Empowerment of poor rural people through initiatives in agriculture and natural resource management
Agriculture and natural resource management are crucial for pro-poor growth; empowerment is key to the success and sustainability of development initiatives in these areas. Donors can support empowerment processes in rural areas where poor people face pressing challenges to their livelihoods by supporting their rights and access to natural resources; through participatory and accountable knowledge and advisory processes; by enhancing access of poor rural producers to markets; and by supporting their participation in policy and governance processes. Donors must strengthen poor rural people’s capabilities by supporting their organisations, facilitating and institutionalising constructive interactions among the different interests and taking a flexible approach to programming and engaging across a range of stakeholders.
Women's economic empowerment
Women’s economic empowerment is a prerequisite for sustainable development and propoor growth. Achieving women’s economic empowerment requires sound public policies, a holistic approach and long-term commitment and gender-specific perspectives must be integrated at the design stage of policy and programming. Women must have more equitable access to assets and services; infrastructure programmes should be designed to benefit the poor, both men and women, and employment opportunities must be improved while increasing recognition of women’s vast unpaid work. Innovative approaches and partnerships include increased dialogue among development actors, improved co-ordination amongst donors and support for women organising at the national and global level.
Empowerment through local citizenship
Poor people live their daily lives at the local level where they engage with the state, public services, markets and the political system. Their empowerment requires participation and accountability in local governance and decision making through effective and inclusive local citizenship. Supporting inclusion requires an understanding of existing power relationships and the practical obstacles to participation faced by poor people. Public sector decentralisation is an important opportunity for empowerment through increased accountability for public expenditure allocations and local delivery of pro-poor policies. Capacity development, for both communities and citizens, must promote leadership and facilitation, communication, advocacy and political skills. Widely available, transparent and substantive information is a critical but easily achievable first step in capacity development. All development aid modalities can support local empowerment and donors should co-ordinate to identify and maximise opportunities for empowerment at the local level.
Empowerment in fragile states and situations of fragility
In fragile states, economic recovery and growth should be a core priority of donors. Fragile states present specific challenges and opportunities for empowerment: failings in state authority, legitimacy and capacity, weak social and human capital and high levels of inequality and exclusion. Donors often overlook non-state and informal institutions that regulate daily life and it is critical to find ways to work with them and link them to the state. Approaches to empowerment used in lowincome countries are also relevant in fragile states. Priority interventions may include humanitarian aid, supporting inclusive peace agreements and political settlements, strengthening social capital and inter-community co-operation and restoring the dignity and identity of war-affected populations.
Decent work and empowerment for pro-poor growth
Decent work is a key tool to overcome insecurities caused by a lack of choice and access to opportunities which lead to disempowerment. Decent work includes rights, social protection, employment and the promotion of social dialogue, applied in an integrated manner. The legal aspect of decent work lies at the heart of the empowerment process, helping to break the cycle of inequality by providing a legal basis for empowerment. Donors can be pro-active in the development and respect of international laws and norms. They can support implementation of national laws through are public awareness, technical upgrading and expansion of labour inspection, promotion of social dialogue and linking technical co-operation projects with the respect of labour rights. Encouraging co-operation within and between different groups is key in preventing inequalities of power.
Legal empowerment of the poor and its relation to pro-poor growth
Legal empowerment of the poor (LEP) encompasses both bottom-up approaches and state-level reforms. Poor people are at the centre of the LEP approach, although donor strategies are most effective when targeting the right-holder and the duty-bearer simultaneously. Donors should address the plurality of legal systems as well as integrating all institutional levels of the sector into their reform and capacity-building processes. Donors should also be aware that the enhancement of rights, awareness, enablement and enforcement must go beyond the justice sector and be integrated into other sectors. Political reality must also be considered and donors should be aware that they are aiming to change power relations. Because state accountability is central, donors should improve trust and confidence in the state as duty-bearer.
Empowerment and equity
Equity and empowerment underpin poverty reduction. They are also important in improving "enabling environments" for poverty reduction and pro-poor growth because they can increase access to opportunities and enhance democratic processes. Some equity challenges constitute discrimination and structural barriers to empowerment. Donors can support the marginalised, build the capacity of civil society and support decentralised government. Donors must build broad-based alliances, working with non-traditional partners and fostering networks. Explicit attention to equity and empowerment reduces the likelihood of unforeseen negative effects and places principles of fairness and social justice clearly at the heart of the work of development agencies.
Working with social movements
Social movements have great potential in empowering marginalised people and in reducing poverty. But donors working with social movements need to recognise that social movements have long-term goals that cannot be fitted neatly into project cycles and that "empowerment" through social movements entails a certain degree of politicisation. Although they may wish to maintain neutrality, they need to be willing to take that risk. Donors can facilitate empowerment by supporting institutions and activities including Ombudsman functions that offset attempts by governments, private companies and national elites to weaken, de-legitimise, incorporate or repress social movements advocating the interests of poor people.
Monitoring and evaluating empowerment processes
The process of empowerment cannot be externally controlled and managed; if donors use methods that are technocratic and controlling they can have unintended disempowering effects. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) must be used with care in the context of empowerment. Donors have to strike a balance between the flexibility required in supporting empowerment and social change and their need to demonstrate results. Monitoring and assessing empowerment can encourage donors to recognise that they themselves exercise power and reflect on the impact this has on the empowerment process. Donors should also recognise the limits to their power within larger political structure. Participatory methods for monitoring and evaluation can be efficient, producing data for analysis and action to support empowerment.
Empowerment sustainability and phasing out support to empowerment processes
Empowerment processes function through projects and programmes, building capacity and transforming relationships. Donors’ responsibility in phasing out funding includes transparency, inclusion, predictability, obligation and sustainability. "Phasing over" should be an integral part of design and implementation and should continue through local organisations. Sustainability must focus on both technical skills and institutional change in relationships, strengthening social capital, bargaining power and local government. Donors should work with existing organisations from the beginning, agree a clear exit strategy and emphasise capacity building of local partners and look for synergies among projects, governments and donors. Donors should commit to participatory knowledge management, systematisation and dissemination of learning.
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