Searching for dialogues: Convergences and divergences around the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 global development agenda

Posted by

Carlos Cortez

Lea versión en español 

The dialogue initiated in September at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is central to the ongoing debate around the construction of a future global development model and its impacts. In particular, discussions centred around the role that the current development model has in perpetuating global poverty and exclusion. In this vein, the UNGA was a space for identifying the existing opportunities as well as the difficulties for opening up a truthful dialogue amongst the diverse actors looking for alternatives.

The Participate initiative and the global campaign Beyond 2015 took the opportunity to engage more with these ongoing dialogues and to present the findings of the research carried out by the 18 partner organisations of Participate.

I believe that with these activities, we advanced towards the goal of bringing the voices of the poorest and most marginalised into the post-2015 global decision-making processes. However, this engagement also confronted us with the difficulties around the advocacy process, particularly the government representatives.

The concerns, ideas and proposals made by various organisations, including Participate’s findings, proved that there are converging issues being raised. However, I could observe notable divergences in the way the emerging problems and challenges are being understood. Worth giving a special mention is the concern around the poverty, exclusion, and lack of rights that a considerable part of the global population endure; as well as the recognition that until now the actions undertaken to eradicate these issues have been limited; to say the least.

The convergent issues

  • Bring to an end the charitable approach to development and demand a focus on rights promotion and protection, and justice for the people living in poverty. Indeed many called for a ‘rights based approach to development’.
  • Recognise that the participation of the poorest and most excluded in decision-making processes, from the local to the global level, constitutes an essential condition to overcome their hardship.
  • Insist in not separating the problem of increasing poverty from increasing inequality, and a call for urgent structural changes to the global economic and financial systems. This was indeed, one of the most critical demands.

The discourse and proposals put forward by the global civil society largely coincide with those of some international organisations. In this sense, NGOs and civil society coalitions presented their proposals framed under side events organised by UN agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, OHCHR; organisms that largely coincide with civil society’s discourse and some core proposals towards the definition of a post-2015 agenda. However, this was not the case for the vast majority of the governments. Their limited presence and lack of disposition for opening spaces for dialogue with civil society made evident the fact that the lack of success of many poverty reduction programmes are largely a result of intermingled politics rather than bad planning. Hence, envisaging substantial changes to the current governmental lens of what is needed from the new post-2015 development agenda seems like a huge challenge.

In this sense, Participate demonstrated the possibility and importance of bringing the voices, concerns and experiences of the most excluded to the global decision-making spaces. Through an interactive exhibition, the production of a documentary and a panel discussion around our synthesis report, we have shown the value of conducting and promoting participatory action research processes. Processes in which, through innovative and traditional techniques and methods, participants have been able to voice their ideas on how to tackle their problems and what they expect from decision makers. The diversity of materials and outputs have also raised the sensibility and conscience of what is needed in order to face one of the most important challenges for our society in the forthcoming years.

Let’s trust that we will be able to advance on the dialogue and the actions needed to end poverty and marginalisation. Let’s trust that governments, international organisations, the private sector, the civil society and all citizens work together to achieve change.

September 20. Members of the Participate network participating in the Panel discussion around the findings of our research. Left to right: Mwangi Waituru (The Seed Institute, Kenya); Nusrat Zerin (Sightsavers, Bangladesh) and Carlos Cortez Ruiz (UAM, Mexico)


Buscando construir diálogos: Convergencias y divergencias en el debate sobre las Metas del Milenio y un marco de desarrollo más allá del 2015

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Carlos Cortez

English version

El diálogo iniciado la semana pasada en la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas (AG – ONU) representa un momento central en el debate internacional sobre la construcción de un futuro modelo de desarrollo y su impacto a futuro. Particularmente, en cuestionar el papel que actualmente este modelo tiene en mantener la pobreza y la exclusión a nivel global. Asimismo puede ser entendido como un espacio que muestra tanto las posibilidades como las dificultades para establecer diálogos entre los diferentes actores involucrados en la búsqueda de alternativas.

La presencia de varios miembros de la red Participate y de la campaña global Beyond2015, en diversos eventos y espacios durante esta semana, constituyó una buena posibilidad de ser parte de estos diálogos y de presentar ante diversos actores algunas de las conclusiones centrales que han surgido del trabajo de las 18 organizaciones que formamos parte de esta iniciativa.

