June 28, 2012

CSOs on the Road from Accra to Busan (Part II)

To conclude, Brian pointed to ten lessons that can be drawn from this work that are preconditions of effective policy dialogue:
1)   All stakeholders must take their roles seriously and build upon previous accomplishments. For CSOs, this meant ensuring that we participated as independent development actors in our own right and that the dialogue moving forward was inclusive of all stakeholders setting the agenda and outcomes for Busan.
2)   There must be an openness to changing practice. For CSOs this meant changing the politics of this process - strengthening our own accountability to principles of CSO Development Effectiveness, and for all governments this meant being inclusive and respecting the views of all stakeholders. For civil society, it also meant balancing our focus on advocacy and messaging, with listening and negotiation skills. We also had to respect difference and the limitations of what could actually change, and work within a very complex dynamic.
3)   We were most successful when (and not always) there was clarity of purpose and mandate, and where we set realistic (but ambitious) objectives against realistic timelines. For civil society this is a challenge, since we often take a normative approach to issues, with a comprehensive agenda; but we soon realized that as participants in this process, to move the agenda forward,  we had to compromise.
4)   Multi-stakeholder processes need to be well-resourced. This is not just about financial resources – which donors provided through a pooled-funding mechanism that definitely helped facilitate national meetings and consultations and the preparations leading up to Busan – but also the human resources and leadership that all organizations participating committed.
5)   Civil society requires space and opportunity to construct iterative and representative processes from the ground up. It was important that we engaged as many CSOs as we did, but engaging civil society also requires space and time to draw out both the diverse views of CSOs and but also find the common threads.
6)   The need to reform processes for global, regional and national policy dialogue that are appropriate to and respect different multi-stakeholder requirements. In constructing multi-stakeholder processes, we need to actually reflect on whether these processes, are appropriate for all the stakeholders at the table. BetterAid was limited in the number of voices it could bring to the table, and we couldn’t always command the diverse constituencies and expertise we had.
7)   Multi-stakeholder processes work when all stakeholders recognize their responsibilities and seek to implement their commitments. Constructive policy dialogue builds on evidence drawn from implementation and from the challenges of implementing more ambitious reforms. For CSOs this means tackling the challenges we face as development actors, and being accountable at the national, regional and international level to the Istanbul Principles by examining and changing our practices.
8)   To sustain a focus on the country level requires deliberate efforts and significant investment of resources by all stakeholders. All said we need a country heavy framework for implementation of Busan. CSOs agreed that this was essential following Accra, and to some extent we did this. But as important as what we did was, these national engagements were episodic, but were unable to sustain a high-level of engagement at the country-level. This is limited by resources, by the spaces available, by support that is sustained irrespective of the changing agendas of governments, and by limited knowledge about these processes at the country level. Too often at the country level, we invest in the skills of very few people. This needs to change and we need to build much broader and deeper momentum at the country level
9)   There needs to be an enabling environment for CSOs that allow for multi-stakeholder dialogue. In Accra, enabling environment was not a major focus of our work; but since then, we have deepened our understanding of that issue, deepened the norms for what constitutes an enabling environment, and this has now emerged as a core issues in Busan.
10) Leadership is fundamental to generating the political will and sustaining behavioural and institutional change. This process had that in different degrees at the global, regional and national level, and we need to sustain that will. But to be successful, leadership must rise above and take risks.
Rich food for thought.
But what is now giving people indigestion are two things: whether the future Global Partnership will actually be able to sustain such a genuine multi-stakeholder as things slowly seem to be slipping back into an inter-governmental one; and whether ultimately this new global partnership is going to translate three years of work into better outcomes for the poor.

This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst, CCIC. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily reflect the views of CCIC or its members.

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