Check out the CIVICUS dossier on Citizenshift where you can find the first video made at the Youth and World assemblies last August! More videos to be uploaded soon…
Check out the CIVICUS dossier on Citizenshift where you can find the first video made at the Youth and World assemblies last August! More videos to be uploaded soon…
You can still watch online all the plenaries of the 9th CIVICUS Assembly!
Contributed by NICHOLAS BENEQUISTA
Supporters of bottom-up policy approaches to development have been bolstered by a recent study that identified a range of positive outcomes – many hitherto unrecognised – that result when citizens get involved in the institutions that affect their lives.
The study, from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC) at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), has been well received by policy makers at a time when international donor agencies are under increased pressure to justify their budgets to the public.
At a gathering earlier this month organised by Oxfam, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: ‘To the British taxpayer I say this, our aim is to spend every penny of every pound of your money wisely and well. We want to squeeze every last ounce of value from it.’
Linking ‘outcomes’ to engagement
This environment places a new onus on researchers. Despite 20 years’ experience of development policies focusing on issues of inclusion, participation through collective action and building democratic institutions with a sense of obligation to protect and promote rights, rigorous research in support of the link between citizen engagement in policy making and developmental outcomes has remained patchy.
Now, evidence from the Citizenship DRC, which has worked with universities, research institutes and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in nearly 20 countries to explore new ways in which citizens are shaping states and societies, helps fill this knowledge gap.
In a recent synthesis study, ‘So What Difference Does It Make? Mapping the Outcomes of Citizen Engagement’, Citizenship DRC researchers reviewed the results of 100 original, qualitative case studies, largely from the developing world. Using a meta case study approach, the researchers coded over 800 ‘outcomes’ linked to various forms of citizen engagement. An Executive Summary of ‘So What Difference Does It Make’ is also available.
Benefits accumulate over time
It was found that, overall, 75 per cent of the outcomes recorded can be classified as ‘positive’, though many of these beneficial effects are ignored by the broad targets set by donors and other international actors. In this sense, the research supports an Overseas Development Institute (ODI) evaluation which reviewed 90 donor interventions and case studies .
According to Max Everest-Phillips, Senior Governance Adviser at the UK Department for International Development, which funds the programme, ‘This research is highly policy relevant and topical for DFID and all the donor community. It demonstrates conclusively that active citizenship is important for building effective states and other development outcomes. Indeed, a central theme emerging from all DFID-funded research programmes is that the impact of citizen engagement on building capable, responsive and accountable states is more important that previously thought.’
The Citizenship DRC paper describes some intermediate outcomes from people’s political activity, including the discovery that benefits can accumulate over time. For instance, one result of citizen engagement is that it strengthens people’s knowledge and awareness, or what may be called their sense of citizenship. In turn, this can be seen to bolster the efficacy of participation as citizens learn skills such as how to file complaints and organise meetings. In other words, citizen engagement may not succeed at reducing poverty at first, but over time it can create the conditions for its own success.
The shadowy side of citizen engagement
Still, the research also warns that in some cases citizen involvement can lead to a sense of disempowerment and a reduced sense of agency, and participation can be perceived as meaningless, tokenistic, or manipulated. New skills and alliances can also generate complications with accountability and representation, serving corrupt or discriminatory ends, or allowing for elite capture.
The fact, however, that the vast majority of the outcomes found in the studies are positive provides strong evidence on the contribution of citizen engagements for achieving development goals, building responsive and accountable states, and realising rights and democracy.
For donors and policy makers, therefore, the core question is not whether citizen engagement makes a difference, but how to understand the conditions and pathways under which it does so.
 Rocha Menocal, A. and B. Sharma (2008) ‘Joint Evaluation of Citizens’ Voice and Accountability: Synthesis Report’, London: Department for International Development.
Contributed by MINA AKRAMI
Imagine the only water you can access is contaminated. Imagine having a choice between going thirsty and drinking water from a dirty water canal. For an estimated 900 million people worldwide lack of access to clean water and for 2.6 million people lack of access to basic sanitation is a reality. In a historic vote, the United Nations General declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right.
Access to clean water and basic sanitation can alleviate the lives of the world’s poorest in several ways. According a U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs report, access to water is essential in rural areas, where it is the cornerstone of food security. In a recent op-ed article for the New York Times, Mikhail Gorbachev argued that access to water and sanitation benefits the world economy. Gorbachev notes, “a $20 million investment in low-cost water technologies could help 100 million farming families escape extreme poverty”.
It is also worth nothing that the working population of an economy suffering from water-borne diseases due to lack of access to clean water detracts from that economy’s potential to achieve better living standards and alleviate poverty. Furthermore, access to clean water would reduce the stresses to the healthcare systems due water-borne diseases. With half of the world’s hospital bed’s occupied by patients suffering from water-borne diseases, it becomes why access to clean water is important for the economy.
