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4. Lessons Learned and Suggestions for Entry Points, Participatory Mechanisms and Institutional Arrangements

On the basis of the preceding review of key issues and concrete experiences of participatory policy making, this section looks at steps that can be taken in the field to help identify possible entry points, participatory mechanisms and institutional arrangements for undertaking PPM initiatives.

Some overall key factors to be taken into consideration are:

4.1. Identifying areas for policy reform

A sustainable livelihoods approach can provide an understanding of the livelihood priorities of the poor, the policy sectors that are relevant to them, and whether or not appropriate policies exist in those sectors. Key questions that can help identify policy areas that require change in order to respond to the needs of the poor include:

Insights from the case studies

Hindu Kush - Himalayas: Many of the poor in these fragile mountainous areas depend on livestock for their livelihoods. Past livestock programmes, however, had failed to improve their livelihoods. Participatory case studies helped identify needed reform and the possibilities for change at local level.

Mozambique: The transition to a market economy brought with it the risk of privatization of land in the hands of a few and the loss of access to land by local farmers. Policy reform at national level was identified as a way to protect poor farmers’ access to land.

4.2. Identifying favourable external enabling environments

Scanning the external environment is a key step in determining possible entry points, participatory mechanisms and institutional arrangements for PPM. Areas that need to be analysed include:

4.2.1 The political context

"Depending on the context different strategies will be appropriate for engaging with policy processes. Different types of regimes can impose different constraints on what is achievable" (Keeley 2001: 10). Key questions are:

Insights from the case studies

Political commitment by the national governments played an important role in the experiences in Costa Rica, Kenya and Turkey. In all three cases the entry points for policy changes were development programmes and projects assisted by multi-lateral and bi-lateral development agencies. In Mozambique, the government took the initiative to institute policy reform and created mechanisms to influence policy through its structures and by requesting assistance from the FAO Legal Department.

In Brazil and Honduras, municipal level governments were committed to policy reform and created the political structures to influence policy.

The PRSP experiences ring a cautionary note: government commitment was conditioned by the obligation to develop a PRSP in order to avail of international loans. Tying the PRSP to the HIPC initiative resulted in hurried processes.

4.2.2 Governance

Good governance, i.e. functioning mechanisms, processes and institutions that make it possible for citizens and groups to articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences, are critical to an enabling environment for PPM. Bureaucracies are an element of governance that affect policy processes. When looking for spaces to influence policy, key questions to ask include:

Insights from the case studies

Cross-sectoral approaches appear to be particularly feasible in cross cutting areas such as environment and natural resource management (NRM), land rights, and gender. The existence of gender focal points in different ministries and government agencies facilitates taking a cross-sectoral approach in efforts to influence gender-related policy. Environmental, NRM and land policy are often the province of several ministries and government agencies.

Different agencies dealing with the same issue could create bottlenecks for reform if they do not cooperate. However, an openness to cooperate across sectors can be a positive factor in enabling change. This is borne out by the cases in Costa Rica, Kenya and Mozambique, all of which established multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral mechanisms for policy reform.

4.2.3 Windows of opportunity for change

Political, economic and social environments are dynamic. A change in government, a transition to a market economy, changing patterns in social relationships, the introduction of new technologies, the failure of past policy or programmes, a conflict or a peace agreement, whether gradual or sudden, can all offer possibilities to engage in PPM. It is important to be alert to these opportunities.

Insights from the case studies

Several of the experiences in the case studies were made possible by changes in the political, economic and social environments. In Mali, a change of government provided an opportunity which the National Union of Cotton and Food Crop Producers seized to demand changes in production and marketing policy. In Porto Alegre, Brazil, it was the coming into power of the Workers’ Party that enabled the municipal government to initiate participatory budgeting. The transition to a market economy in Mozambique was the impetus for land policy reform. And in Mexico, the failure of a large-scale agro-industrial project caused the government to take a more participatory approach.