Se puede considerar que con esta presencia se avanzó en nuestro objetivo de llevar las voces y las preocupaciones de las personas en extrema pobreza y exclusión desde sus localidades hasta los espacios globales. Asimismo sirvió para darnos cuenta de las dificultades que implica tratar de incidir en algunos de los actores centrales de este proceso, especialmente los representantes gubernamentales.

Las preocupaciones, ideas y propuestas presentadas por una diversidad de organizaciones, incluyendo los resultados de Participate, mostraron la existencia de temas coincidentes, pero también de divergencias importantes sobre cómo se entienden los retos, temas y problemáticas. Es notable la preocupación generalizada por la situación de pobreza, exclusión y negación de derechos en que se encuentra un sector importante de la población mundial y el reconocimiento de que las acciones para hacerle frente han sido insuficientes, por decir lo menos.

Las coincidencias
• Acabar con las visiones de corte asistencialista y demandar un enfoque centrado en la reivindicación de derechos y en la búsqueda de justicia para la población en situación de pobreza.
• Reconocer que la participación de la población en situación de pobreza y exclusión en los procesos de toma de decisiones, desde el ámbito local hasta el global, constituye una condición fundamental para hacer frente a sus dificultades
• Insistir en no ver de forma separada el problema de la pobreza y el incremento de la desigualdad a nivel global; y en la necesidad urgente de cambios estructurales al modelo económico y financiero a nivel global. Sin duda, uno de los planteamientos más críticos.

Los discursos y propuestas desde la sociedad civil, coinciden con los de algunos miembros de organismos internacionales. En este sentido, destacan las presentaciones de organismos y coaliciones no gubernamentales en el marco de iniciativas presentadas por ciertos organismos del sistema de Naciones Unidas, como PNUD, UNICEF, OACDH , con quienes hay coincidencias importantes en el diagnóstico y en algunas de las propuestas centrales para la definición de la agenda post-2015. Sin embargo, no parece ser el caso de la mayoría de los gobiernos, o los pocos representantes de gobiernos presentes en estos debates. Su limitada presencia y disposición para establecer un diálogo con la sociedad civil global parece evidenciar la posición de que los mínimos logros en la reducción de la pobreza son el resultado de ineficiencias políticas más que de programas equivocados. Por lo tanto, parece un gran reto vislumbrar cambios sustanciales al enfoque de un marco global de desarrollo post 2015 desde los gobiernos.

En este sentido, Participate mostró la posibilidad y la importancia de llevar la voz de los excluidos, sus preocupaciones y experiencias, a los espacios de decisión globales. Por medio de una exhibición interactiva, la producción de un documental y un panel de discusión alrededor del reporte de síntesis de resultados; hemos mostrado el valor de impulsar procesos de investigación acción participativa. Procesos donde a través del uso de las nuevas tecnologías de comunicación e información -entre otras herramientas- los participantes han levantado sus voces y sus ideas, ayudando a ampliar la perspectiva, la sensibilidad y la consciencia sobre qué hacer frente a uno de los retos más importantes que nuestra sociedad deberá enfrentar en los próximos años.

Confiemos en que lograremos avanzar en el diálogo y las acciones para acabar con la pobreza y la marginación. Confiemos en que los gobiernos, los organismos internacionales, el sector privado, la sociedad civil organizada y todos los ciudadanos trabajemos juntos para lograrlo.

Izquierda a derecha: Mwangi Waituru (The Seed Institute, Kenya); Nusrat Zerin (Sightsavers, Bangladesh) y Carlos Cortez Ruiz (UAM, Mexico)

Septiembre 20. Miembros de la red Participate participamos en el Panel de discusión sobre las conclusiones de nuestra investigación. Izquierda a derecha: Mwangi Waituru (The Seed Institute, Kenya); Nusrat Zerin (Sightsavers, Bangladesh) y Carlos Cortez Ruiz (UAM, Mexico)


Participate’s global research findings say that people and institutions must ‘work together’ to address poverty and inequality

Posted by

Joanna Wheeler

Participate’s new report Work with us: How people and organisations can catalyse sustainable change’ argues that the wellbeing of the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities will only be improved if they are seen as active partners in efforts to tackle poverty and injustice.

Participation and realising the rights of all
The report brings together findings from the participatory research of the Participate Participatory Research Group that was undertaken by grassroots organisations, activists and citizens in 29 countries including Kenya, the Philippines, South Africa, Bangladesh, Montenegro, Egypt and Nigeria. The views, stories, and experiences of the participants were collected and shared through diverse mediums including participatory film-making, digital storytelling, public forums, public theatre and art.