However, it is debatable whether making access to clean water a human right has served as a push towards the achievement of access to clean water for the world’s poorest. In her blog, Elizabeth Dickinson, an editor at Foreign Policy, argues that declaring water a human right is not “a good idea” if the U.N. wants to improve access to clean water. Providing examples of Chile, Britain, and Australia, Dickinson argues that putting a price tag on water has a better chance than declaring it a human right in improving access to clean water. Dickinson notes that pricing water encourages conservation while considering water a right does not impose limits on its overuse as it happens in countries such as the United States, where water has a low price. Dickinson also believes that when water is priced, private companies have a further incentive to provide water to more consumers. However, if private companies do not have significant incentive, for example, to provide access to medicine to the world’s poorest regions, why would they have an incentive to provide clean water? Furthermore, if the price of water increases would not the world’s poorest countries [most of the countries that lack access to clean water] come under further economic stress?
Thus, does making water a human right detract or help achieve access to clean water? What is your opinion?
Contributed by DEVENDRA TAK
The Every Human Has Rights (EHHR) campaign is an integral part of the CIVICUS 9th World Assembly being held at Montreal, Canada, from 20 – 23 August 2010. The event is, in fact, the perfect platform to get new partners involved with the campaign and to garner support for the big activity planned for Human Rights Day in December this year.
EHHR believes that human rights must be placed at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and our fight against poverty. In this crucial review year for the MDGs, an EHHR workshop at the CIVICUS 9th World Assembly will bring human rights and poverty together, addressing the key issue: how do we use human rights to accelerate towards the MDGs and more importantly eradicating poverty? This workshop, being conducted jointly by EHHR and Amnesty International will explore what messages can be delivered to the UN MDG Summit this September in New York and how civil society might work together this year and beyond. People will be asked to write messages of support and comments for the core ask: “Put human rights at the heart of the MDGs”. Delegates to the CIVICUS 9th World Assembly will be asked in the opening ceremony to put messages across the event days on one of a number of giant heart-branded banners, which will then presented at the closing ceremony and further taken to the UN MDG Summit. The messages will be presented to the UN in a couple of ways – Salil Shetty at Amnesty will take messages in a suitcase that will be used for publicity work; Ingrid Srinatth and other CIVICUS staff travelling to the Summit would take banner and / or messages – which will be used in a public event being planned by Global Call for Action Against Poverty (GCAP).
EHHR this year on Human Rights Day is planning a global activity. The campaign will be asking humans all over the world to walk barefoot around the block at 12 pm on 10 December for human rights. This will be an awareness raising campaign to drive empathy with people living in poverty who do not have access to the Universal Rights that we all should. People will be asked to submit their walks on Youtube galleries, which will be supported by a social media campaign on Twitter and to spread the message. EHHR will be asking support from high profile people to generate news and global interest. While Human Rights Day might be known in the development sector and NGO circles, it’s not something that the average person on the street engages with – that’s what we want to change.
You can participate in many ways even if you are not physically present at Montreal for the CIVICUS 9th World Assembly. For more information on Every Human Has Rights and how you can contribute, please contact Rashmi Mistry (email@example.com). For media queries about the CIVICUS 9th World Assembly please contact Devendra Tak (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Contribution by CHRISTOFOROS PAVLAKIS
My name is Christoforos and I am a Petro-Holic, a Carbo Holic.
My last fill up was 5 gallons three days ago. My last plane flight was 48 hours ago for 750 miles. And, my last light switch turning on was 2 hours ago.
My name is Christoforos and I am Energy Illiterate.
I cannot stand here and tell you the power measurement difference between a BtU and a KwH, or the carbon footprint of the newspaper that I read this morning. Even though I have been following the current debate on energy issues for the past four years.
My name is Christoforos and I suffer from Short-Termism.
When I go to fulfill my shopping needs, my eyes, like those of most fellow Western citizens, gravitate to the “bargain” of 99 cents. When I see an incandescent bulb for 25 cents sitting next to a compact fluorescent bulb for two Euro & 50 cents, even though I know better, my natural inclination is to grab that incandescent which “costs” ninety percent less. That is, it costs less to buy even though it costs far more to own. I know better, but they get the better of me,
My name is Christoforos and I’m not alone. 500 m Europeans share my affiliations.
You … I … We face a very serious challenge. In fact, just that is indicative of the problem as we do not face a challenge but an interacting set of challenges.
We are facing a Perfect Storm of, at least, the interaction of Fiscal Crisis, Peak Oil, and Global Warming. We can find solutions to each of these but “the” solution to one might aggravate or inhibit solving others. We must work to find a systems-of-systems solution set that will help us, all of us around the globe, navigate this Perfect Storm to a Prosperous, Climate-Friendly Society.
To deal with this set of challenges, we must determine a path toward functional energy literacy for all decision-makers on energy issues – which means all of us.
To deal with this set of challenges, we must find a path to change human nature of discounting the future in favor of the present and to end our borrowing from tomorrow to live today.
