Tag Archives: civil society

Participation – Going beyond the rhetoric

Tom Thomas, Chief Executive of Praxis, recently addressed United Nations member states at A post-2015 agenda for people and the planet – Echoing voices from civil society, an event organised by Beyond 2015, the Permamnent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations and other organisations to brief them about developments in discussions on the post-2015 agenda. The broad focus of the discussions were on the vital importance of the inclusion of equality across all levels and themes of the post-2015 framework, and addressing all dimensions of sustainable development through implementation and accountability mechanism.

During his presentation, Tom built a case for deeper participation and raised a few vital questions about whose participation we envisage, in what areas and what kind.

Here are some excerpts from his speech:

“A wealth of inspiring, deep and not always inward looking recommendations have emerged from people living in poverty. Equity and equality stand out as the core of people’s concern, and People, Planet and Participation have emerged as the three most important pillars on which to build the post 2015 framework.

These welcome beginnings notwithstanding, the larger question that begs an answer is how participation will be placed in the post 2015 framework. Rhetoric as usual or will the UN and governments be more imaginative to infuse into the framework a participation that has the potential to deepen democracies and produce superior outcomes?”

Pointing out the need for exploring and unpacking ‘community’, which is a conglomerate of excluded and marginalised identities, he calls for the inclusion of not only invisible groups such as disabled, lower castes and religious minorities, among others, but also ignored groups like youth and children.

“It must be recognized that there will be many sub population groups that will be normally invisible and ignored, even through ‘participatory processes’ – both by commission and omission. While a certain amount of discussion has taken place over the past decade about the invisible sub groups like the disabled, the elderly, the lower caste, religious minorities, women, etc., not enough has been said about the ignored population. Youth and children are a classic example of groups that get ignored as many of the processes are designed with an able bodied adult male as the active participant.”

Limiting participation to the process of goal setting would be a big mistake as it will reinforce their identity as receivers of dole.

“Raising communities to the level of active participants and partners in the framing, roll out and monitoring, will not merely make the targets more achievable, but also raise the self esteem of communities, an essential factor to help them stay out of poverty and better theirs and their communities’ lives.”

Participation should not be the kind aimed at increasing efficiency of a project or goal, but rather the kind that aims at empowerment. An empowered citizen, he says is better equipped to claim rights essential for better living.

“… what we need support for and champions from the member states, is to move participation from a mere ‘efficiency coefficient’ to an ’empowerment coefficient’.”

Rejecting the two big barriers cited for seeing participation as an essential component of any planning or implementing exercise, Tom points out examples of Praxis’ experience on how involving people cuts down the cost and increases the accuracy of information.

“The (high) estimates are for expert-led monitoring that as the authors themselves admit will finally at best yield estimates. The question then, would be, whether we want a monitoring that gives us accurately wrong information by experts or approximately correct information led by communities? Participatory monitoring not just gives you approximately correct data, it also engages communities in understanding and analyzing data thereby raising their critical consciousness and self esteem and make them not just recipients, but active partners.”

And last, but not the least, as Praxis experience with the shows, these are “testimonies of people’s capacities to vision for a future that is achievable”.

Tom ends with a call for action, urging the audience to help communities and civil society organisations claim spaces of participation within the post-2015 framework.

You can read the full speech here


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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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