Summary of the Webinar 2
In a November 2012 webinar which served to help launch a new initiative, “Southern Voice on the post-MDGs”, participants explored the value of a space for Southern think-tanks to bring something uniquely valuable to the ongoing dialogue and consultation process. After considering what such a space might look like, and the issues and mechanisms that could enable Southern think tanks to engage and contribute, the webinar drew an important conclusion: that the “unique selling point” of Southern think-tanks is their capacity, not just as individual organisations, but as a vibrant, proactive community of practice, to undertake and disseminate high quality research and analyses that feed into the emergence of a post-MDG agenda – and beyond.
To help take forward the initiative, the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) will host a meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 11-13 January 2013, bringing together not only representatives of Southern think tanks committed to the idea of a Southern Voice on the agenda” but also other key stakeholders who see this space as having the potential to encourage a truly transformative, global development agenda, post-2015. The meeting will enable participants to lay out a common agenda for research, policy engagement and action, and establish a transparent and inclusive interface between national, regional and global dialogues. To help frame and plan this meeting, a second webinar was convened, attracting participants from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. As before, the webinar was led by Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka, and moderated by Dr. Peter Taylor of the Think Tank Initiative (TTI).
The first issue addressed was whether MDGs, notwithstanding all their limitations, did energise national level efforts for poverty alleviation and human development oriented outcomes. Were there success stories that could be shared, and to what extent does global partnership play a role in catalysing such discernible achievements? Participants observed a number of achievements, although it was noted that the context in which development processes play out is hugely important. Several examples were shared, for example in Pakistan, were substantive efforts had been seen on building public-private partnerships to help increase literacy rates. In Sind, teachers had been hired from the local population and given professional training and support – as a result, this had brought more children into school, particularly girls, had increased stakeholder involvement, and also created employment opportunities, including for women. Other examples were also shared from Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Peru and Bangladesh. A number of lessons arose from the discussion:
- the MDGs have helped move development “out of the Washington Consensus”, and established benchmarks and gaps that need to be addressed, along with the financial requirements to help address these;
- small initiatives can sometimes generate larger promise, and generate valuable lessons for wider developmental processes;
- engagement of civil society in both national and global development debates is crucial;
- context is a key factor in determining whether targets and goals are appropriate, and how strategies and actions play out;
- inequalities, for example between different communities, or in literacy and health, are a vital element to be addressed through a post-MDG agenda.
A second question asked what types of activities should the Southern Voice initiative focus on, in order to position itself as effectively as possible in relation to the post-MDG consultation process. Participants reached consensus that new research, combined with a teasing out of key findings from completed research, would be most effective. Given the need to find spaces for engagement in a rapidly moving process, a pragmatic way forward is to find ways of connecting existing evidence, and voices, emerging from different national contexts, particularly around gaps and inequalities that the MDGs have sought to address. The issues of dialogue and voice are important, since although there are a number of different initiatives currently taking place, participants recognize that there are many minority or marginalised communities whose voice is rarely heard within global consultations; there are still too many asymmetries around knowledge and power. Southern Voice may therefore seek strategic complementarities with other initiatives, not only in the existing post-MDG timeline, but also beyond 2015; research and analysis, coupled with dialogue, will help to ensure these voices are heard and bring different perspectives and insights to the table.
Thirdly, participants discussed whether the Southern Voice initiative should quickly articulate its “first approximations” regarding the framework of the post-2015 agenda. Participants agreed that Southern Voice should put forward a framework that complements the current thinking emerging from the UN-led process, which draws on existing research, and also informs future research directions on key topics, particularly gaps created through inequality, disparity and deprivation, as well as other themes such as conflict, climate change, and the importance of a rights-based approach. To do this, participants acknowledged the need to draw in views and contributions from different national contexts, through the work of individual researchers and via the collection of country cases that can inform dialogue.
Finally, Debapriya Bhattacharya observed that the conversation had been extremely helpful for the purpose of framing, and preparing for, the Expert Group Meeting in Dhaka; more information about this event would soon be forthcoming.
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