To deal with this set of challenges, we must find ways to move beyond stove-piped, single-point solution thinking to striving to understand systems-of-systems interactions and implications.
To deal with this set of challenges, we must change ourselves and our society. And we must do this now. Our survival depends on it. Almost every day, there are new revelations and data highlighting the seriousness of our situation when it comes to global finance, energy, and global warming.
Almost every day, there are seemingly magical announcements of some form of technological Silver Bullet that, hold your breath, will solve all our problems. Let us be clear, however, that there is no such thing as a single technological Silver Bullet when it comes to these challenges. If we are going to navigate a path forward, it will be with joint efforts, each contributing in some way to moving us forward to a more sensible and sustainable future.
Some of these steps will be technological. Some will be policy driven. Some will derived from financial opportunities. There are many paths that will deliver. But, we will not succeed if we do not have social change.
And, when it comes to the social change necessary for navigating this perfect storm, we are speaking of a societal change easily of the same degrees of complexity and, in many ways, much more difficult. And, the terrifying realities of Climate Change and implications of Peak Oil we have no time to waste.
Youth 2.0, Greece
Contributed by ROWENA McNAUGHTON
THE abandonment of a meaningful energy and climate legislation by the United States Senate this week exemplifies the farcical state that climate justice has fallen to. It also – frustratingly – focuses again on the familiar questions around whether we are serious about tackling climate change and who should take responsibility?
It would be wrong to pass the buck onto our younger generation, or any generation for that matter, after the world’s leaders – in their attendance at Copenhagen summit in March this year – agreed action is needed. But the signals at the moment from world leaders are badly mixed.
It was only a matter of weeks ago that the United States President Obama spoke out about the need for a “serious” climate bill to address the “very real” danger of global warming Yet, with not even a murmur from the White House, the US Senate majority leader Harry Reid – a long time campaigner for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions – in one foul sweep buried any chance of getting any reasonable carbon reduction scheme up and running by abandoning the fight for the country’s first energy and climate legislation.
In many ways, this about face is indicative of the slipping importance climate justice is having in several political spheres. By this I mean the agreement that 73 countries gave when they signed up to the non-binding Copenhagen Accord — which now seems even more limp than when the announcement was made with the little action that has followed.
But while many of the cynics within us will use this plunge into “environment blindness” to remind us of the disappointment Copenhagen ended up being, a summit Lord Stern himself admitted was “wearing, tiring and disappointing”, it is not time for regression. Like his constituents, President Obama has talked a good talk when it comes to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Right up until the bill he kept up the rhetoric about his pledge to reduce United States greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent.
So what has changed? Why has climate justice momentum halted? Despite a handful of loud and arguably obscure papers from little known academic institutes voicing their arguments against global warming, the science community is in agreement that we can curb the danger of global arming. The suggestion is if we hold the average global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius (3.6F) since pre-industrial times, we have a chance of surviving more or less intact.
The big idea from this was that government’s work together to create a system that would make consumers – big and small – accountable for energy use and encourage sustainable practices. The issue is that no-one takes on a costly solution if they don’t believe they are the problem.
The Copenhagen summit was not successful in establishing responsibility for climate justice. Governments acknowledged that there was a global problem and made gestures to do something, but with the failure to agree to supplant or supplement the Kyoto Protocol, it’s easy to walk away. Making any real inroads in the fight against global warming consists of two things – action and unification. The very fact that the world’s leaders were at Copenhagen is evidence that climate justice can become the agenda. But it is not going to stay on it if justification and support is not given. Governments – at their core- should be responding to the concerns of its populace.
Let’s use the coming together of civil society at the CIVICUS 9th World Assembly to create attainable mechanisms to get climate justices back on the agenda.
Every year, the CIVICUS World Assembly offers about fifty activities grouped around the overall theme, an annual focus theme and sub-themes. The activities comprise plenary sessions, round tables, workshops, networking sessions and formal events.
This year’s themes are the following:
Economic Justice is an ideal of social order based on equity and solidarity values. It can be reached through wealth distribution and work opportunities for all. The ultimate purpose of Economic Justice is to respond to each person’s right to engage in the unlimited work beyond economics and in other spheres of human life.
Development Aid Effectiveness
Aid Effectiveness is the degree to which the aid provided by developed countries to the developing ones is successful in fighting poverty and advancing social and economic conditions. Aid Effectiveness frames the debate on how governments and civil society must coordinate their actions to contribute ever more effectively to the broader development of the most vulnerable communities, in line with their demands, and in a sustainable and accountable manner.
Climate Justice means ensuring that people everywhere are safe from danger and free from suffering due to climate change. Climate Justice requires that we review the traditional agro-industrial development model of developed countries, and the extent of its responsibility for the climate changes threatening the lives of the world’s poorest populations. Climate justice is assessing the need for renewable energies and the adoption of another model of consumption, based on recycling practices and the awareness of nature’s limited resources.
This blog is THE space where you can hear all about theses themes and this year’s assembly. So stay tuned!