How can local policy actors contribute to the achievement of MDGs and other global policy objectives?
In the new political agendas there is a surprising convergence between the widest and the smallest circles of governance that bypasses the National policies. Certainly the big power game are at the National level; but that is also where big players tend to maintain the old games rules from where they have a strong say. Where there is less institutional power there seem to have been more innovation and vision.
The MDGs are a concrete example of the world community acting as choice maker, taking a role in the global challenge. However the concrete development choices have to be taken at a local level, if change has to happen on people lives.
We learned from past experiences that there is no lasting impact of development cooperation unless local authorities are brought on board of sustainable development planning. In many cases it is the absence of organized local governance that causes poverty and marginalization: then development cooperation has to be an occasion to promote processes of administrative decentralization and of empowerment of the civil society to become an organized actor in policy choices.
The pyramidal model of centered authority is gradually been substituted by a a process of networking amongst local policy actors, who have become proficient with new medias for sharing knowledge and opportunities. And while the old mindset still associates political authority with "power" on the people, the new mind sets associates the real authority with the capacity to "empower" people.
We asked different stakeholders to share with us their experiences in working with local policy actors and their role in contributing to the Global Agenda for Development.
We also want to compare the aptitudes of the peoples of different nations in the responsibility of civil society in development cooperation and inter-cultural dialogue.
Below are the answers we collected. The work is in progress and you are welcome to contribute.
Click on the name of the contributor to go to the page with the full interview.
Skype - 07 Sept 2010
I think there are 3 major challenges in the implementation of the MDG’s.
The first challenge is at the level of policy formulation: We need to ask, for instance, whether our governments have right policies in place to make sure that the MDG agenda is achieved?.
The second challenge is at the level of implementing these policies: Do we have the right structures and the right resources?
The third challenge is the culture and awareness levels of the local people. Are people aware about MDGs and what it means to achieve them and how will this benefit them. What are the traditional values and beliefs that go against the MDGs? For instance, if we want to achieve the MDG on universal primarily education for all children and the belief in many communities is that girls should not attend school because it has a negative impact on them, then we will not be able to achieve the MDG’s.
P. Krishna - Director of Krishnamurti FoundationEdit
M.S. Ahluwalia, - Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, IndiaEdit
No scheme is perfect, it is impossible to have a scheme which has zero leakage. When you say that they don't reach at the bottom do you mean that the leakage is 100... absolutely not! Leakage are high, even as high as 30%, but 70% is reaching at people. The other reason people think that the schemes are not having the effect that the effect that were expected, is that the challenges are very complex one... you can have very good schemes but you don't deliver the result. (Gives example of education) and says that Pratham brings out a report every year and saw that 37% percent of children in class 5 cannot read a text for class 2. Now if you say that therefore the benefits are not reaching the target population, in a sense you are right. But what can the government do? It sets up schools, it higher teachers... we say that you need to have more parent-teacher involvement, you must have local communities enforcing accountability, teachers must be made to teach. These are things that are not just done by governments, these are things done by social pressure, social awareness, social mobilization and it would not surprise me that it takes time. It is not true that nothing is happening, lots is happening!
Difficulties in achieving Human Developments Goals in a Democracy. You must not think of setting right defects as a mechanical task. Many of the human development goals can be achieved top down in an Autocracy, because you can just enforce things. In a democracy you cannot do that. The other way you do that is social mobilization and social pressure. That requires participation, empowerment, capacity building and social homogeneity.
Instead of using the word collaboration I would use the word inclusive, where we are trying to include everyone. It is an inclusive development of an inclusive society. Whether it is private factory, or a private sector corporation, or a government undertaking, or a government organization, or a local body, all these institutions are serving the core purpose of achieving human well-being. And when you look at human well-being, it is essential that they collaborate and create synergies between each other. The Government is very good in policy formulation, in planning, in providing finance, but after all, whatever policy you formulate sitting in your head quarters, ultimately it has unfold, blossom in the field, on the ground. Therefore it is useful for the government to collaborate with civil societies who are working at grassroots, with the people, so that what the government cannot do it can be done by the civil society. Civil society by their nature is flexible, small and they can work with the people at more close quarters. Ultimately just by framing policies things will not happen. Corporate, private sectors, also cannot see themselves as different and excluded from this process, because they also have to serve the society, ultimately. That is why you see now more and more corporate giving social service much beyond their business operations. So unless all these three agencies collaborate with each other the human well-being will not be comprehensibly addressed.
There are differences in the roles and the spaces that the government, civil society and the private sector occupy in society. There is also a tendency of each sector to enter into the field of the other and make the work redundant. How do you think we can create a greater collaboration among them? Instead of using the word collaboration I would use the word inclusive, where we are trying to include everyone. It is an inclusive development of an inclusive society. Whether it is private factory, or a private sector corporation, or a government undertaking, or a government organization, or a local body, all these institutions are serving the core purpose of achieving human well-being. And when you look at human well-being, it is essential that they collaborate and create synergies between each other. The Government is very good in policy formulation, in planning, in providing finance, but after all, whatever policy you formulate sitting in your head quarters, ultimately it has unfold, blossom in the field, on the ground. Therefore it is useful for the government to collaborate with civil societies who are working at grassroots, with the people, so that what the government cannot do it can be done by the civil society. Civil society by their nature is flexible, small and they can work with the people at more close quarters. Ultimately just by framing policies things will not happen. Corporate, private sectors, also cannot see themselves as different and excluded from this process, because they also have to serve the society, ultimately. That is why you see now more and more corporate giving social service much beyond their business operations. So unless all these three agencies collaborate with each other the human well-being will not be comprehensibly addressed.