4.2.4 Civil society

An active civil society contributes to a favourable enabling environment. "Civil society in almost every country harbours some experience of participatory processes for policy change which will be a draw on....Where these experiences are little known or have taken place at local rather than macro level, international and national NGOs may be able to identifying the relevant people and processes...The step must go wider than documentation, since most of such experience is not documented" (McGee with Norton 2000:52).

An initial step is to identify which civil society groups and organizations could support and facilitate the participatory policy making of the rural poor (e.g. INGOs, NGOs, unions, religious organizations, research institutions). Key questions include:

Insights from the case studies

The development of a participatory policy framework for empowering the local community in livestock resource planning and decision making was greatly facilitated by the existence of INGOs in the area with considerable development experience and expertise; and projects and NGOs working at the grassroots level in the area, using participatory approaches. These actors played critical roles in supporting the participation of the poor in the process.

In many countries NGOs that work with the rural poor possess extensive knowledge of local conditions, promote participation by the poor in the development process and engage the poor in capacity building activities. However, given the wide range of NGOs in many countries, it is necessary to set criteria for choosing those that could help promote the participation of the poor in policy making. The following criteria set by IFAD for cooperative relations with NGOs could be utilized (IFAD 2001):

In addition, the following should be considered:

4.3. Identifying participatory mechanisms and institutional arrangements

Scanning the environment for enabling factors sets the basis for identifying participatory mechanisms and the institutional arrangements that could be utilized in PPM. It is also useful to examine those employed in existing experiences in PPM and the lessons learned.

There are no universally applicable participatory mechanisms or institutional arrangements. Steps for identifying useful mechanisms and arrangements include: examining the existing political context, governance institutions, and civil society organizations; reviewing participatory mechanisms and institutional arrangements that have been used in past; and analysing their strengths, weaknesses, effectiveness, and appropriateness.

The case studies presented in this paper utilized a wide variety of mechanisms and institutional arrangements. These provide useful insights for other efforts.

The experiences that used development projects as entry points (Kenya, Hindu-Kush - Himalayas, Turkey, Costa Rica and Mexico) each planned out step-by-step processes and worked through relevant organizations and institutional arrangements.

The Kenyan experience of scaling up participatory extension was carried out in methodological steps over a number of years, beginning with the assessment of conventional extension delivery, moving to pilot projects to develop participatory extension methods, and scaling up to incorporating the experiences of these projects into national extension policy.

The experience of introducing a gender approach in the mixed farming and environmental sectors in Costa Rica also followed a three step process, including capacity building for technical and administrative personnel and farmers on gender issues; institutional strengthening and formation of women’s organizations; and multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder consultations.

Both of these efforts involved multi-agency discussions and planning and a wide variety of participatory mechanisms. Capacity building for both the local populations and the government and project staff was considered critical for the success of efforts.

In Kenya, not all the participatory methods were equally successful. Open public meetings were too large and attracted less active members of the community. As a result, attendance was inconsistent and it was not possible to allocate and follow up responsibilities. Community feedback was better when channelled through village elders and leaders of organized groups. However, it is necessary to ensure that consideration is given to gender issues in community representation.

The experience of developing a national forestry programme in Turkey also involved several government ministries and participatory mechanisms, in particular a survey to gather the inputs of farmers. This mechanism could have been more effective if training had been given to facilitators not only in participatory approaches, but on the NFP process and its implications as well, and to stakeholders on how to negotiate their interests.

The Hindu-Kush - Himalayas initiative to develop a participatory policy framework involved a different set of processes and arrangements. Key partners included INGOs and research institutes with expertise and experience in NRM and livestock in the region, along with the livestock farmers and government agencies. The participatory development of the framework was prepared through review studies, country papers and case studies and carried out through multi-stakeholder workshops.

