Is global devel­op­ment agenda rooted in lo­cal re­al­i­ties?


Global pro­cesses for devel­op­ment should be rooted in and in­formed by the grass­roots move­ments. But is there a gap or dis­con­nec­tion? Can we do bet­ter to en­sure that devel­op­ment dis­courses at all lev­els are plugged in af­fected com­mu­ni­ties on the front­lines?

Gov­ern­ments of­ten fail to, mean­ing­fully and cen­trally, en­gage the peo­ple on the ground, in pro­cesses around global agen­das (like Agenda 2030); or how such poli­cies will im­pact their daily lives. Reasey Seng, who is the pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor at SILAKA in Cam­bo­dia, strives to link the two, with a view to achieve devel­op­ment jus­tice. She spoke with CNS (Cit­i­zen News Ser­vice) on the chal­lenges she and other women ac­tivists face in to­day’s times in plug­ging the loop­holes, and the way for­ward. Reasey Seng is also among the key par­tic­i­pants at the forth­com­ing 3rd Asia Pa­cific Fem­i­nist Fo­rum (APFF 2017), to be held in Chi­ang Mai, Thai­land (7-9 Septem­ber 2017). There is in­deed an ur­gent need to raise aware­ness of the or­di­nary peo­ple around sus­tain­able devel­op­ment goals (SDGs). From her first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with very di­verse groups like farm­ers, univer­sity stu­dents, ur­ban work­ing women, poor women and oth­ers, Reasey knows that most peo­ple have no idea of what SDGs are and how they are linked to their daily lives and work. Un­less the dis­cus­sions that take place at the UN are con­veyed to them in a sim­pli­fied lan­guage, un­less there are mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tions with the peo­ple, and un­less their in­puts are fed into global dis­cus­sions, re­al­iza­tion of the SDGs is likely to re­main a faroff dream. Reasey’s main re­spon­si­bil­ity is to fa­cil­i­tate the work of women’s or­gan­i­sa­tions with govern­ment agen­cies to in­crease women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in pol­i­tics and de­ci­sion mak­ing, so as to en­sure that govern­ment laws and poli­cies are gen­der sen­si­tive and re­spond to the needs of the women on the ground. She also works with young women ac­tivists at the sub­na­tional level, and with women at the lo­cal com­mune coun­cil level so that they can play their role ef­fec­tively in en­sur­ing a women’s agenda at the com­mune level.

To help achieve Agenda 2030, ini­ti­at­ing a di­a­logue at grass­roots and lo­cal lev­els around SDGs is im­por­tant. Gov­ern­ments and NGOs must raise aware­ness in their var­i­ous con­stituen­cies on what SDGs are and how they are go­ing to im­pact their lives. Once this is ex­plained to the peo­ple in sim­ple words (and not in a dif­fi­cult-to-un­der­stand tech­ni­cal lan­guage), they will be able to ac­tively en­gage around the chal­lenges and sys­temic bar­ri­ers they en­counter in their daily lives and also sug­gest work­able so­lu­tions. They must also be in­volved with mon­i­tor­ing and re­view of the Agenda 2030 pro­cesses. A mean­ing­ful peo­ple’s in­volve­ment will help in lo­cal­iza­tion of the sus­tain­able devel­op­ment process, which is so very es­sen­tial to achieve the SDGs, by leav­ing no one be­hind.


It is re­ally im­por­tant to plug the grass­roots move­ments into global pro­cesses like the High Level Po­lit­i­cal Fo­rum (HLPF) if we want to achieve devel­op­ment jus­tice, feels Reasey. “As it is a global agenda, all peo­ple must be an in­te­gral part of it. It just can­not be a few se­lect lead­ers de­cid­ing for the rest of us. To me it seems as if we do not have the right to take our own de­ci­sions to see the world we want to see. Ev­ery­thing seems to be de­pend­ing on the de­ci­sions of an elite group of peo­ple who de­cide for us the kind of world they want us to live in. But the world is not a place merely for a group of peo­ple who own ev­ery­thing. So it be­comes all the more im­por­tant to in­clude the voices of the grass­roots into the ne­go­ti­a­tions at the global level. You can­not ig­nore the peo­ple just be­cause they might lack the ca­pac­ity to write the pol­icy, or the ca­pac­ity to speak your lan­guage. They are the ones who know the re­al­ity and the prob­lems at the ground. You as lead­ers must pay heed to these re­al­i­ties and hear their prob­lems, so that you take ac­tion to have a just so­ci­ety for peo­ple to live”.


The Asia Pa­cific re­gion, in­clud­ing Cam­bo­dia, is wit­ness­ing a new form of col­o­niza­tion - the eco­nomic col­o­niza­tion - which is dom­i­nated by the cor­po­ra­tions and where profit be­comes more im­por­tant than peo­ple's wel­fare. All so­cial ser­vices like health, ed­u­ca­tion and wa­ter and other ser­vices are get­ting pri­va­tized in Cam­bo­dia, like else­where. This af­fects mostly the poor, es­pe­cially poor women as they are dou­bly dis­ad­van­taged as a group - be­ing women as well as poor, said Reasey.


It seems as if for most gov­ern­ments, it is about 'peo­ple for devel­op­ment' and not 'devel­op­ment for the peo­ple'. But Reasey rightly be­lieves that devel­op­ment jus­tice is not only about equal­ity, it is also about fair dis­tri­bu­tion. It is about hav­ing a so­ci­ety where cit­i­zens have the power to put peo­ple’s in­ter­ests, and not cor­po­rate in­ter­ests, cen­trestage; where voices of the marginal­ized are in­cluded in the govern­ment pro­cesses. Devel­op­ment jus­tice is about hav­ing a world where women can freely ex­press them­selves, voice their needs and wants, make de­ci­sions for them­selves with­out any fear. Reasey stresses that we are all to­gether in this fight to change an unjust sys­tem and also call­ing for ac­count­abil­ity from the gov­ern­ments and the lead­ers of the coun­tries. This bat­tle is not about chang­ing any one per­son or per­sons; we are fight­ing to change the ex­ist­ing un­fair and unjust sys­tem, she rightly as­serts.

Shobha Shukla, CNS (Cit­i­zen News Ser­vice)

(Shobha Shukla is the Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor at CNS (Cit­i­zen News Ser­vice) and the above ar­ti­cle is based upon her in­ter­view series of key women lead­ers in Asia Pa­cific re­gion who have played a key role in striv­ing for devel­op­ment jus­tice. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @Shob­ha1Shukla)

Shared un­der Cre­ative Com­mons (CC) At­tri­bu­tion Li­cense

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