You have worked in the government sector and then you chose to work for the civil society for a period of time. Why did you take such a decision? Because I thought that it time to give back to society and get a reality check of what we are doing as government offices. After some time in the government one realizes that you are out of touch with the reality and it is necessary to go back to the root and learn a lot of things and unlearn a lot of things. When you are in touch with people you are actually able to see their conditions and realities and your policy formulation gets much more realistic. This is one of the reason I have chose to work in the civil society and also to bring in my experience as a government official in the implementations of the programs of the civil society. An other important reason to work for civil society is to fill-in this gap of what we cannot achieve in the government can be achieved in the civil society. And when a government official is coming in the civil society, that gap is filled.
Julian Parr, the Regional Manager South East Asia, Oxfam GBEdit
That is one of the biggest challenge, I would say. We get it badly wrong in occasion... because if you want to be inclusive and genuine then you need to work at very grass root level and you need to do you over a very long period of time because you want to include the voices of the most disfranchised. To get that authentic voice takes trust, takes time, takes investment... and very often agencies don't have that length of time to achieve the scope of goals they want to. The challenge of listening and being inclusive of community voices means that you have a much stronger solution to their problem... and I genuinely believe that all communities can actually find their own solution if you create the right space around them, the enabling environment and create the resources to make change, they can often come up with the right answers.
Shiva Kumar development economist and Adviser to UNICEFEdit
What I really like about the MDGs is that it has thrown up a lot of discussions and what you find in terms of a follow through of the MDGs, is that there is no one solution. What works in Nicaragua may not work in Mexico, may not work in South Africa.
Thailand said, we have already achieved Universal Education, our Mortality Rate is very low, what do you expect Thailand to do? So they launched MDG +, which said we have to achieve more. Bhutan added MDG 9 and said “zero tolerance for corruption” and they said that by 2020 Bhutan must be free from all types of corruption. So the nice thing about the MDGs was that, the UN said that all the countries must adopt it and must adapt it and localize it. So when you localize the MDGs then the debate becomes not at a global level of ideas but much more practical in terms of policies and programs and what are you doing about it.
Q: The general perception of media people about India is that India is growing and they expect this growth of the economy to gradually pull the people out of the poverty. And this is a good thing, because it is a natural growth, and if we interfere with that growth, if we take away the resources from this growing business and we give directly to the poorer, that means we involve the State. And the State is very famous for corruption, inefficiency. So, if we let the spontaneous growth where the business is driving, it will percolate down to everybody. If instead we divert the resources to assist the poor person, it will drag the growth. What do you think about it?
A: I think your …. of the mean stream …..of lead … of what is happening is quite correct. There is a doing well in growing and things will take care themselves. But I thing it is really disconnected from reality and if you look at the progress of social indicators and the space of poverty reduction in the last twenty years when India has being enjoying… growth, it is being really dismal for them, (for the nutrition) indicators and barely improved over twenty years of rapid growth. Is not that things are not improving at all, they are improving, I mean after all even in war time people’s living condition sometimes improves. So the fact that they are improving is not a vindication of the current (economic) policy. The policy is how fast are improving and what is the living condition of the people still today. And I think if you look at the experience, when you look at the (competitive) experience of (the States) in India, you look around in South Asia, you compare India with China or you look even at the historical experiences of the rich Country, of the so called capitalist Country of today, the message comes again and again, that if you want rapid improvement in people’s living condition, in education, heath, nutrition and so on, than there has to be a huge amount of State involvement and a fair politic intervention.
That comes out even in the history of the rich Countries, look at the health care systems: all of the so called capitalist Countries of western Europe and North America, with the partial exception of the United States, have hugely develop health care system with virtually universal accesses and the share of public health expenditure in total is very large, usually more than fifty percent going up to eighty or ninety percent, in some Countries, where in India the share of the public sector in health expenditure is only about fifteen to twenty percent. Even in the … Socialist Countries. So whether you look at those historical principles or you compare India with China or even with the South Asian neighbors, whether you look at the comparative experiences within India, for example with the State of Kerala, which was, not so long ago, as poor as most of the States in India, but vastly better social indicators, in terms of life expectancy, of child mortality, of education, of nutrition and so on, or the States like Himachal Pradesh in the north of India which now has good indicators as Kerala, in spite of being very poor, not so long ago, you look at these comparative experiences is the same issue again, that public intervention is fundamental if you want to achieve rapid improvement in living conditions and development in the full sense of the term. And I think today there is a great danger of forgetting that historical lesson, and of having this illusion which you are describe very well, that growth has to solve all the problems.
And if we count on growth alone, I think we are going to see the continuation of these really small patterns, where the minority of the population is enjoying transformation of living conditions they would not dreamed of twenty or thirty years ago, while, for the large majority of the people, things will continue much as before. We called it the welfare state and it has a kind of paternalistic (ring). Don’t call it welfare state, call it social solidarity, call it we will bring every one at least to have unconditional access to the basics, to health, to education, to social security, some form of nutrition support. These thing has to be provided through some kind of political intervention. There is no alternative to that.
Mercedes Del Carmen Ríos, Jefe Secretaría Distrital de Integración Social Alcaldia Mayor de Bogota' D.C, ColombiaEdit
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