Multi-stakeholder consultations were also an important mechanism in developing a new land policy in Mozambique. Because of the nature of the policy reform, arrangements involved legal institutions, cross-sectoral participation of government ministries through an Inter-Ministerial Land Commission and consultations with stakeholders at local, regional and national levels.

4.4. Identifying constraints

Identifying constraints to policy reform is also important in order find ways to avoid or overcome possible obstacles. Negative answers to some of the questions listed in section 4.2 on identifying favourable external environments may reveal constraints, e.g. lack of political commitment to reform, lack of effective decentralization, poorly functioning governance mechanisms, unresponsive bureaucracies, weak civil society, lack of trust, lack of capacity in NGOs.

Another set of questions deals with power relations. Since policy modifications may alter the balance of power relations; those who stand to lose are likely to resist attempts to influence policy. Policy change may also challenge traditional or ingrained attitudes and ways of doing things. In this regard key questions are:

Insights from the case studies

In Brazil, a critical factor in the success of the participatory budgeting initiative was the ability of the municipal governing party to gain the support of the middle class. To do this the party had to deal with internal conflicting trends, with one faction favouring the inclusion of only community organizations in the budgeting process. Once in power, however, the party decided to govern not just for the poor, but for all urban residents.

Ingrained attitudes and practices among extension staff in Kenya were deemed a threat to the sustainability of changes in extension policy and methods. To overcome this risk, intensive staff training was planned for the first two years of implementing the new policy and methods.

Projects that attempt to make structural changes require a long period to mature and change long-ingrained attitudes. In Costa Rica, deeply rooted gender stereotypes provoked discomfort and defensiveness in some people when dealing with formulations regarding discrimination against women. Awareness building and gender training might help overcome this.

Constraints can also take the form of the lack of capacity to implement policy, weak legal frameworks and institutions and lack of financial resources. Questions need to be raised about each of these.

Policy made at a sub-national or local level may encounter roadblocks in the implementation stage if fiscal control remains at the national level and if other sources of funds are not available. This has occurred where decentralization of decision making is not accompanied by a similar decentralization of financial resources. If the communities involved were able to provide some of the funds for implementing local policy, this would increase the possibilities of sustainable implementation.

Insights from the case studies

In Mozambique a number of constraints were identified that could hinder the implementation of the new land policy and law. Consequently, a number of concrete steps were planned to overcome these obstacles, including:

  • widespread information dissemination about the new land policy and law;

  • capacity building for those charged with overseeing implementation;

  • and a strengthened judicial system.

The successful implementation of the territorial planning initiative in Honduras was due in part to the ability of the municipality to raise and spend money through taxation. The willingness of the local population to pay the taxes necessary for the provision of services is expected to continue as long as the quality of services received in return is satisfactory and relevant to farmers’ needs.

In Kenya, community experience in planning and budgeting helped the local population to take up these responsibilities when extension service funding declined.

Once constraints are identified, judgements need to be made as to whether policy change in a given area is feasible, whether there are alternative avenues to influence policy, or whether there are ways to overcome constraints. If proposed policy changes offer benefits to the non-poor as well as the poor and when powerful groups also stand to gain, PPM has a greater chance to succeed. Plans can also be made to overcome constraints through capacity building, training, awareness campaigns, and ensuring finances for implementation.

Important steps to overcoming constraints on policy reform are, thus:

4.5. Identifying the key participants in PPM and their assets

A sustainable livelihoods approach can help identify the key groups and organizations of the rural poor that should participate in PPM and provide an understanding of their capital assets that enable them to participate. In this regard, key questions include:

Insights from the case studies

In the Hindu-Kush - Himalayas experience, a key step in the process was identifying the stakeholders and the assets and skills they could contribute to developing the participatory policy framework. As a result, participants included livestock farmers, livestock input and output agents, and NGOs involved in planning and implementation of livestock projects in the region. The initiative was able to draw on the skills developed by NGOs working at the grassroots level in the area, using participatory approaches and by a number of successful small-scale livestock enterprises, in which women played a key role.

