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The Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action articulated in 1979 in the "Peasant's Charter" by the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) represent a breakthrough in development thought and practice. The WCARRD principles focus squarely on the need for growth with equity through people's participation. These principles present a milestone in the history of NGOs, in the recognition of their role in development and the importance that is placed on the role of people's participation in any development activity.

Certainly, the limited success of poverty eradication or poverty alleviation efforts in the preceding decades can be traced largely to the failure of governments and development agencies to give sufficient importance to the participation of the people who were to benefit from development. Programmes and projects were planned, implemented, and evaluated with little or no substantive contribution from beneficiary groups. With hindsight, it becomes clear that many of the problems and failures of past initiatives could have been avoided with greater participation on the part of target beneficiaries at all stages of the project cycle.

In the 1990s, there is a continuing effort by multilateral and bilateral agencies to ensure that people's participation is an integral element in the design of programmes and activities. FAO's commitment to implementation of the WCARRD Programme of Action has remained firm. The Organization has sent high-level missions to several countries to provide technical assistance in implementing agrarian reform. FAO has organized regional consultations on follow-up to WCARRD every two years since 1979. These consultations have consistently reiterated the importance of involving NGOs and people's organizations (POs)1 in the rural development process, and a wide variety of collaborative initiatives have resulted.

1 For the purposes of this monograph, the term "NGO" refers to development organizations which provide services and assistance to "POs" or people's organizations which are member-controlled, grassroots self-help organizations of the rural poor, i.e. small-scale or landless farmers, fisherfolk, tribal groups, etc.
More recently, the 26th session of the FAO Conference in November 1991 also gave its unanimous approval to a Plan of Action for People's Participation in Rural Development which underlined the importance of participation as a key tool for achieving sustainable agricultural development.

A major step taken by FAO as part of the follow-up to WCARRD has been to work closely with NGOs that promote people's participation in rural development. In 1979, FAO began a long-term collaborative relationship with the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC), a network committed to promoting the WCARRD Principles and Programme of Action in the Asian region. Over the past 12 years, this partnership has resulted in improved organizational capabilities in ANGOC and its member organizations, as well as better links within the network. It has also helped to establish a meaningful dialogue on policy formulation and the planning of rural development programmes, involving governments, NGOs and people's organizations.

This monograph illustrates how ANGOC working in collaboration with FAO and other inter-governmental agencies, has developed a viable institutional framework that has promoted people's participation in sustainable rural development in Asia, as a result of ANGOC's collaboration with FAO and other intergovernmental agencies. While much of the data are drawn from experiences in the Philippines and neighboring countries, there is obvious scope for adaptation in other countries in Asia, or even in other regions.

The monograph aims to provide government policy makers, multilateral development agencies and NGO leaders with examples of innovative ways of furthering the participation of people in their own development. As the 21st century draws near and the world is still faced with the crippling problems of rural poverty and increasing pressure on natural resources, any strategy for sustainable rural development demands the involvement of people, particularly the vast poor majority, in the social, political and economic transformation needed to build a better life.

Methodology and Content

The first section of this monograph traces in brief form the evolution of collaboration between FAO and ANGOC in the promotion of the WCARRD Principles and Programme of Action in Asia.

The second section reviews experiences in government/NGO/PO collaboration in rural development in the Philippines and other Asian countries. Particular focus is given to the FAO Technical Cooperation Project entitled "Project Formulation for People's Participation in Rural Development Activities", implemented by ANGOC.

The last section presents major conclusions and recommendations for future collaboration among government, NGOs and donor organizations.

Data for this monograph have been obtained from publications, documents and reports of the various regional and national studies and project activities undertaken by ANGOC, particularly in partnership with FAO. A bibliography is included at the end.

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