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1. Introduction, Background and Methodology

An underlying assumption of the LSP Sub-Programme 3.2 on policy reform is that a more active involvement of the rural poor in policy making, either directly or through community-based and civil society organizations, would enhance their access to assets and services and benefit their livelihood and food security goals.

Policies have considerable impact on people's livelihoods. They influence the access people have to livelihoods assets and the strategic possibilities for employing these assets to reach favourable livelihood outcomes.

However, policies developed at central level are often not responsive to the policy needs at local level and, therefore, not conducive to local livelihood strategies. Local populations, especially poor and marginalized groups, have often a very weak or only indirect influence on the policy framework affecting their livelihoods.

This existing gap between micro-level actions and macro-level policy making oftentimes results in policies and institutions that do not enable appropriate access of the rural poor to assets and services they require to improve their livelihoods and food security situation.

The LSP Sub-Programme 3.2 aims to contribute to bridging this gap through the development and application of tested strategies and institutional mechanisms to support the participation of the rural poor in policy making. This would facilitate the generation of policy frameworks to reduce poor people's vulnerability and enable their access to the assets and services they require to pursue more sustainable livelihoods.

This overview of the current thinking on and experiences in supporting participatory policy reform is intended to assist the Sub-programme 3.2 to pursue these objectives.

The preparation of this paper involved an extensive literature review of more than one hundred documents relating, directly or indirectly, to participatory policy making. The bibliography lists these documents. The paper also benefited from the input of members of the Sub-programme 3.2 and others. Requests for inputs were extended to fifty-three FAO technical officers, two IFAD technical officers and one consultant. Thirty-six responses were received and interviews were held with 22 of those who responded. Meetings of the sub-programme 3.2 members provided feedback on the outline and draft of the paper.[1]

[1] Special thanks go to John Rouse, SDAR, who supervised and coordinated this effort, with the assistance of Diego Colatei, TCAS, and Jorieke Potters, FONP.

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