High Level Panel engages with the Participate Initiative in Monrovia

1 February 2013

The UN High Level Panel met this week in Monrovia, Liberia, to hold ongoing debates on the "post-2015" development agenda.

Co-chaired by Liberian Presient, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the panel was presented with early research findings from Participate, an initiative by the Institute of Development Studies and Beyond 2015 providing high quality evidence on the reality of poverty, at ground level.  

 Children participate in a monthly meeting of the disaster management project run by Plan Bangladesh. They discuss and devise long term initiatives to safeguard themselves, their families, their property and their environment in the Dawabari river bed area. 'Chars' such as this - islands that are periodically submerged by the country's mighty rivers - are home to over five million people in Bangladesh. Life for the char dwellers is hazardous and uncertain. Flooding is common, as is loss of land and erosion, making it a struggle to grow enough food, and meaning families often need to relocate. Credit: G.M.B Akash/Panos

The Participate intiative ran a 90-minute interactive workshop session with members of the High Level Panel (HLP) and their advisors, exploring key recommendations from those who are living in poverty and who are most marginalised.

Panel members engaged with the perspectives of those in poverty via:

These generated lively debate amongst panel members and their advisors as they tackled questions posed by Participate, around the implications of the key messages for international development and national economic transformation, and how they could translate these into principles and guidelines that could be built explicitly into the High Level Panel reports that will inform a post-2015 framework for development.

The case studies provided illustrative examples for the panel members to discuss the complex realities of people living in poverty and their experiences of development assistance. They looked at some of the reasons for why programmes have failed in the past, and what key lessons can be learnt from these mistakes, so that a new development framework reflects the real needs of those living in extreme poverty and marginalisation.

Key messages resonated with some of the panel members' and advisors' own understanding of the complexity of poverty and the failings of some development interventions. The implications of these messages were further reinforced with stories recounted by members of Participate's Participatory Research Group (PRG) in the group exercise.

Discussions centred around the message that development programmes are too often top-down interventions, based on simple cause-effect assumptions that fail to respond to the everyday realities of those in poverty, and only serve to reinforce long-term dependencies and an increased sense of powerlessness. They recognised that extreme poverty is characterised by difficult trade-offs and impossible choices that make the benefits of mainstream development inaccessible for the very poor. The panel reflected on the need to engage much more with power, social norms, customs,
attitudes and behaviours, and that building relationships and greater participation of local communities, would contribute to more sustainable development.

One of the session facilitators, Mwangi Waituru from The Seed Institute, Kenya, said "The voices of people living in extreme vulnerability and poverty must be heard to ensure that a future framework reflects their priorities. Participate have been able to provide HLP members with unique insights from people living in poverty and press home the importance of a post-2015 framework which is truly participatory and inclusive."

Read the Participate blog or follow Partcipate on Twitter.


More on the synthesis report

The early findings are part of a synthesis of recent participatory research programmes
from over 57 countries, which drew on seven global studies carried out by the Listening Project, Reflect, PPP (People's Perspectives on Peace-Making), Stepping Stones, ATD 4th World, Children in a Changing Climate and CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation). The final synthesis report will be ready for the High Level Panel in Bali in March 2013.