Tom Thomas, the CEO of Praxis was recently invited to participate in a session on ‘Knowledge from the margins: Post 2015 and Participatory Governance’ at the Commonwealth People’s forum, part of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, 2013 held in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.
Some of the key points from the discussions are as follows:
Sustainability of participation:
Ensuring the participation of people and communities that are marginalised and living in poverty are sustained and not one-off is a challenge. This calls for continuous institutional support to continue to create knowledge/ evidences for policy campaigns as well as to build capacities of ourselves to step back and bring communities to the centre stage.
As is evident from the four Ground Level Panels facilitated by Participate Partners from India, Brazil, Egypt and Uganda, communities have both the capacity and ability to articulate their issues directly and powerfully and require just facilitative support. It has also shown that participation is important not just for content/ knowledge generation, but also to build and sustain a process of reflections to build the critical consciousness of communities that is capable of addressing issues as it arises.
It is imperative that participation of communities living in poverty and experiencing marginalisation is not a ‘good thing to do’ but a non-negotiable. It is clear that participation is not just a driver to achieve the specific outcome of a sustainable policy (although important) but an overarching goal in itself for the communities. Participation in local, regional and global governance is empowering and necessary in changing, challenging and holding power structures to account.
Tools for participation:
There are many tools available which can enable more direct participation/ direct voices of communities, such as participatory video, digital storytelling, participatory theatre, community radio/ video, mobile call back service, participatory budget creation/ tracking, etc.
One of the major concerns that was raised during the UN General Assembly in New York recently was the lack of participation / space for non-New York organisations especially the organisations that are from the South. It was with this in mind that the Beyond 2015 group hosted by the UN, opened up the Open Working Group (OWG). This is a series of Webinars where the OWG interacts online through an interesting webinar program – WebEX, with CSO’s across the world especially from the Global South.
On the 13th of November, the first webinar that focused on Asia with the objective of gaining a larger perspective was organized on three key themes:
- The vision behind a post-2015 framework
- Sustained and inclusive economic growth
- The international financial system
There were about 30-40 participants, most of them from Europe and the US with a few from India, Bangladesh and other Asian countries. The webinar was hosted by a Korean UN personnel and the process was chaired by the Kenyan and Hungarian Ambassadors to the UN. The initial part of the webinar revolved around discussions on the need to look at a greater sense of inclusion and universalization of development gains, especially towards ensuring that the bottom of the pyramid is catered to.
Our intervention in this was to challenge the OWG to acknowledge that structural inequalities are core to the inability of the development agenda in addressing inclusive growth. That a bullish market need not lead to stronger development gains for the poor (very often its the antithesis) further needs to be acknowledged. One cannot separate the excesses of the market and private capital from the barriers that prevent inclusive development.
Development funding needs to be concomitant with the taxing of obscene exertion of power that is increasing across the board as part of the Growth Story Economic democracy is as important for poverty eradication as political democracy (in line with Praxis’s sharing to the Hight Level Panel). These need to be considered in the vision behind the Post 2015 framework. We further intervened during the webinar when the focus seemed to be moving towards development goals and shared about our GLP process and how vulnerable communities had come together to assert that what they saw as goals had little to do with the development goals, rather had more to do with process goals. “
We would rather have the state delivering against pathways that lead to reduced discrimination and stigma than just be provided a Primary Health Centre in our colony”… and in this context we shared some of the 15 goals that the GLP had identified. Our sharing was received pleasantly and the host as well as the chairs took mention of our sharing during the OWG webinar.
Excerpts from an interview conducted by ABC network with Pradeep Narayanan of Praxis on the Ground-Level Panel and its goals.