The research makes an important contribution to ongoing international discussions about a new set of poverty reduction and environmental sustainability targets to replace the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. These debates are currently riding high on the political agenda with world leaders about to gather in New York for the UN General Assembly and the Special event towards meeting the MDGs.

This research provides a clear message to leaders meeting in New York. Development policies have not met the expectations of the poorest and most marginalised, and this is largely because these communities have been excluded from crucial design and implementation processes. We have an opportunity to redress this with the post 2015 development framework, but the international community must demonstrate its commitment to working with all citizens to realise their rights, and recognise the role that people are playing themselves in transforming their own lives.

The reality of poverty
The ‘Work with us’ report highlights how the poorest and most marginalised communities’ experience of poverty is multidimensional, often characterised by low incomes, insecure livelihoods, limited or no assets, harsh living environments, violence and environmental degradation. These factors combine with multiple and interconnected inequalities, and close down the opportunities that people have to change their situation themselves.

In the report it is argued that development should focus on the very poorest and work with them to make the decisions that matter most in their lives. The research shows that development interventions, broadly speaking, are targeted at those who are easiest to reach, and based on strong assumptions about the experiences of the poorest, rather than building relationships with them to have a real understanding of how they experience poverty and inequality.

In order to address this it is proposed that a number of key principles must underpin future development policy and practice if the ambition of the post-2015 High Level Panel report to ‘leave no behind’ is to be achieved. These include:

  • Rights, dignity and equity
  • Inclusion, solidarity and collective action
  • Participation, accountability and democratic institutions
  • Services and policies which respond to the needs of the poorest

Through their efforts to tackle insecurity, youth researchers in Mathare slum, Nairobi, have learnt what they are able to do as a community, and where ‘working together’ will bring change that lasts. ‘Working together for change – Mathare Slum, Kenya’ (Spatial Collective, 2013)

Work with us exhibition launch
The report will be launched in New York at the opening night of an exhibition of the research findings from the Participate initiative. The exhibition tells stories from people living in the margins, and demonstrates the obstacles, complexities, and impossible choices of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in developing countries. The stories show the depth of insight and ability of people affected by poverty to create sustainable and meaningful change in their own communities.

The exhibition is launching on Monday 16 September at 5-7pm at the Gallatin Galleries, New York University, 1 Washington Place at Broadway, New York 10003. The exhibition will run from 16-20 September at Gallatin Galleries, and from 21-27 September at RSPop, 501 Lexington Avenue, New York NY 10017.

There will be a panel event to discuss the research findings from the Participate initiative on Friday 20 September at 9-11am at NYU Wagner, the Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue at the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette Street, Second Floor, New York, NY 10012-9604. The panel will be made up of representatives from the UN, academics, civil society and the Participate research network.

Participate is also hosting a screening of the documentary film Work With Us on Friday 20 September at 6.30pm at RSPop, 501 Lexington Avenue, New York NY 10017. This coincides with a month long series of screenings of the film in locations across the world including Kenya, the Philippines, South Africa, Palestine, Uganda and India.

For more information visit the exhibition website – workwithus2015.org


Ground Level Panels offer reality check to UN High Level Panel’s (HLP) proposals for development

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Catherine Setchell

In June and July, four participatory research organisations from the Participate initiative facilitated Ground Level Panels to mirror the United Nations High Level Panel (HLP) for a post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda, which was co-chaired by David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia. The panelists, like the HLP members, were not bringing with them the voices of a constituency nor representing a particular group; they came together to share their knowledge from living in poverty and marginalisation. Panelists drew on their own life experiences to provide a ‘ground level’ reality check to the HLP recommendations; as well as developing their own shared vision for development.

The Ground Level Panels took place in Egypt, Brazil, Uganda and India. Each panel comprised a diverse group of 10-14 people including urban slum dwellers; disabled people; sexual minorities; people living in conflict and natural disaster-affected areas, rural poverty, or geographically isolated communities; nomadic and indigenous people; older people; internally displaced people; and young people. All of them with diverse and intersecting identities, which made each of the panels unique and fruitful.

Today, the Ground Level Panels have released their communiqués with their own recommendations for a new vision for development.

The Panelists spent five days developing a vision for a new global development agenda, within the framing of the UN High Level Panel’s recommendations; one that truly speaks to the reality of people who live in poverty and marginalisation. At the end of the deliberations, they came up with their own recommendations for what is needed in global development policy to end poverty.  All of the Ground Level Panels presented these recommendations at outreach days to decision-makers responsible for shaping local, national and international development policy.

