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AFRO-NETS> Collective food for thought (add your own)
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> Collective food for thought (add your own)
- From: Claudio Schuftan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 16:45:51 -0500 (EST)
Collective food for thought (add your own)
Dear friends of the air,
I have been working on some aspects of sustainable development (SD),
particularly its attributes. I am a bit stuck with a few ideas I
think are a bit rigid. Can anybody help me with some fresh ideas?
Here it goes: Who can help me add more normative attributes to genu-
1. Sustainable development interventions in the latter part of the
nineteen nineties have to primarily be:
a) Civil society driven: emphasising the need for organised people to
rely more heavily on decision-making-information-support-systems in
an effort to establish an information culture among civil society or-
ganisations. As the old cliche goes: 'information is power'. (One
cannot overlook the fact that those who have power use information
mostly if and when it is in their own interest!).
b) Participatory: ultimately aiming at empowerment (that leads to
what some call 'pulling' interventions rather than 'pushing' them).
>From the start, empowerment has to deal squarely with such issues as
low household disposable income and purchasing power, un- / underem-
ployment, restricted access to the means of production, landlessness,
powerlessness and the discrimination against women. All of these re-
quire civil society to go beyond ethical pronouncements.
c) Guided by a scientific causal analysis: aimed at reaching a shared
perception/understanding of the different levels of causes of the
problem(s) being tackled - all brought together in an explicit 'Con-
ceptual Framework'. (For an example, see UNICEF Nutrition Strategy,
1990). Extensive interaction and training is needed to promote such a
shared conceptual framework of causes (the Asian NGOs Coalition Mani-
festo's 'political awakening'). The conceptual framework has to ulti-
mately help users to objectively determine the resources required and
those available to (concomitantly) solve the problem(s) at different
causal levels; an attempt to 'map' the control of those needed re-
sources then follows thus guiding a twin process of 'social and po-
litical mapping' that looks at specific resources and who controls
them, and at the existing correlation of political forces (and what
means they each have at their command) that needs to be shifted to
overcome the problem(s).
Further, interventions also have to be
d) Problem-identifying/action-oriented: prompting civil society to
use a cyclical grassroots Assessment/Analysis/Action approach (See
UNICEF Nutrition Strategy, 1990). Such AAA processes of decision-
making are carried out daily in concrete situations (as constrained
or facilitated by existing cultural, technical, economic and politi-
cal factors that make certain decisions possible or impossible). Ac-
tion planning in the Assessment/Analysis/Action process always uses
the conceptual framework and makes an objective analysis of resources
available and required to solve the problems identified at different
causal levels. As said, the focus of this resources analysis by civil
society organisations is on determining who, at present, controls
these needed resources, and on the local capabilities and effective
demand to launch local actions that mobilise those same resources.
e) Process-oriented: the organised process of carrying out iterative
cycles of Assessment, Analysis and Action is at least as important as
the action outcomes. There are no shortcuts; process takes time; out-
comes alone rarely mobilise people long enough. The AAA process also
importantly helps civil society organisations identify strategic al-
lies to work with ('who is with us?') and strategic opponents that
need to be neutralised to achieve sustainable development.
f) Implemented progressively: an early consent by and mobilisation of
the community is indispensable so as to start from where the members
of the civil society are, to slowly build the process on that solid
Finally, interventions have to be
g) Advocacy focused: as an important tactic to approach both social
and political power structures and/or individuals that hold control
over the needed resources.
2. FURTHER INGREDIENTS OF A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM ARE:
In our increasingly ecology-and-democracy-conscious world, the devel-
opment option called for by the new paradigm emphasises a strategy of
combining Service Delivery, Capacity Building, Advocacy, Social Mobi-
lisation and Empowerment. [Note that empowerment carries with it the
corresponding, unavoidable dis-empowering of current power holders
(including the gate-keepers of the current development paradigm!)].
Actually, there are those who think that given the fact that current
power holders have become so powerful and are so well connected among
themselves world-wide, civil society's social mobilisation and
empowerment alone may not be enough, may not happen fast enough and
should thus be considered a necessary, but not sufficient step. Here
is where the role of networking comes in.
In a sustainable development context, civil society's hands-on in-
volvement is to be understood both as a means and an outcome of
empowerment which ultimately leads to the civil society's much touted
ownership of interventions undertaken. Social mobilisation calls for
institution building at the grassroots, it calls for improving access
to services delivery for the poor and also calls for engaging in the
capacity building (training and consciousness raising) needed to em-
power beneficiaries technically, culturally, economically and politi-
cally (especially women). [The identification and promotion of 'ac-
tivities and processes that are really empowering' is not easy (nor
is it value neutral).
I have contributed elsewhere to this ill-defined grey area in an ef-
fort to sort out what is and what isn't empowering in each specific
context; when the same actions are empowering and when they are not;
and which empowerment strategy one can responsibly pursue and which
rather not, because it would bring about overt repression].
(See Schuftan, 1995)
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