far, our efforts have led to the creation of participatory videos with sexual minorities and urban poor communities as well as with Praxis team members being part of various meetings and forums where post 2015 issues are discussed.

From July 14th – 19th 2013, Praxis is organizing a Ground Level Panel  in New Delhi, where representatives of communities that have experienced who experience poverty, insecurity and exclusion along with Civil Society members will reflect on the recommendations of the High Level Panel’s recommendations.

This is only one of various initiatives being organized across India. We would like to reflect on some of them, and this list is not intended to be a comprehensive assessment of all the work being towards this end.

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