In certain cases, the stakeholders who should participate may appear obvious; e.g. if policy reform is needed to improve the livelihoods of small farmers, then organizations of small farmers must be involved. However, it is still important to examine the dynamics and representivity of these organizations. Are women and marginalized groups adequately represented at decision making levels, for instance? A too cursory or hurried stakeholder analysis may lead to the exclusion of people who should participate.

Insights from the case studies

In spite of intentions and efforts to build participation into the PRSP process, there was inadequate participation of the poor in many instances. In Bolivia, participation of indigenous people and women was particularly weak. And while attention was given to class, age and gender of participants in Rwanda, few rural people were included in the process.

4.6. Creating an internal enabling environment

Creating an internal enabling environment is crucial to the success of PPM. Elements of an environment that enable effective participation of the rural poor in policy making include:

An important step in identifying the possibility for PPM is to gauge the extent of the capacity that exists in the above areas and to analyse what skills and capacity building are needed. Where an enabling environment does not exist or is weak, it can be created or strengthened through capacity building and efforts to empower the rural poor. An assessment should be made of the strengths and weaknesses of local populations in these areas, which need to be strengthened, what methods could be employed to strengthen these (e.g. workshops, training sessions) and who could facilitate capacity building (e.g. NGOs, experts, other local groups).

There is no step-by-step methodology for creating an enabling environment that can be applied. However, insights can be gained from the experiences in the case studies, nearly all of which included elements of creating an enabling environment. In some many cases, this was crucial for the success of the process.

Insights from case studies

Building strong peoples’ organizations:

A critical factor in the successful efforts of farmers in Mali to influence policy was the long process of capacity building and empowerment of village associations in the country. Over the years, several different development projects and programmes engaged in capacity building with these associations. The producers’ union that emerged had the power to negotiate successfully with government agencies. Strengthening women farmers and their organizations was built into the process of introducing a gender approach in the mixed farming and environmental sectors in Costa Rica. One of the three components of the project was institutional strengthening and formation of women’s organizations at the grassroots and regional level, and capacity building in the use of communication media to promote participation and equality.

Building and using communication skills:

The rural communication system in Mexico succeeded in bringing the voices and views of farmers and their communities to the programme’s technical staff, institutions, planners and policymakers. Participatory communication became part of the policy development and extension methodologies. A communication system was established consisting of a central unit and a network of several local units capable of implementing communication campaigns. About 800 000 farmers were trained and communication activities were undertaken to support farmers’ organizations and their capacity to implement local development plans. In addition, more than 700 videos were produced on a wide range of agricultural and rural development issues and were used for:

  • promoting discussion and debate among rural communities;

  • capacity building of farmers and staff; and

  • informing planners, policy makers and institutions about the ongoing situation of the project.

Provision of information needed for informed participation:

In Mozambique, the land policy reform benefited from a strong civil society movement, the Campanha Terra (Land Campaign), that included a coalition of 150 civil rights organizations, farmers’ associations, women’s movements, church groups, trade unions, and academics. The coalition stimulated civil society participation through: information dissemination, using a wide variety of media, including seminars, farmers’ workshops, posters, pamphlets, comic books, theatre, radio, audio cassettes and video; and NGO-led debate in rural communities and channelling of feedback to the Inter-Ministerial Land Commission.

4.7. Monitoring and evaluating participation in policy making

Monitoring and evaluating the quality of participation in policy making will enable PPM efforts to learn lessons and make adjustments to improve the participation of the poor in the process and enhance future efforts.

Some benchmarks for measuring quality participation are:

Some measures of quality in participation in policy work are:

4.8. Feedback needed from the field on possible ways to operationalize PPM in FAO Member Countries

To assist in the identification of possibilities for operationalizing PPM processes in FAO member countries, it would be helpful to receive feedback on:

Reference should be made to the specific questions listed in section four of this paper, keeping in mind that the relevance of the questions may vary according to particular circumstances.

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