Yesterday saw the opening of activities related to the High Level Panel (HLP) meeting in Monrovia. Civil society organisations (CSOs) from across the world engaged in discussions about what to present to the High Level Panel at the official CSO Outreach meeting on Wednesday. We were interested to see whether the issues that were being generated through civil society representation, resonated with the early messages that are coming out of our participatory research. These are some of the things that struck us:
Development does not reach the poorest and most vulnerable
Many civil society contributions stressed the fact that the most marginalised aren't being effectively engaged and their perspectives need to be taken into account - which of course is the core purpose of Participate. The disability groups in particular were concerned that available statistical data was not disaggregated to show disability. This is one of their key demands of the post-2015 framework, and was echoed by others, who pointed out the inequalities that are hidden in statistical averages. One speaker from Bangladesh explained that whilst education enrolment has extended to the vast majority of children in Bangladesh, this has not been the case for disabled children, where only 10 per cent of disabled children have access to education.
This theme of inequalities was recurrent in the debate with civil society groups and speaks to one of the key findings from Participate's first analysis of participatory research - that even development that has had demonstrable positive impacts on society as a whole, frequently fails to reach the most excluded and those living in greatest poverty. We will talk more about the research findings in our blog on Thursday, when the High Level Panel will have explored the implications.
Constraints of consultation
One of the civil society representatives spoke about how they are engaged with the formal consultations on the post-2015 framework. She recounted how "rigid" the questionnaire was and that participants were unable to express the qualitative issues that they wanted to talk about. This resonates with underlying Participate principles that genuine enquiry needs to start with people telling their stories and articulating their issues in their own words, without being constrained by pre-constructed questions.
A large number of speakers stressed the importance of a rights-based approach to the post-MDG framework. This is clearly strongly supported across civil society and may be one of the major points of tension with established institutions and governments, who lean towards quantitative measures of growth and development. The Beyond2015 campaign also stresses the importance of a rights-based approach.
Commonality of causes
One of the paradoxes of both this meeting and the wider process is that the debate is structured around different constituencies, for example, children and youth, people living with disabilities, women, older people, etc. - with the NGOs that are advocating on their behalf, fighting for space to get their voices heard in the MDG process. At the same time they recognise the commonality of their causes. Participants gave strong examples of the interconnection of constituencies and issues. One delegate talked about how one of the great burdens for older people is childcare, particularly in African contexts where for various reasons, grandparents are primary child carers, and so outcomes for children are closely connected to the wellbeing of older people.
Finally and inevitably there was a great deal of discussion about prioritisation of issues and goals over one another.
Danny Burns is a Co-Director of the Participate initiative and Team Leader for the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.