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Ever since the People Power revolution, the Philippine government has valued people’s participation in national development. The 1987 Constitution explicitly declares the State’s support for the developmental roles of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) as well as their right to participate in public development efforts.

The 1986 Policy Agenda for People-Powered Development outlined the general strategy of the Aquino administration for instituting structural reforms. Some of its salient features are: 1) decentralization of government structures and minimum government intervention; 2) an expanded role for the private sector as the prime engine for sustained growth; and 3) greater involvement of the people in the decisionmaking, planning, and implementation of programs.

Agencies under the United Nations have also called for greater NGO participation. UNDP’s Partners-in-Development Program has provided financing for NGO projects. ESCAP encourages government organization (GO)-NGO partnerships in its 1992 Work Plan. Since 1979, FAO has intensively promoted people’s participation in rural development programs. In its Human Development Report for 1990, UNDP also declared that NGO involvement is crucial to the success of any human development strategy.

Since 1986, both government and NGOs have undertaken initiatives to strengthen collaborative efforts. Government line agencies have attempted to promote collaboration with NGOs by:

· creating GO-NGO consultative mechanisms;

· assigning in-house liaison offices or desks specifically for dealing with NGOs and people’s organizations (POs); and

· designing special community assistance programs involving NGO/PO for local projects.

In March 1989, UNDP, FAO, and the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) jointly convened the National Workshop on NGO Involvement in Grassroots Development. The meeting reviewed the state of GO-NGO relations and assessed NGO involvement in six sectors - 1) population and health, 2) urban poor development, 3) cooperatives and self-help groups, 4) small-scale fisheries, 5) community forestry and environment, and 6) agrarian reform and rural development. A major conclusion of this Workshop was, though areas for GO-NGO collaboration were identified, the means to operationalize joint programs were not in place.

In February 1990, a FAO/Technical Cooperation Project entitled “Project Formulation for People’s Participation in Rural Development Activities” was conceived and implemented by a Project Team composed of four representatives from the government and four from the NGO sector.

The participating government agencies were the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). The NGOs were represented by the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC), the Cooperative Union of the Philippines (CUP), the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), and the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PHILDHRRA).

The government agencies were represented by top-level officials who were in charge of policymaking, planning, and/or foreign-assisted projects in their respective agencies. This ensured full and active support and gave the much needed political will to follow through with the projects conceived.

On the other hand, the participating NGOs have direct involvement and the cumulative experience in the areas of agriculture, agrarian reform, natural resources management, and rural development They also have ongoing relationships with the participating government agencies.

The Project Team was tasked to: 1) undertake an assessment of the policies, procedures, and mechanisms relating to collaboration of the participating government agencies with NGOs; and 2) develop a proposed framework and mechanism to enable NGOs and POs to participate in the entire project cycle of government development programs mainly in agriculture, rural development, and agrarian reform.

The framework and mechanism for people’s participation in rural development activities aim to systematically operationalize GO-NGO-PO partnership. It is an attempt to set into motion practical working arrangements at the local, provincial, regional, and national levels that will enhance a healthy and closer relationship among GOs, NGOs, and POs in project formulation, development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

The framework and mechanism are envisioned to guide both GOs and NGOs in relating with POs and with one another in the pursuit of rural development initiatives. Items embodied in the framework are mostly based on perspectives, experiences, and lessons from past GO-NGO-PO collaboration efforts.

Given the wide-reaching potential benefits of the project, the Project Team organized a National Workshop on 7-9 November 1990, with the following objectives:

1. To bring together key representatives of GOs, NGOs, POs, UNDP, and FAO to discuss jointly GO-NGO-PO collaboration in rural development projects.

2. To discuss and adopt the framework and mechanism on project formulation for people’s participation in rural development activities in the Philippines.

3. To discuss the framework and mechanism within the context of each participating government agency to identify working arrangements and follow-up activities that will enhance closer collaboration between NGOs and the government agencies concerned.

4. To share the workshop results with other government and international agencies. NGOs, and POs.

This publication is a summary report of the discussions and assessment studies presented at this national Workshop. At best, it reflects a pioneering effort to systematize NGO/PO partnerships with a new government brought to fore by people’s power.

It is hoped that the discussions initiated here can ultimately lead to the formulation of a Magna Carta for GO-NGO-PO collaboration.

It is also expected that based on the said framework and mechanism, each participating government agency can formulate its own working relationship with NGOs and POs, bearing in mind its mandate, capacities, and resources.

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