The Ground Level Panel (GLP) Outcomes

Ground Level Panelists in Egypt discussing their vision for development

The GLP in Egypt was hosted by Participate research partners, the Center for Development Services (CDS). In their communiqué, panelists propose a vision of “self-sufficiency” at the country and community level, where Egyptians own the resources needed for development and can secure enough local production of food and other basic items such as water, and fuel. They also highlight the importance of “paying more attention to having a high caliber of leaders who can effectively implement our Vision on the ground, which requires good governance.”

Brazil GLP

Ground Level Panelists in Brazil discuss their vision for development

The GLP in Brazil was hosted by Participate research partners, International Movement ATD Fourth World and co-facilitated by Raízes em Movimento. In their communiqué panelists propose a “global life plan” which recognizes the interconnectedness of citizens, the environment and government bodies, where dignity is key. They stress that the current development model is outdated, driven by political and economic interests and puts humanity on a “death plan.” They recommend seven proposals to achieve the “global life plan” that include amongst others: “popular education; fair, egalitarian and sustainable forms of production, job creation, and income distribution; building of new alliances; and forms of government and organization that come from the processes and the real necessities of the people.”

Ground Level Panelists discuss what it means to ‘put sustainable development at the core’ as proposed by the High Level Panel

The GLP in Uganda was hosted by Participate research partners, Restless Development. In their communiqué, panelists call for a vision that “respects the rule of law, human rights and transparency to ensure that services are delivered to everyone equally without any segregation or misappropriation of the national resources.” The panelists reinforced the UN High Level Panel’s “five transformative shifts,” with further recommendations. For instance, panelists agree to putting ‘sustainable development at the core’ but emphasise that “peace and security are critical for achieving sustainable development, and that people should have the opportunity to determine their own development with the necessary capacity and economic resources.”

 

Women at the India Ground Level Panel discuss their experiences of poverty and how their situation can change

 

The GLP in India was hosted by Participate research partners, Praxis – Institute for Participatory Practices. In their communiqué, panelists recommend fifteen goals in response to the twelve goals proposed by the UN High Level Panel. Amongst others, these include goals to “establish a corruption-free society and state; promote equity; establish robust accountability mechanisms; create institutional spaces to promote people’s participation in local governance and policy-making process; protect the environment; enforce mechanisms to prevent tax evasion by corporates; and end discrimination and stigma.

A synthesis report of the four Ground Level Panel processes will be published in mid-August.

 


We stride forward in the hope of success

Posted by

Tom Thomas

Burdened by predicament and angst on the one hand and energised by hope on the other, the Ground Level Panel comprising of 14 people from across India, living in poverty and experiencing various forms of marginalisation, deliberated on development goals (Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Post-2015) as it currently is, and how it should be.

“The poor give up under the weight of their predicament”, Usha, Indigenous Community, Gujarat, Panellist.

“We stride forward in the hope of success”, Nandalal, Citimaker from Delhi, Panellist.

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“If democracy binds us as a family, then why do we get excluded and treated differently”- wondered the panellists. The panel dissected this and many more issues threadbare, not from an academic perspective, but from their own and their communities’ life experiences. They did not stop with raising issues, but went on to look at the role of different players, stumbling blocks, a way forward and institutional mechanisms for bringing about change. Ground Level Panels are definitely emerging as a powerful tool for democratising policy making and for intra- and inter-community dialogue.

It was a truly humbling experience to listen to this unadulterated, grounded take on the Post-2015 agenda. The breadth and depth of lived experiences that were shared during the deliberations make you wonder why, why are we deaf to the voices of people living in poverty, while making policies and taking decisions about their lives? Ravi, one of the panellists, struggling to form words due to his Cerebral Palsy, echoed the sentiments of the panel: “Is it that the government doesn’t understand our issues? No, they have deliberately chosen not to respond”. Shamsul, one of the panel members from the North East of India, likened it to the practice of cats being fed just survival ration, so that they would hunt rats – keep people in poverty and give them just enough crumbs to make them stand in lines to vote, once in five years. And so the unanimous voice of the panellists said that their lives should be “not doles, but identity and rights”.

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So, I ask you this: How long can we be deaf to these voices? How long will we keep them on cat ration? The answer seems to be: Not for too long if the energy and optimism that the panel reverberated are any indication. Let us stride forward in the hope of success.