Participation of the poorest in post-2015

Inclusive Economy04 Sep 2013Neva Frecheville

Nothing in life ever goes 100% according to plan. Life is full of trials and tribulations which can, at times, be quite a barrier to the important things – good relationships with family and friends, a warm home, and work that inspires you.

You might be worried about your daughter’s future because she didn’t get into the university she was hoping, or you might be worried about health. Maybe your elderly parent needs care that you are unable to provide. Or perhaps you are concerned about something that affects your whole community, such as the lack of bus routes in your area.

Your local government, supported by national priorities, have plans to improve things. So, they increase the number of schools, but not the number of qualified teachers. They increase the number of university places, but not for the course your child wants to study. Or, they increase funding for nurseries, but not care for the elderly.

What would have made a difference to the quality and relevance of these changes? If the people who were meant to benefit from those changes were included in the decisions about when, where and how the resources should be used.

Exactly the same principle applies when we talk about development for the poorest and most marginalized people. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has been carrying out in-depth research as part of the global initiative, “Participate”, with people who experience the most extreme poverty and marginalization in Bolivia, the Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The powerful message that comes out of the research and from the people themselves is that they want ownership of changes in their lives and the ability to influence the decisions that affect them. Without their involvement, it is unlikely that interventions will respond to the problems they face every day.

How can the post-2015 development framework respond to this? The first step is for politicians and policymakers to accept that the people who are meant to benefit the most from the successor framework to the MDGs – the poorest and most marginalized – need to be at the centre of debate and decision making. The UN Secretary General’s report, “A life of dignity for all”, calls for a participatory monitoring framework to track progress and deliver mutual accountability mechanisms for all stakeholders. The poor and excluded are the key stakeholders to be included.

There are three steps for this to happen. The first is including people in policy discussions and ensuring that their opinions and experiences influence decisions. This can only be done with a clear roadmap that shows when and how decisions are being taken. The second step is for the framework to include nationally appropriate targets so that governments do not try to meet global goals that deliver very little for their populations. Qualitative indicators that complement traditional quantitative metrics, but enable us to go beyond standard metrics on income to understand well-being and dignity within each goal, are a way to securing the participation of the poorest people across the framework. Thirdly, people need to play an active role in monitoring and evaluation, at both the local and global levels, ensuring that interventions do not further exacerbate discrimination and exclusion.

The September Special Event on the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda will be a key moment for member states and the UN system to ensure that the process from now until 2016 is inclusive and based on participation and equality.