Type of document: Paper / Document for wide distribution
Documents of reference
Borrini-Feyerabend Grazia, Pimbert Michel, Farvar M.Taghi, Kothari Ashish, Renard Yves et al, Sharing Power - Learning by Doing in Co-management of Natural Resources throughout the World, IIED, IUCN, CMWG, CEESP, 2004.
Strategy number 1 : Building upon synergy between the state and society
Public sector workers and “champions of change” within governments can help strengthen civil society and encourage more inclusive policy debates. In the Philippines, for example, it was the lobbying of radical civil servants along with organisations of professionals that led to the wide implementation of participatory irrigation management 1 (a model which has subsequently spread to other countries). In Mexico, reformist officials have helped consolidate small farmer marketing organisations2 and strengthen the role of community organisations in regional sustainable development policy3.
Civil society is likely to have a greater potential for influence when civil servants and progressive government officials introduce legislation guaranteeing the right to participation. The legal right to participation is a more empowered form of engagement than participation by invitation of governments, donors, or higher authorities. One area in which rights to participation are being embodied into law is that of local governance.63 A number of pathways have been used:
Joint approaches to planning. Civil society actors and government bodies work together in planning service delivery and environmental care (see Box 11.5).
Changing forms of accountability. Innovations have not only emphasised citizen involvement with local governments in planning, but also empowered citizen representatives to hold government to account for carrying out properly the functions of government (see Box 11.6).
Empowered forms of local direct participation in the governance of public affairs. While many approaches are looking for new relationships between citizens and elected representatives, others are creating forms of direct citizen participation through legal changes. Representative forms of governance are thus complemented by more empowered, direct involvement of citizens at the local level. Perhaps the most direct and effective example of the latter is the sharing of authority about budget allocation. In Porto Alegre and other municipalities of Brazil, neighbourhood meetings are used to do exactly that in a process called “participatory budgeting” (see Box 11.7).
Strengthened inclusive representation in locally-elected bodies. A pathway adopted by several countries has been legal change that promoted the inclusion of traditionally excluded populations in local councils (see Box 11.8).
All the above pathways are significant and positive innovations promoted by the state. Through legislation, they create new and stronger roles for civil society in relation to local governance. And yet, the extent to which the legislation itself opens new spaces for participation and citizen voice varies enormously, both according to the characteristics of the legal frameworks themselves, and the broader context of which they are a part. The actual implementation of these laws also varies, due to differences in understandings, power relations, citizens‘ awareness, etc. Moreover, state-society synergies are prone to the intermediation of party politics and, at times, corruption.
Strategy number 2 : Establish collaborations between local and external civil society actors
The most common pathway to strengthening civil society involves collaboration between local and external actors within civil society itself. Typically this involves local, community-based organisations and national NGOs, academics and researchers. In the Philippines, for example, scientists and non governmental organisations have collaborated with marginalised farmers to develop a farmer- led network of people‘s organisations working towards the sustainable management of biodiversity and local control over food systems (see Box 11.9).
There are indeed very many documented and anecdotal cases of such collaboration. The combined efforts of local and external civil society actors help to bring the concerns of marginalised and excluded people into policy processes from which they would otherwise be absent. A review of twelve federations of rural organisations whose primary concerns related to agricultural development and natural resource management suggests that the strongest organisations, those most able to project members‘ concerns in negotiations with government, donors and market actors, have each enjoyed an extended period of accompaniment from NGOs or religious leaders 4. In most cases these external actors were involved in the creation and strengthening of these civil society organisations. Similarly, the emergence of vocal farmer movements in India has often involved non-farmer sup- port or charismatic leadership from other parts of civil society5.
All these studies show, however, that how such collaboration occurs is critical. The most fruitful collaborations are those that involve intensive, sensitive and respectful support in which external actors accompany, advise, suggest systems, etc., over a long period. External actors do not intervene in local decision making, respecting and trusting local partners. For example, at the core of one of South America‘s most successful federation of cooperatives, El Ceibo, has been the longstanding provision of administrative and technical advice from certain volunteer services and donors 6. Likewise in Indonesia, the emancipatory values and enabling attitudes of external actors (trainers, NGO staff…) were key in facilitating citizen empowerment in Farmer Field Schools and in the wider peasant movement that now seeks to reclaim rights over land and other resources7.
Strategy number 3 : Support independent pathways from below
Strong and representative organisations can emerge from the bottom up. Local organisations with deep roots in traditional arrangements play various roles in local natural resource management and represent local voices to external agencies 8. In Sumatra, for instance, traditional adat (customary) village governance institutions which re-emerged after the New Order period have begun to deal with, among other things, tenure issues in the village and represent villager concerns to external actors (see box 10.11). The long lasting traditional basis of many such organisations gives them indisputable legitimacy (see Box 11.10). Yet, these organisations are not always internally democratic and gender inclusive. They can be dominated by leaders in whom tradition or history vests authority but such leaders may not espouse the equity gains recently brought about by historical processes and crystallised in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Old and new social movements provide a variety of examples of civil society organised to reclaim power from below. These include attempts to transform governance structures through political participation, face-to-face discussions, and empowered federations that include people from various local places. Some of these movements have ties with religious beliefs (such as the liberation theology movements of Latin America 9 or the Islamic Brotherhoods that acted as develop- ment agents in West Africa10), ethnic, caste or kinship associations, and gender or age-based groups11. Others are linked with cooperatives or even the management of natural resources, such as irrigation associations, fishers associations and all sorts of other mutual aid groups. Most typically, these movements include unions, born to uplift the conditions of workers with common interests and concerns and, today, indigenous peoples organisations active in national and international contexts.
Independent pathways from below raise many challenges and risks, as demonstrated by moments in history when citizens have experimented with new forms of direct democracy and confederated power 12. For instance in Spain, during the Civil War of 1936-1939, the peasants of Andalusia and Aragon established communal systems of land tenure, in some cases abolishing the use of money for internal transactions, setting up free systems of production and distribution, and creating a decision making procedure based on popular assemblies and direct, face to face democracy. A system of self-management for workers was set up in numerous cities, including Barcelona and Valencia. Factories, transport facilities, utilities, retail and wholesale enterprises were all taken over and administered by workers‘ committees and unions. Much can be learned from these experiments 13.
1 Blauert and Dietz, 2004.
2 Fox, 1990.
3 Blauert and Dietz, 2004.
4 Carroll and Bebbington, 2001.
5 Brass, 1995.
6 Bebbington, 1996.
7 Fakih, Rahardjo and Pimbert, 2003; see also Boxes 9.23 and 11.12.