Panels of the Poor: What would poor people do if they were in charge of the post-2015 process?

August 6, 2013

     By Duncan Green     

Many of the attempts to introduce an element of consultation/participation into the post-2015 discussion have been pretty perfunctory ‘clicktivism’. So thanks to Liz Stuart, another Exfamer-gone-to-Save-the-Kids, for sending me something a bit more substantial: 5 day in-depth participatory discussions with small (10-14 people) ‘ground level panels’ in Egypt, Brazil, Uganda and India, culminating in a communiqué to compareEgypt GLP with that of the great and good on the ‘High Level Panel’.

Here’s a summary from a post by Catherine Setchell on the Participate website (which links to the four country communiqués, also worth a skim):

The GLP in Egypt (right) proposes 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.”

The GLP in Brazil wants a “plan for global life” 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 They stress that the current development model is outdated, driven by political and economic interests and puts humanity on a “plan of death.” They recommend seven proposals to achieve the “plan for global life” 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.”

The GLP in Uganda called 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.”

GLP India panelThe GLP in India recommended fifteen goals (see left – keep clicking to expand), including “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.

How do these statements compare with the High Level Panel report’s 12 goals?

  • Lots of agreement on equality, justice and inclusion and the HLP’s “leave no one behind” message.
  • The other theme that seems common is better governance and people looking to the state for services. But there’s also a difference – while you don’t hear poor people saying how the private sector should do more to improve their health or education, you do hear that from governments and international institutions.
  • Overall the ground level panels seemed to give more weight to issues of inclusion, identity and rights.
  • The HLP was stronger than these ground level reports on gender, water & sanitation, energy and aid (‘sanitation’, ‘energy’ and ‘aid’ don’t warrant a single mention in any of the country communiqués).
  • Uganda’s communiqué, with its focus on inclusion, sustainable development, jobs, governance and global partnerships was probably the closest to the HLP.
  • Egypt’s call for self sufficiency didn’t appear anywhere in the HLP deliberations, nor (as far as I’m aware) did India’s concern on alcohol addiction. Or Brazil’s focus on love and connections between people as what makes life worth living. Shame.

I’m not sure what you can read into this exercise. It’s not a revelatory game changer like the World Bank’s fantastic Voices of the Poor project, because it limits the discussion to post-2015 style global commitments, rather than the realities of people’s lives (which is what made VoP so amazing). But for my money it is at least as interesting as opinion polling or all that superficial online ‘tell us what kind of world you want’ nonsense. In contrast, this feels like an honest attempt to have a serious conversation with those who, after all, are supposed to benefit from all this post-2015 talk.

With apologies to the tender sensitivities of Chris Blattman, who after yesterday’s post was moved to tweet ‘I cry on the inside when I read someone write “post 2015” in an article title. What a narrow, self important idea of devt’. That feels just a bit unfair given my remorseless slagging off of the whole post-2015 process, but hey, free speech and all that.

August 6, 2013
Duncan Green